Kitchen Update

Well, after a slight hiccup the kitchen is back on track. It won't be done in time for Christmas, unfortunately, but we're locked in for the week of 10-14 January now. So, with that in mind, what do you think of the colours I've picked?


MODY3 for the newly diagnosed

Receiving a MODY3 diagnosis can be a threatening, frightening time. However, by understanding the disease, and knowing what to do about it, you can live a long and healthy life. This booklet will explain what MODY3 is, and will outline some of the changes you will need to make.

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that impact the pancreas and how the body stores and uses both glucose and insulin. Maturity onset diabetes of youth (or MODY) is a rare genetic form of diabetes.

There are three main groups of diseases that fall under the diabetes heading:
  • Type 1 is an immunodeficiency disorder, where the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes require injections of insulin to stay healthy.
  • Type 2 is a progressive disease, where the pancreas will gradually stop producing insulin in the quantities required. Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes will exhibit insulin resistance, where they  can no longer effectively use the insulin their pancreas produces.
  • All other types. This includes latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), which is a form of late-onset type 1 diabetes; and maturity onset diabetes of youth (MODY), which is a genetic form of diabetes. These types are sometimes referred to as ‘type 1.5’.
Many people with MODY are never officially diagnosed, as it requires lengthy and expensive genetic testing, and even those results can be inconclusive. You might have been diagnosed as one of the other types of diabetes, and your progression has caused your doctor to suspect you have MODY, or you might have been diagnosed as MODY simply because you show none of the usual signs of type 1 or 2 diabetes. Do not worry too much about having an official diagnosis, though. Enough is known and understood about the management of diabetes—and MODY—to be able to manage your condition very well. Over time, you and your medical team will be able to determine with greater certainty what type of diabetes you have, and how best to treat it.

Despite the name, maturity onset diabetes of youth is not late-onset type 1 diabetes. MODY comes in six known forms, although this number could climb as research continues into the area. MODY is referred to as ‘monogenic’ meaning that it involves only one gene, unlike the more common forms of diabetes that have more complex causes, and involve two or more genes. The types of MODY are differentiated by the gene that is involved. About 2% of all diabetes diagnoses are MODY, and about 70% of all MODY diagnoses are of the type MODY3. MODY3 is caused by mutations of a gene on chromosome 12 called the HNF1α gene.

Generally, people with MODY3 produce a very small amount of insulin or none at all. However, if you have MODY3, you probably do not have very high insulin resistance. This means that that you can use any insulin your body produces or that you inject effectively.

To keep reading, download MODY3 for the newly diagnosed

I wrote this manual as a final assessment item for uni. I have no intention of updating or maintaining the document at this stage, however if there is sufficient interest in it as an information resource, I could possibly be convinced ;)

A letter to Origin Energy

UPDATE: I have just heard from Kym Diercks at Origin, and called Veda to confirm it, but the defaults have now been removed from my credit report. Not just marked as paid, but completely removed. It only took three weeks, endless hours on hold, about $50 in long-distance phone calls, an ombudsman investigation, a Veda investigation, and lots of swearing.

Thanks to everyone who followed along with the saga, and provided support and encouragement. This isn't over yet, as I still want to contest the legality of them actually getting any money out of me at all, but that's between me and the ombudsman now.

Oh, and if anyone from Origin Energy is reading this post: you suck. Hard.

UPDATE: After some serious sleuthing, we managed to speak to a certain Kym Diercks at Origin. He told me that they have requested the defaults be removed and that they were waiting for confirmation from Veda (the credit reporting company). In other words, virtually nothing—which was more or less expected. However, the plot thickens ... I called Veda and asked them about their processes—how things work with payments, what notifications are sent, all that stuff—and it turns out that they don't issue confirmations. So $DEITY only knows what Kym at Origin is waiting for ...

I'm pissed off enough that I've been googling for other people with Origin issues. This one made me laugh: Origin Energy- experts at wasting your time.

UPDATE: After I spent another hour on hold this afternoon, my partner gave it another try and managed to speak to someone at head office. He got her email address and forwarded her the email I sent on Monday, along with this note. I haven't been called yet ...
As discussed this afternoon on the phone, the below was sent on Monday.
Monday afternoon, there was a phone call from an Aaron who would not give his last name who claimed the default would be removed.
It has not been.
Since then, Lana has spent at least two hours on long distance phone calls, being put on hold while calls are transferred, then never answered and eventually, your phone system hangs up.
Yesterday, the longest phone call lasted 42 minutes. Today, 65 minutes.

The Energy Ombudsman case file on this matter is 2010/11/01104.

Origin are not doing very well in maintaining any image of professionalism in this matter.

I request that someone with the authority to remedy the situation call Lana on [redacted]. Clearly, calling Origin Energy seems to be a waste of our time and money.

UPDATE: I have now broken my previous record for waiting on hold ... 1 hour and 5 minutes before they hung up on me this time! Perhaps a new record tomorrow, I'll keep you posted!

UPDATE: I've contacted the Energy Ombudsman about this matter now. For posterity, the reference number is 2010/11/01104. They will give Origin ten days to remove the default. Then we get to argue about the legality of enforcing a payment that was due over twelve months ago ... !

UPDATE: We did receive a phone call from a man who would not give his full name. It was the generic "yes, hello, we got your email and we're doing something about it" kind of call that makes me think they're lying to me. I'll believe that they're doing something when I have some proof of it.

Subject: An unfulfilled need that creates the best opportunity

Good morning

My name is Lana Brindley and I have never been a customer of Origin Energy.
Despite this, your company is largely responsible for upsetting my Christmas dinner plans, and so I am writing this in the hope someone there will show some initiative, fix the issue, and save Christmas.

I will start with some history.
In 2007 I lived in Annerley in Brisbane. While there I was the customer of a power company whose name was not important enough for me to remember. I left Annerley in December 2007 and moved to Canberra. My housemate in Annerley stayed. He was also a work colleague, so I was in regular contact with him and he sent me batches of mail every few weeks. This meant that I could finalise any outstanding bills and notify everyone of my new address.

At some point my former electricity supplier was acquired by Origin Energy. I knew nothing of this, of course.

At this point I will note that I have never - even now after several weeks of this saga, and several weeks of promises to provide one - seen any bill or correspondence from your company.

It appears that at some point, though, Origin decided that I owed them two lots of $495.

The only reason that I worked this much out is because I applied to extend my mortgage to refurbish my kitchen. The bank declined the extension, because of the defaults that Origin put on my credit record. Which means that my kitchen will now not be fixed before Christmas. I’m a bit upset about that. My daughter was a bit upset too, when I told her that Christmas was going to be cancelled this year.

But I guess there’s no chance of Origin coming to my place to cook the roast.

For starters, I can’t work out how any company can put defaults against my credit record without me knowing who the company is, how much is owed, or even that I owed any money. When I pressed one of your customer escalations team, they told me that my account history shows that they have never contacted me about the outstanding account.

