EuroPython 2009 - What happened?

Last week I attended EuroPython 2009 in Birmingham, both as a speaker and as an attendee. This post won't reflect on my talks (one was not good, one was actually very good, I might do more posting about that later) but rather something interesting that I observed during the conference this year.

EuroPython have always been a very nerdy conference, no surprise there, so it struck me as very odd that several talks and seminars this year didn't include that much technology at all! They talked about politics and freedom.

First out was Cory Doctorows keynote "The Copyright Wars" which I unfortunately missed, but Reinout van Rees have a excellent summary here. Hopefully the audio recording of that keynote will posted soon. It does bring up a very important point about the future of open source software in a world controlled by paranoid content makers.

During the lightning talks (which was hugely entertaining at whole) two talks had the topic of politics.

First out was Holger Krekel who talked about the internet and how the information about us could be used for mass surveillance and the need to do something about it. He touched on the very recent problems we have seen in Iran, how the state has been filtering the access to the internet. Holger went on and suggested that there are two ways to attack the problem.

The first involves political activism ("We know it works, because we stopped the software patents"), he mentioned the Pirate Party (which makes me very happy) and that he considered joining it (Holger: You are very very welcome!). We need to start talking to the politicians and convince them that internet needs to be free!

The second option for people that have a more technical approach to things (almost everyone at the conference!) is the need for new technologies that can't be filtered as easy as a centralized system for passing messages. Holger encouraged people to develop other ways to distribute information and getting around filtering equipment. My colleague and me was very inspired by this and started to scribble some notes on how a system like that would look like. I might blog about this later.

All in all I really liked Holgers lightning talk, it was very inspirational and well delivered, thank you.

The second lightning speaker that had politics as a topic was Jacob Hallen. Jacob strikes me as a very soft spoken and timid man (I actually talked to him right before his speech), which is why his talk really surprised me. He delivered a very passionate (improvised?) speech about how big content are using methods that are really scary and he drew a direct parallel to "men in high boots, abducting people in the middle of the night". Thanks Jacob, it was inspiring!

For me it was very inspiring to hear this types of talks and speeches in a area so technology heavy (nerdy?), because this means that we are many that cares. Now we need to transform that care into action!

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