[TOS] Tom Callaway speaking at Western New England University

Mel Chua mel at purdue.edu
Tue Nov 29 03:41:46 UTC 2011

I'd like to echo this with an "if you're interested in software 
engineering and have never heard Spot speak, go; it's HILARIOUS."

To add a bit of perspective, Spot is a Red Hat veteran who's been in the 
technical trenches for many years; for most of those years, he's been in 
charge of *all* of engineering for Fedora, a distro with 125,354 
packages, lord only knows how many lines of code, millions of users, 
tens of thousands of contributors, and (if that's not enough) the 
primary upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is the dominant 
product of a $1.8 billion (...or thereabouts) company. It's a pretty 
hefty responsibility, to put it lightly -- and Spot's held that position 
of technical lead through the tenures of several Fedora Project Leaders 
now. Fun story: ask him how he got started in his career, and when. 
Plenty of stories about managing large projects, getting chaos into 
order, disputes that come up among developers and how to handle that... 
ask lots of questions.

Spot has also had plenty of global adventures -- I think he's been to 
most of the FUDCons (Fedora User and Developer conferences, see the list 
of past sites at http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FUDCon#Past_FUDCons) so 
if you want to hear what those gatherings are like, or what differences 
he's found in gatherings from one country to another, that's something 
you can ask about.

He's also a go-to guy for Fedora's legal issues (crawl around 
https://admin.fedoraproject.org/mailman/listinfo/legal and 
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal:Main and the links off that last 
page for amusing conversations) and works with lawyers (including 
Western New England Law alum Pam Chestek) to get that taken care of, so 
if you're interested in intellectual property as it relates to software, 
Spot's a gold mine.

He's also a ridiculous packager himself, and one project he's taken on 
is Chromium, the open source upstream of Google's Chrome browser. (see 
http://spot.livejournal.com/312320.html or 
for a bit of explanation by Zonker if Spot's original blog post has too 
much packaging jargon for you to understand -- I don't get most of it 
myself, if it makes you feel any better). That post is *probably* not 
how they'll teach you to do technical communication in school, but it's 
detailed, incisive, and... well, it got reactions and results. It's 
interesting to try to understand it (try doing a close-reading of it, 
perhaps in a small group, like you would a tricky philosophy paper 
passage) and think about whether this is "good" writing. For what 
purpose and what audience? What is he trying to accomplish, and did that 
happen? How *does* it compare with what you've been taught about good 
technical communication?

...and others here might be able to add in more, but in short -- meeting 
Spot, highly recommended. Do your research and come armed with smart 

I'll be too far west to participate in the festivities in person, but if 
any students write blog posts about the event afterwards *cough, cough* 
I'd love to read them!


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