This might be another good time to mention that I have never received a bill from Origin Energy. I have never received a reminder notice, or a phone call. And considering that my mobile number has not changed since last century, I should be easy enough to track down.

So, apparently, Origin Energy have been unable to contact me. Interestingly, I seem oddly unable to contact Origin as well. I have spoken to exactly two people about the incident. One who shared my account number and told me there was only one debt. And another who kindly provided some BPay details so I could pay the bill. Each time has required a wait on hold for over fifteen or twenty minutes. Immediately prior to penning this letter, I was on hold for 45 minutes before the call dropped out. You might agree that this can make one a little frustrated.

I have been promised bills so I could pay the outstanding amounts. They have not been received.
I have been promised that the defaults would be removed. This has not happened.
I have been promised that there is only one outstanding amount. My bank would disagree.
I have paid one amount. No one seems to know anything about that, though.

So, I have some questions:
- How much do I owe Origin Energy?
- What do I owe Origin Energy for?
- Has my payment of $494.90 (18 November, Receipt Number [redacted]) been received and credited?
- What efforts have Origin Energy made to recover this outstanding amount?
- What is Origin Energy going to do about this whole debacle?

Could someone with the capacity to finalise the matter in a timely and professional way please do so?
In time to save Christmas?
How about someone give me a call? I promise I won’t put you on hold for 45 minutes, and then hang up.

Lana Brindley
Account numbers (from the credit report): [redacted] & [redacted]
Phone: [redacted]

After posting this, I received a response from the lovely Ben Dechrau. It's too long to fit in a comment, so I've reproduced it here:

Hi Lana! Just got your link to this page and thought I'd share my
experience with your readers rather than just you.

I recently received a default from Origin for not paying a bill they sent
to the wrong address. I moved in to a property (let's call it B) in
February, from a previous house (A) and then moved to house C in June.

I called Origin Energy to inform them I was moving out, organised a final
reading and gave them the address for house C. They sent one bill (gas or
electricity) to house C, and the other to house A.

The one that was sent to house A was obviously never received, and was
sent way after the postal redirection stopped. They never once called me or
checked their system for other addresses. They simply slapped a default on
my credit report.

I found this out when applying for a new credit card. Luckily I had it
removed before I applied for a new mortgage two weeks later.

How to have it removed. Lana - I see you've done most of what I'd do
already, so for the benefit of any other readers:

In addition to determination, you'll need a stern voice, unwavering belief
that you will have it removed, Veda's phone number (1300 921 621) and
Origin's direct line phone number (02 9271 4947).

Call Veda and ask them for the account number or reference number Origin
have marked your default with. You'll need your name, address and date of
birth to identify yourself with them.

Call Origin and ask the person who answers the phone to understand that
you're very angry right now, but that you realise they want to help and
would they please excuse any raised voice - you will try and stay calm.
This in my case was true, but also puts the other person in a position of
power - you have acknowledged you are relying on their help. It also means
they can empathise with you, which makes them want to help you.

Tell them you have a default that was erroneously placed on your credit
report with the account number blah. They will look it up. Explain the
situation and ask to be put through to the legal and payments department.

Now depending on your situation you will either owe them money, or you
don't. In my case I did, I paid and was told the default would be removed
because it was their fault. One week later I called Veda and confirmed this

If you don't believe the outstanding amount is your responsibility, you
will need determine what the fees are for. Give them your current address
and ask for a copy of the invoice.

Once you receive this, check all dates to determine if you lived at the
property at the time of the bill or not. If you are liable, I'd just pay
and get the default removed.

If you're not, get your evidence together. Find out when you moved out.
Call Origin as a new, separate call, and ask the person who answers if they
can help confirm a move-out request was made. Get any reference numbers.
Note the time of the call and the person with whom you spoke. Get a copy of
your rental agreement and bond refund letter to corroborate move-out dates.
Once you have lots of evidence, phone up and ask for the fax number of the
customer support department. Don't get in touch with legal yet. Fax it
through, clearly labelled with a cover page. Call within 10 minutes and ask
them to check the fax machine and confirm receipt. When you get this (you
might be asked to call back later depending on where the fax machine is)
start talking to the rep to get them to start documenting the information
ion your account. This will help when you talk to legal later.

Ask them to put you through to legal. Note: the people who work in the
legal and payments department are, based on the experience I had with Con,
self-entitled, rude and arrogant. Don't expect them to help you
voluntarily. I recommend taking a confused and innocent approach to put
them in a false sense of security. Tell them you don't know why this amount
is outstanding, and can they check your account for any confirmation on
move out dates. Have a copy of the invoice handy so you can point out the
date the bill is for, and that you moved out before that. Con told me that
he'd remove the default for me - no admission of guilt or apology, but hey
- a means to an end! Sell your dignity for a few minutes and get 7 years of
good credit back.

Now: Lana - you've tried a lot already, so if I were you, I'd call every
morning at about 10am. If you call last thing they'll want to fob you off
and go home. Call too early and you'll compete with everyone else and
they'll still be waking up. Call, ask them to look up your account, ask
them when you can expect to have the default removed (hopefully it's
mentioned they will do this on your account - ask for it to be added if not
and follow the process). Keep at this every day and soon the call centre
staff will know you and want to get you out of their faces.

Persistence is key, closely followed by coming across as confused and
innocent. Put them in a position of power and authority, make then feel you
are dependent on their help, act innocent and the natural instinct to
protect will be awoken.

Best of luck to anyone else who's going through this...

We got the 'bete


Visit TuDiabetes

For every view of this video, Roche (the company that makes Accu-Chek diabetic products) will donate life-saving insulin to a child. And if you have diabetes, participate in the Big Blue Test on 14 November, as well. Just test your blood glucose, get active for 14 minutes, then test again. Here's the vid:

And as for "We got the 'bete" well, I can't take the credit, as it came from a TuDiabetes member. Unfortunately, his post has since disappeared into a digital void. All the same, once you do it once, you'll never quite be able to stop singing this song every time you think about "the 'bete":


Astute followers of this blog (if any of you actually exist) might remember this post about the kitchen in the house I bought last year. Well, according to plan, the house has appreciated in value enough for me to fork out (read: "beg the bank for more money") to get the kitchen ripped out and replaced. It's due to happen during December, and I'm really terrifically excited about it. Even choosing taps and doorhandles has gotten me into a lather, recently.

I've been a pretty keen Freecycler over the past few years, so it seemed logical to me to post the entire kitchen as an offer on our local freecycle network. As I was writing the post (complete with photos), it occurred to me that this serves as a great chronicle of what our kitchen was when we moved in. Once the new kitchen is in, and the memory of beaten copper rangehoods and dropsy oven doors fades from memory, I might wish to look back on once was ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Enter dream sequence ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The kitchen is late 70's vintage, and when I moved in just over a year ago it had orange laminate benchtops. I had the benches painted white with laminate paint at the time. Since then, the paint has begun to chip and flake in some places, and of course it's also picked up a few stains. If you wish to use the benchtops, I am more than happy to give you the remainder of the laminate paint and primer so that you can touch it up.

The cupboards are all standard-issue plyboard (not laminate like modern kitchens). There is a little bit of water damage in the under-sink cupboards, but other than that they are all perfectly serviceable, if not very pretty. The doors have a wood-grain look finish, and small round knobs. I've lined most of the cupboards with cheap floor lino. If you want to use the cupboards, I'm happy to give you the remainder of the roll (there's still heaps there), so that you can re-do them. There's nothing wrong with what's there (it's only been in for about a year), but there's probably some marks on it, especially from the pantry.

The oven is a Chef 'Dynasty', fits a 700mm cavity. I think everyone's mother has had one of these (my Mum had at least two, actually). It's the old-fashioned sort with the lift-up oven door, and the grill at the bottom. It all works perfectly, the thermostat is actually really good, and I've cooked many cakes and biscuits and roasts in it. It even has a rotisserie and (I think) all the bits for it (I've never used it, though, so can't comment on how well it works). The only issue aside from the mission brown is that the hinge on the oven door doesn't always catch properly, which means the door won't stay open on its own. I'm told this is a common problem with these ovens, and believe it's possible to get them fixed and/or replaced. I've never bothered.

The stovetop is a Westinghouse 'Cooktop 464', with four solid electric hotplates, fits a 900mm cavity. It has two large and two small hotplates. One of the large hotplates has lost its knob. The burner still works to the best of my knowledge, if someone handy manages to replace the knob (which I'm pretty sure I have hanging around somewhere, if it matters). Otherwise, the other hotplates work just fine.

The rangehood is the centrepiece of this stunning kitchen. Beaten copper, what more needs to be said? It works, but I suspect it was last cleaned in about 1983. If you're brave, or just have a passion for beaten copper, this is the jewel in the crown for you! ;)

The sink is a full double bowl stainless steel, with dual taps, and a small drainer on either side. Nothing else to report.

I will be replacing my fridge too, but they're pretty hot (badoom-tish!) items generally, so I'll list it separately once I've taken delivery of the new one.

Oh, and if you're after some late 70's genuine metal venetians (all working, none clean), in various sizes, I have the kitchen one (and several others) available too.

Of course everything is still installed and in use until December. That said, I've asked the tradies to remove it all for me, so you should just be able to pick up the bits you want and walk away with them once they're out. If I know you want something, I can ask the tradies not to totally destroy it on the way out. And it probably goes without saying but for the appliances at least you will need a qualified sparky/builder etc to install them for you.

If you want to know more, please email me and we'll work things out.


Pictures of the shiny new kitchen to come ... stand by!

For my birthday, I got a new diagnosis

I've been a type 2 diabetic for about ten years. Or so I thought.

I've been lucky so far. For the past ten years my diabetes has been well controlled using diet and exercise. No pills, no injections, no six-times-a-day blood testing (just every so often). Even when I was pregnant with T, I only had to have injections once or twice daily, and I have never suffered a hypo (short for hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugars).

Normally, people who get type 2 diabetes fit a certain type: they are over 45, often overweight, and sometimes have other conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure. I was 21, in a healthy weight range, and had no other medical conditions. What I did have, though, was a pretty scary diabetic family history.

My Mum was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of thirteen. I grew up in a house where the distinct smell of insulin preceded every meal, and when Mum didn't look well the first thing you offered her was not a cup of tea, but a jellybean.

About a year ago, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I started taking medication to bring it back to normal non-heart-popping levels. I hadn't been checking my blood glucose levels much during this time, preferring instead to concentrate on getting my blood pressure back down. And so it was during a routine visit with my GP a few months ago that they checked my blood glucose for the first time in over a year. Blood sugars should normally be within about 5-7 mmol/l (that's 90-126mg/dl for the Americans amongst us). On this occasion they were 20.0 mmol/l. That stupefied my doctor, anyway, "Are you feeling OK?" she asked. I was, so I just closed my eyes and tried to make the number go away.

I started afresh on the diabetes mill-wheel. It was like being diagnosed all over again. You get sent to the diabetes educator to be re-edumacated, the endocrinologist, the podiatrist, the nutritionist, the opthamologist. I began taking oral medication: small doses of Metformin to begin with, then adding Januvia a little while later. My day now consists of 14 tablets in five doses during the day, between blood pressure meds, diabetes meds, and the oral contraceptive pill. Suddenly, I'm becoming quite well-known at the chemist, and the pharmacist now addresses me personally by name whenever I'm in. It's nice to be loved.

It was during an endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) appointment that I had an extremely interesting conversation. My doctor had commented that I had only put on about 5kg since I'd first seen him, and there had been nearly 10 years and a baby in the middle of all that. He congratulated me, I said thanks. I'd worked hard to get and keep the extra weight off, dieting when diabetic is not all it's cracked up to be. Then we started to discuss my mother's diabetes. Mum sees the same endocrinologist as me, and he pointed out how few complications Mum has experienced, despite being diabetic for nearly forty years. And then we got back to my weight, my diagnosis, my lack of risk factors for contracting diabetes at such a young age ... my frightening family history...

It was like a light-bulb went on in his head. He asked if I'd heard of LADA diabetes (sometimes referred to as type 1.5). Thanks to the TuDiabetes community, I had, and had even been told by people in that community that perhaps I had it. I disagreed with them on the forum, and began to disagree with my doctor too. I did not have LADA, and I could back it up with facts. Even the 'type 1.5' name was silly, and had led to much joking around in this house.

My specialist interrupted me. He had studied LADA for his PhD, apparently, and agreed that I did not have it. Well, that was a start. "But I want to test you for it anyway".
"Oh man, why?" I whined.
"To rule it out."
I put my confused face on.

Turns out he thinks I have another "other" form of diabetes, but it's practically impossible (and very expensive) to test for it. By testing for LADA, he's hoping to get one step closer to confirming a diagnosis of Maturity Onset Diabetes of Youth (MODY), a very poorly named and fairly rare variety of genetic diabetes. He thinks my Mum has been MODY all this time too, as it is often mis-diagnosed as type 1. It probably also means T will have it when she gets older. Probably before the age of 25.

So, Lana. You know how all that time you thought you were going great guns and that diabetes was a bit of a doddle? Turns out it ain't, Sunshine. Not for you, not for your Mum, and not for your daughter either.

Happy birthday!

30 Things I Have Learned So Far

This blog turned three a couple of days ago. This auspicious occasion is usually marked by the precipitous drop into the crazy novel-writing month of November (see the NaNoWriMo website if you're not sure what I'm talking about). This November, however, the only crazy writing will be the penning of assignments, and the ordinary crazy writing of work-as-usual. Yes, this year (and probably next year) uni comes first, and NaNoWriMo gets knocked back a peg on my list of things to do. Let's aim for for a big 2012 comeback, huh?

Anyway, I would still like to celebrate the fact that this blog is three, and that in a few days I will hit the big three-oh. To do so, here are thirty things that I've learned so far:

30. Tea is good.
29. Raising a child is hard work and involves being spewed on a lot.
28. When a child gives you a sleepy hug, it is worth every bit of hard work (and vomit).
27. Work can be fun if you have the right kind of job.
26. The best way to learn about stuff is to either write it down, or tell someone else about it.
25. There are stupid people in the world, but for the most part they're harmless.
24. There are really smart people in the world, but not all of them are harmless.
23. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between extreme genius and extreme stupidity.
22. Being involved with people that have passion helps incite you to be passionate too.
21. Teaching is more educational than learning.
20. Teaching can also be heaps of fun.
19. Learning is fun too. It is also addictive.
18. Going to uni once or twice is expected. Going back for a third go is just crazy.
17. Friends are important, but you only need a couple of really good ones.
16. It's OK to say no to all sorts of things.
15. It's OK to say yes sometimes as well.
14. You can be a good person, without having to help every bleeding heart.
13. You need to pick and choose who deserves to have slices of your time. Tell everyone else to go jump.
12. Love is about more than just sex.
11. Sex is about more than just love.
10. It's OK to leave the party early if that's what you want to do.
9. The only person who can control your health and fitness is you. No one is going to do this for you.
8. Life throws curveballs. Sometimes the only thing you can do is duck and run.
7. When you stumble, you are still in charge. Pick yourself up and carry on as best you can.
6. It doesn't matter what you do, some people will still shit on you. Those people are not friends.
5. Writing is therapy.
4. Tea is therapy too. Did I mention tea already?
3. Don't be afraid of massage. It's several kinds of awesome.
2. Bikes are several kinds of awesome too.
1. Don't ever be afraid to stand up and shout like you know what you're talking about. Confidence can go a long way.

A Desperate Message from Jackie French

I received this on email today. My parents live in a little rural area called Majors Creek, close to Jackie French's property, and the proposed Dargues Reef Goldmine. The trucks rumbling up and down the road just 15 metres in front of my Mum and Dad's house, are likely to push the little 130 year old building off its ancient foundations.

Have you ever read "Diary of Wombat"? My daughter and I have, and we loved it. Now, the real-life wombat that starred in that story--along with countless other wildlife--is about to lose her home. Read Jackie French's story below. At the bottom, there is a template. Copy that into your email program, and send it to the NSW government to stop this mine going ahead. But act fast! Your email needs to be received by Monday, 1 November, 2010.

Any help you can give is very much appreciated. Please share this information around your friends, and encourage them all to send an email. If not because you know or care about the people of Majors Creek, then to help save the endangered wildlife of the area.

Please help us, the wombats, and the valley. There is only one week left to try to save them. Two weeks ago we were finally given copies of the Environmental Assessment into the proposed Dargues Reef Goldmine at Majors Creek, four kilometres directly upstream from our property and even closer to the Nature Reserve and National Park partially surrounding us. The details revealed in it had not previously been made public.

The Dargues Reef Mine proposes to remove 66.2 megalitres of water per year from the local water table, leading to a drop in ground water levels of between 1.5 and 10.5 metres. This is an extraordinary and devastating amount. Plants take their moisture from groundwater. Without it, they die. Animals drink from springs, fed by groundwater. Without it, they die. The result of taking this amount of water from an ecosystem will mean that it, too, will die.

No studies have been done for the Environmental Assessment on how taking this amount of water will affect the land beyond the actual mine site. There is no mention of the endangered, critically endangered and threatened species in the gorge below the mine, ranging from the Powerful Owl to the critically endangered eucalyptus Kartzoffina.

The mine proposal also includes a 25 metre high tailings dam to just four kilometres above us and the gorge, covering nine hectares. It will contain a toxic sludge that, if the walls break, will sweep everything before it, from our house to every plant and creature in the valley. 'World's best practice' is to have a secondary wall in case the first fails. This is not the case at the proposed Dargues Reef mine.

If this mines goes ahead the animals and plants of the valley may die. The wombat of Diary of a Wombat may die. As for myself- if the bush where I have lived and loved and walked for over 30 years dies around me, then what would be left would not be the Jackie French who had walked and studied and loved the bush community for more than 30 years.

If you have loved Diary of a Wombat; if you want to save the life and environment of the real wombat on whom the story is based; if my writing has moved you in any way and if you feel the need to preserve endangered species, or an area of such rich and varied habitat please email your opposition to the mine by close of business this Friday.

I have walked this land for over 30 years. I have drawn the inspiration for my work from the bush around me. To say I love it is inadequate. I am part of it; without it, the person I am will cease to be.

But I have choices. I can leave if the water turns toxic, if the sludge descends. I can buy water and have it tanked in. The wombats, the wallabies, the Powerful Owls- already isolated by surrounding human farms and settlement and starting to be affected by the environmental impacts of climate change - have no such choice. I owe this place too much not to at least try to defend
it and its inhabitants now.

If you love wombats, the bush, or justice; if you believe that animals have a right to survival despite the benefits to humans from mining gold; if you think that long term investment in the bush, growing peaches or writing books is more valuable than a short term mining gain, spend just five minutes today emailing your objection to the Dargues Reef Mine.

The Dargue's Reef Environmental Assessement can be read at by following the prompts. If you would like further details about the critically endangered species and grasslands, or the removal of the groundwater, please contact me at

Please- can you help? Or do you know anyone else who can help?

Any submission will help save the valley, and it's critically endangered species. If you have a spare five minutes, please send your own submission.

Please ask your friends to put in submissions too, by the end of this week.

Submissions should include:
* Your name and address
* The reference number 10 0054
* Whether you support or object to the mine proposal
* The reasons why you support or object to the mine proposal

Submissions much reach the Department of Planning by close of business November 1, 2010

Fax: 9228 6466
Or Emailed to:

Jackie's link to NSW Planning above does not take you direct to the information about the mine. If you're having trouble finding it, use this link instead: Dargues Reef Mine - Majors Creek

Possible Submission

Email to:

Reference number 10 0054

I object to the proposed Dargues Reef mining project on the grounds that no assessment has been made of the impact on the loss of groundwater beyond the two square kilometer radius of the mine, nor on the fragile and threatened ecosystems below the mine.

I request more time for these and other questions raised by the Environmental Assessment to be investigated, including test bores 2-6 kilometres downstream from the mine site, to test the impact of drilling on the groundwater over a period of a year, to allow for variation in rainfall.

I also request that a detailed assessment be made of endangered, critically endangered and threatened flora and fauna in the four kilometres below the mine site. This also needs a year for completion, as some species are migratory, and others, such as the endangered powerful owl, can only be easily identified in late winter when they are calling.

I also request that a detailed assessment be made of heritage and Indigenous sites 2-6 kilometres down stream from the proposed mine site and the tailings dam.

[Your name]

Submissions must reach the Department of Planning by close of business November 1, 2010.
Fax: 9228 6466; or email:

Call for Papers: Haecksen Miniconf LCA2011

The Haecksen miniconf is on again! This year, is going to be held in sunny Brisbane, and we want to invite women who develop, administer and play with FLOSS to come and join us again at the miniconf.

Important: The CFP closes at midnight 24 September 2010. Selected talks will be announced early in October. That's not much time, so get cracking!

We're attempting to mix it up a bit this year, so we're looking for people willing to give long talks like normal (20 or 40 minutes), but we are also after lightning talkers, panel experts, and hands-on demos.

Long Talks
A long talk should run for about 40 minutes. You can use slides if you want to, run video or audio components, and encourage audience participation and discussion to your heart's content. You can discuss anything related to open source, and it doesn't have to be specific to women.

Some suggested topics are smart crafting, usability, cloud living, professional development, loyalty tax, community management, best practices, documentation, impostor syndrome, virtualisation, computer security, social engineering, fashion technology, hardware hacking, how to submit your first patch. Don't see your favourite talking point on the list? Don't worry - if you're passionate about it, we want to hear about it. If you think forty minutes is going to send you (or maybe your audience) batty, do a half-length talk (twenty minutes) instead.

Lightning Talks
Have you got a great idea and need some people to help make it a reality? Is there something really cool happening in your world but you don't have twenty minutes worth of information about it? Have you never spoken before, and would like a little practice? A lightning talk is a short, more informal talk that only runs for about 5-10 minutes. You can use slides if you want to, but many people prefer to just get up and share their enthusiasm. You can talk about anything that you find interesting. This is a great way to find out if speaking is something you want to get into. It's also a really good way to ask for contributors to a project that you are working on.

Panel Discussion
The panel discussion will be on a topic relevant to women in FLOSS. We are going to need three or four people to be our panel 'experts'. Previously speakers have incited so much excitement and enthusiasm that the conversation bubbles over in the audience. We would like to capture that conversation and give it its own spot in the program. Do you have some great ideas about getting and keeping women in FLOSS development? Perhaps you run a program for teaching and encouraging women in technology fields? Perhaps you have been involved with Girl Geek Dinners, or other social programs? Come and be a panel 'expert' and get the conversation started.

Show Off Your Stuff
Doing something pretty awesome, but don't want to stand up and give a boring talk about it? Why don't you do a hands-on demonstration, or give a short tutorial? This is great if you're doing something fun with Makerbots, Arduinos, wearable technology, or any other variety of hardware hacking. Let us know what you've got, and how long you need to discuss it.

In brief, we are looking for women doing interesting stuff with interesting technologies. If something has captured your enthusiasm, come and share it with us! If you have never spoken before, the Haecksen miniconf is a friendly and relaxed environment to find your 'stage-legs', so go ahead and submit something!

Submissions: To submit a proposal for the Haecksen miniconf, email us at before 24 September. Include your name and some information about what you want to do. An organiser will get in contact with you about it.

Keeping It Stupidly Simple

Everyone has heard the old adage about the "KISS Principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid". Easy to say, easy to remember, but often hard to do. At least, hard to do well. When we simplify our language, it often comes across as patronising, dumbed-down, or just plain rude. So how should Stupid keep it simple, without making it stupidly simple?

Consider the sentence:

"Insert the writable media into the optical disk drive."

It's not horribly bad as it stands, but it could be made simpler. Here's one version:

Open the disk drawer by pressing the button on the front of the drawer. Place the CD into the tray with the label facing upwards. Close the drawer by pressing the button again. Do not force the drawer closed."

Well, it's simpler. We've lost some of the more easily-confused terms such as "writable media" and"optical disk drive", replacing them with more common and regular words. We've given more specific instructions about the actual process of performing the task, which can help with understanding, and also give users more information about troubleshooting. This would be great for a manual that is introducing people to computers for the first time.

But what if I were to tell you that this instruction is to go into a Developer's Guide, that is, a book read and used by software developers? All of a sudden, the new version of this sentence has become horribly patronising. It is safe to assume that a software developer has opened a disk drawer once or twice before, and probably doesn't need to be given explicit instructions about where to find the button. They probably also understand the terms "writable media" and "optical disk drive". So we're back to where we started from. How do we simplify the sentence for this audience without speaking down to the audience?

Think about what the sentence is trying to convey. How would you explain this to someone who is sitting across the table from you? Imagine you have a friend who is a software developer. You go around to their house, and they ask you a question about this product you're working on the manual for. How would you explain it to them? If they said "what do I do now?" would you respond by handing them a CD and saying "Insert the writable media into the optical disk drive"? Probably not. I can just about guarantee that you would say something more like this:

Put the CD into the disk drive

So there's your answer. It's not patronising, it's not too complicated. It uses terms that everyone is familiar with, and isn't couched in lengthy words and stuffy language. It gives all the information the user needs, and isn't drowning in information we can safely assume they already know.

The problem, of course, is that keeping it simple is not always simple. Corporate language is increasingly creeping into the everyday. Keeping it out of technical documentation is becoming increasingly difficult. Of course, if the product you are documenting is called a "Synergy Manipulation Process Leveraging Suite" there's not much you can do about that. You can, however, ensure that you give information about the product in plain language. Explain what it does (other than leverage synergies!), explain how to use it. Try standing up and reading your text out loud. Try explaining the processes and concepts to a friend and take note of the language you use. Look at each individual word and think "is there a simpler word that I can use here?". Keep your sentences short and to the point. Avoid repetition unless it is absolutely necessary.

Just yesterday, to give a real-world example, I saw a blog-post titled "Marketing Leaders Should Help Create the Next Generation of Australian Multi-Channel Retail". Now, I don't even know what that means (and surely it needs another noun on the end ... "retail what"?). I clicked on the link, and read the first sentence, trying to work out if it was something I might be interested in, and saw whole sentences full of nothing but corporate-speak. Needless to say, I didn't read any more. And therein lies a valuable lesson - write for your audience, but never write for the sake of putting words on paper. Even if your audience is a group of corporate-types in suits, who live and breathe corporate-speak, don't write an empty document, filled with empty words. Make sure you have something to say, and then say it as simply and as accurately as possible.

The pictured quotes on this page have come courtesy of Andrew Davidson's wonderful Corporate Gibberish Generator

This blog post has been cross-posted to Professional Open Source Documentation



Gillard is our new PM


Image from The Punch

Time to tell Mum about privilege, EFA!

I have loved and supported Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) for many, many years. The love affair began back in uni, and coincided with my discovery of open source software. The power of freedom (as in speech) was heady and strong back in those days. Today, in many ways, it still is. Right now the fight is not so much against the big software companies though (although that's still up there), but the Australian government.

Senator Conroy has been banging on about introducing an internet filter for years now. I won't go into detail. If you're reading this blog, then it's a safe bet that you already know all about it. There are a lot of arguments against the filter, but they all revolve around one main tenet: freedom.

Which is where the EFA comes into it. They've really gotten onto the bandwagon, and have been perhaps the single most outspoken group against the filter (with the possible exception of Mark Newton). They have provided information for both the informed and uninformed public; organised and undertaken online and other forms of protest; collected, collated, and reported statistics and data; arranged means for interested groups to get together, talk, plan, and rant. And they've created 'campaigns' around the filter to both raise awareness of the issues, and inform the public on methods to avoid the filter becoming law. I've loved every minute of it.

But, for the first time ever, EFA has struck a sour note with me. And I'm not alone in feeling a little cheesed off, either. It's about the EFA's latest campaign, which has been dubbed the "Time to tell Mum" campaign. The basic premise is a comedy sketch featuring Akmal Saleh (who I've never liked all that much, mostly because he only seems to have one joke that he uses over and over again. But that's neither here nor there). Akmal, in his vaguely humorous way, tells us that we need to tell our Mums about the internet filter. This is because Mum's "love gossip" and "care about their families". He never really gives a good reason for this directly, but EFA themselves note that "[EFA] hope this campaign will reach some new people, and further highlight the myths about Conroy's Filter".

As with most things, the comments fall into two broad camps: Those who find the campaign sexist, and those that think that anyone opposing the filter is good people, and the feminists should just get over it already.

Do you want to know a secret? I'm not in either camp. I can see the issue with the sexist language. I can see how it enforces gender stereotypes, and how it is really just not helping. Hey, I'm a feminist from way back, and I'd be lying if I said I couldn't see that side of the argument with extreme clarity. I also, for what it's worth, completely support anyone who has the guts to stand up and yell about it. I strongly suggest you read "Goodbye Electronic Frontiers Australia" over at the Witty Title Pending blog for a great review of the feminist issues that have come up.

But, I can also see this from EFA's perspective. I can appreciate that they are trying to target a wider audience, an audience of people who care about their children and their families, and who are going to spread the word among the traditionally conservative-voting older generation. But it was disingenuous of EFA to target "Mums" specifically, when what they really mean is "older people who are less tech-savvy and interested in 'family' issues". But then, worse crimes have been committed in the quest for a catchy soundbite, I guess.

Therein lies the rub, then. EFA have fallen afoul of their privilege, like so many men before them (the EFA board is made up of all men and one woman. The executive is completely male. I'm not certain of racial background, and so won't make comment on that matter). They have played into gender and social stereotypes. But they're not the first. They certainly won't be the last.

EFA have made comment on how successful the campaign has been. It's gotten people talking, it has (by their own account) gotten the word out to people (Just Mums? Or others as well?) who didn't otherwise know about it. It generated some controversy and got people blogging about it, talking about it, discussing it. Those who liked it shared it around because it was funny (to them). Those who didn't, shared it around to show people how outraged they were.

Privilege is a queer beast. If you have it, you can't see it, and are almost completely unable to understand it. If you don't have it, it stares you in the face everywhere you turn. We all have privilege in one form or another. I'm female, but I have privilege in terms of being white, wealthy (in world terms, anyway), employed, educated, and in my 20's (for a little while longer, anyway). This makes it hard for me to see some things to which my privilege blinds me, but makes me very aware of those places where I'm under-privileged. EFA and their ad company FNUKY really just acted within stereotypes and privileges that they probably don't even recognise they have. They have created an ad that they - within their privilege - saw as amusing and fresh. They imagined that using a comedian and a few gags about Mums and gossip and how they care about their families but know nothing about technology would hold the public's interest, get the message across, and hopefully go viral. And, to their credit, the grand majority of the population (recalling that even though 51% of the world's population possess a vagina does not automatically make 51% of the population feminists) agreed with them. That makes for one successful marketing campaign.

Advertising uses all sorts of social, sexual, and racial stereotypes to get the message across. The very fact that marketing uses 'target groups' (read: "stereotypes") to create campaigns shows this. Take a look at Sociological Images one day to get a glimpse into how advertising campaigns are created and digested by the consuming public. You'll never look at a billboard the same way again. And while past practise does not make this particular wrong right, it does make it difficult to get very worked up over it, from my perspective anyway. The ad agency were doing what ad agencies do: create ads that appeal to a mass market. EFA were not evil by signing off on it, they were just blinded by privilege and unable to see how the campaign would play off amongst a minority of that market. The offense in this case, then, is not within EFA alone, but in the entire marketing and advertising machine, and in society that continues to mindlessly consume what that machine serves up to them.

For all intents and purposes, EFA would be best to make a proper apology (not a fauxpology like the one they have already given), and promise to do better next time. (For more information on what constitutes 'good' and 'bad' apologies, check out the Geek Feminism Wiki article on the subject). They won't, though, for a number of reasons. First, because they are still sitting in their little bubble of privilege and don't understand the issues the feminist left have taken with the campaign. Secondly, because the old marketing adage still holds true, especially on the internet: "All publicity is good publicity".

There's more to social media than Facebook

I quit Facebook on the weekend. For real. For good. And you know what?

Nothing happened.

Well, Facebook gave me a guilt-trip, but other than that, nothing happened.

No one called me in a panic, asking where I was, and what I was doing.
I didn't get an email pleading for me to come back to Facebook, and help them find red gems, or a lost cow, or a home for some virtual furry pet.
I didn't have a notice breathlessly exclaiming that someone had tagged me in a photo, or in a post.
No one sent me a message about all my friends who were having birthdays this week, or who had just 'changed their relationship status', or who were feeling lonely and unloved and needed me to 'reconnect with them'.

Instead, I went outside for a while. I read a book. And then I came back inside and updated my Twitter account instead.

You see, there's a lot of self-proclaimed "Social Media Douchebags Experts" out there, and they're all in a lather about Facebook, and telling you how to set up a fan page, and put a 'like' button on your blog and all that. Most of them know Twitter exists as well, but many of them downplay it. It's not the latest big thing right now.

Unfortunately for the so-called "experts", they've found themselves behind the eight-ball again. What is the next big thing is quitting Facebook. All the cool kids are doing it, as the rash of stories from Crikey (and Gizmodo), Wired, Boing Boing, TechCrunchRead Write Web, and the the EFF would indicate. And they're just the ones I've come across myself.

Mark Zuckerberg, once the poster child of the Social Media Billionaire's club (the generation that came after the dotcom kids), is learning something that every Web 2.0 entrepreneur must learn. When you give something to the public that they want, they'll embrace it. But start taking too much from them, and they'll drop you faster than you can say "Where's the delete button?".

What this all means is that there's a huge amount of commentary around now, ranging from "what does a perfect social network look like?" to "I want to quit Facebook, but I don't know what to do with myself now". Well, there's some simple answers. First of all, a better Facebook will come along (and the smart money is on these guys if you ask me. You heard it here first). Secondly, you don't need to wait for the next Big New Shiny Thing to take off. Go sign up at any of the squillion or more other social media sites, and work out what else is out there. There's more to social media than Facebook. Get out of your comfort zone, and explore.

Lest We Forget ... But who have we already forgotten?

As ANZAC day approaches, and my bugling duties are again requested, I thought it would be apt to draw attention to the post I wrote on the topic this time last year. The last paragraph mentions this:

This ANZAC day I'd like to remind you all to think about not just the white Australians (and all the members of other nationalities) that have died during war, but to remember the original owners of this land who died in other, non-glorified, and unremembered battles.

When you stand up and say "Lest we forget" this ANZAC day, please think of those who history has already forgotten. There were around 500 Australian Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders who served in World War I, and around 5,000 serving in World War II. Aboriginal and Islander men and women have served in every major conflict that Australia has ever been involved in. Many of them never came home.

Those who did return were refused pensions, land grants, and other benefits offered to white servicemen, and were barred from entry into the Returned Serviceman's League (RSL). They were denied the recognition, honour, and respect that their mates in the trenches received. And now, over sixty years since the end of World War II, we are still refusing to give them that honour.

This ANZAC day, spend two minutes in silence for those who history have forgotten, Lest We Forget also. If you are in Canberra, please consider attending the the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commemorative ceremony after the dawn service at the War Memorial.


The information for this post was drawn mostly from The Anzac Day legend & Coloured Digger Anzac march

The image is part of the The Coloured Digger set, uploaded to flickr by Findo and is shared under a Creative Commons Licence. 

Information about the various services (including the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander commemorative ceremony) can be found on the Australian War Memorial website. 

The AWM website does not include directions to the Aboriginal Memorial Plaque. Directions can be found here, or on the The Anzac Day legend & Coloured Digger Anzac march.

I won't make comment on how far removed the plaque is from the memorial itself. I'll allow these links to speak to that.


Lest We Forget.

FOSS Training

I was privileged enough to be able to attend in Wellington in January. While there, I caught Bob Edwards' and Andrew Tridgell's talk on "Teaching FOSS at Universities" (video of which can be found here). It intrigued me.

Open source software development is very different to developing software in a more traditional, closed source environment. The aim of the course is to teach students how to go about working within the open source community. It covers the practical aspects of checking out code from a repository, submitting patches, and undergoing code approvals and reviews. It also looks at some of the less tangible aspects, like what's accepted and expected within the community, the motivation behind project development, and governance. The course also goes into some detail about documentation.

Documentation for open source projects is not quite the known quantity that it can be in many proprietary software environments. I once had a developer I was working with describe it as "we live in the Wild West out here", and - at least to an extent - he makes a good point. While writing for an open source project may not be as wild and exciting as that sentence makes it sound, it can sometimes be unpredictable and, at times, incredibly frustrating. Frequently, a book has been written and reviewed in preparation for a release, only to find at the last minute that a feature has been pulled from the version, a component has suddenly been renamed, or the graphical interface has had some kind of redesign. All of these things happen to open source writers on a regular basis, and frequently the only solution is to pull an all-nighter, get the changes in, and have the document released on schedule. And that's only if you were lucky enough to find out about the change with enough time to spare before release!

So how does a writer plan for and write a documentation suite when there's so much unknown in a project? The answer is - perhaps ironically - to plan ahead. You can't plan for every contingency, nor should you. But if you have a plan of any description, you're going to be better off when things start to go wrong. Pin down the details as best you can as far ahead as possible. But don't leave it there, continue to review and adapt your plan. Keep your ear to the ground, and constantly tweak your schedule and your book to suit. If something comes up in a mailing list about a feature you've never heard of, don't be afraid to ask the question - "Does this need to be documented? Will it be in the next version? Where can I get more source information?". Another trick is to make sure you build in 'wiggle room' to your schedule, in case you suddenly discover a new chapter that needs adding, or a whole section that needs to be changed. If you're consistently a few days or a week ahead of schedule, then even a substantial change should not throw you too far off balance.

Just like a ballet dancer, technical writers need to be disciplined, structured, and organised. But you also need to have grace, poise, tact, and - most importantly - flexibility.

Thanks to Bob and Tridge, I'll be lecturing the 2010 FOSS course students at the Australian National University later this week. I'll also be contributing the textbook that is being developed for the course. True to form, it is being built by and for the open source community, using open source tools (including Publican which has been developed in-house by some of my esteemed colleagues). Watch this space for more information.

Cross-posted to FOSS Docs

Ada Lovelace Day 2010: Unicorns

Often, when a woman joins an all-male technical environment, they will look at her strangely. They might try and pretend that she's a bloke, that she's just 'one of the boys'. They might ignore her. They might make a few distasteful jokes and then get on with the job. But mostly, what happens is that a woman is noticed. She'll be whispered about, she'll feel eyes watching her, she will notice her work being held to scrutiny. There might be a few gentle put-downs, all in the name of 'humour' ("can't you take a joke?"), and there might be some bolder individuals who will make life uncomfortable. But, generally, the overwhelming sense is that of being different.

Imagine, if you will, that you were at work, and suddenly, a unicorn walked in. How would you react? Now imagine the unicorn is that woman.

This situation has given rise to what is now known as the Unicorn Law. It was created by Emma Jane Hogbin. Emma Jane is a Canadian technical writer, and one day I will write an Ada Lovelace Day post about her. Not this year, though (sorry Emma Jane!).

This year, I want to nominate my fellow LinuxChix unicorns in Australia and New Zealand:
Brianna Laugher
Claudine Chionh
Donna Benjamin
Jacinta Richardson
Joh Clarke
Mary Gardiner
Melissa Draper
Pia Waugh
Sara Falamaki

Every one of these women know what it's like to walk into a room and be stared at as though you were a complete novelty. Every one of these women now what it's like to be held to a higher standard than your male counterparts for the same recognition and acceptance. Every single one of these women have been asked "are you here with your boyfriend?" (and worse!). Every single one of these women amaze me, inspire me, and support me, every single day.

Ada Lovelace day is about remembering where we've come from, but it's also to remind us about where we're going. The women of the Australia and New Zealand LinuxChix chapters remind me every single day why I get up and continue fighting. Thank you.

(The Unicorn/RoboTux image used above was created by Lisa at pixellab and is shared under a Creative Commons licence)

Barbie's Next Career: Blogger Barbie?

The geek feminist establishment has spent so much time hating Barbie, that now it's a little hard to know what to think about the new Computer Engineer Barbie. I predict it's going to be yet another polarising factor, actually. There'll be those who think that Barbie is just mocking what we have tried so hard to achieve. And then there'll be those who'll think that this might actually help prove to little girls that a computing career is a possibility. The comments to this BBC article would indicate so, anyway.

When I was in high school in rural Queensland, there was the obligatory "what do you want to do when you leave school" conversations that had to be had in the run-up to matriculation. For whatever reason - and I don't really know whether to blame the school faculty, the rural sensibilities, or my own strange teenaged assumptions - I came to the conclusion that careers fell into one of two categories. You either did an apprenticeship, or you went to uni. The only apprenticeships I was aware of as being available for girls (all the boys were going to be fitters and turners, and I didn't even know what a fitter and turner was, let alone want to be one) were hairdressing apprenticeships. I didn't want to be a hairdresser. So I decided I'd better go to uni. How I chose my degree is another whole story, that might be best suited for another blog post, but suffice it to say that it took me six years and a lot of money (thanks HECS!) to finally graduate with something that I was proud to have, and that has eventually gotten me into a career I'm particularly fond of.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
-- Douglas Adams "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"

I spent most of high school flitting between the library for lunch-time sessions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the computer lab for marathon BASIC programming competitions with my friends. Christmas holidays were spent at my parent's old IBM compatible trying not be eaten by a grue. Yet the concept of studying computing was completely foreign to me. I loved making things do stuff, I loved destructing things to find out how they worked, I loved creating stories, and then having 2d10 decide the next plot twist for me. If something went wrong I wanted to know why it went wrong. Quite a lot of the time I broke things just so I could try to fix them (and that hasn't really changed much, I pulled apart my Roomba the other day). It wasn't until I got to uni and made friends in the computing lab there (you know who you are!) that I discovered that IT degrees even existed, I think.

I remember desperately wanting (and eventually getting) a Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie for my birthday one year when I was little. Perhaps if I'd been given computer engineer Barbie instead, my story would be different? I'm not sure, but it's my daughter's birthday soon, and I guess it can't hurt ...


News just in: you can pre-order Computer Engineer Barbie on the Mattel site, for delivery in December. Just in time for Christmas!


Update: ... but only if you live in the US. Bugger.

LinuxCon - Boston - August 10-12 2010


I've just put in my application to speak at LinuxCon in Boston in August. Their speaker lineup is pretty impressive, so it would be an incredible honour to be selected.

For posterity, here is the abstract I've submitted:

This talk is a look into why documentation is so important to open source projects. It explains how to create documentation that will empower your users, guide them through the often daunting learning curve of using new software, and in the process make your project look fantastic. Beautiful technical documentation might sound like an  unrealistic fairy tale, but it can make the difference between a successful project, and a wildly successful one.

The talk is aimed at anyone who is involved in creating open source software, and who doesn't know how best to approach the documentation process. No specific technical expertise is required.

And the bio:

Lana Brindley writes technical documentation for Red Hat. She works from her home near Canberra, Australia and is currently getting her hands dirty on middleware documentation. She is hopelessly loquacious, and enjoys writing presentations and speaking in her spare time for fun. She's also been known to wear a red fedora in public.

Lana has been writing technical documentation for open source projects for nearly three years. She has been speaking about Linux generally and technical writing specifically for the same period of time, although her fascination with these topics dates back over a decade. Most recently, she spoke at in Wellington, New Zealand, the Canberra Linux Users Group, Girl Geek Dinners Sydney and Canberra, and a clutch of computer user groups.


Update: I did actually get accepted to speak. Unfortunately, work have declined to fund me to get over there. Never mind. Next year!

Some of my best friends are unicorns

Well, has been and gone. It was quite a ride!

I flew in at about stupid o'clock on Sunday morning, and the fogged windows of the shuttle bus revealed nothing of the city I had landed in other than it was dark, wet, and very windy. Getting out of the bus confirmed these observations, and - dressed in my summery clothes from sweltering Brisbane - I hurried into the warmth of the Ustay dorm rooms. For student-style accommodation, the rooms are actually really good. But then, at 2am, just about any bed probably would have felt like heaven.

And so, a mere few hours later - the fun began. It started off with brunch in the Cuba Street Mall with some of the LinuxChix members who had already arrived, kindly escorted by Joh Clarke who is a local Wellington-ite (and chief organiser of the Haecksen miniconf). The afternoon brought a presentation workshop, which I eagerly attended, and was rounded out by the Newcomer's session run by Jacinta Richardson and Rusty Russell. Of course, there was a pilgrimage down to a local pub after the session had ended, and with that innocuous beginning, the networking started. I met so many amazing people, and discussed so many interesting (and fantastically geeky) things that my head spun with the awesomeness of it all.

Monday dawned with a crisp start, and I navigated my way down Willis Street where I was staying, and across to the Wellington Convention Centre. The morning started with a session covering conference administrivia, including an humourous introduction video to Wellington. And with that, it was across the hall to the Haecksen miniconf.

The miniconf started with an introduction and welcome by Joh, and then it was straight into the opening talk by the wonderful Emma-Jane Hogbin. Emma-Jane discussed versioning systems, with emphasis on Bazaar. She speaks very well, and she really got her point across that versioning can be easy to use, and vital to any project.

After that, Sara Falamaki stood up to deliver her talk titled "Happy Hackers == Happy Code". Sara's philosophy is that by creating a great environment for developers in the workplace, they will naturally start to produce better code. She called for ideas and suggestions from the audience, which were rewarded with lollies thrown from the front of the room. It raised a lot of laughs, and more than a few tweets on the back-channel about her pitching arm.

Just before the lunch break, the inspirational Elizabeth Garbee (Bdale's daughter) stood up to give us all an enlightening view of open source as looked at by a teenager. Elizabeth graduated from high school last year, and described some of her experiences with bringing open source to her school and friends.

After lunch, it was my turn. The title of my talk was "Creating Beautiful Open Source Documentation" or "Writing FOSS Docs that Don't Suck". The audience laughed at all the right places (which is always a relief) and I was gratified when afterwards a number of people expressed their enjoyment of my talk, and asked for further information. Unfortunately, there had been a mix-up in the talk schedule and, despite prior assurances that it wouldn't happen, I was rushed through the final half of my talk. Thankfully, a lot of people found me afterwards and we shared contact details, so the message wasn't lost.

Angela Byron then stood up to discuss how to 'get your feet wet' and start contributing to your very first open source project. This led to a fascinating audience-driven discussion about getting started in open source, and that overwhelming feeling that we all experience at first that everyone else knows so much more than us. This hit a real chord with me, and it's something that I'll probably explore further in another blog post.

Liz Henry rounded out the afternoon session, speaking about the work she is doing with BlogHer, and the different ways we can encourage and support other women in open source. She had some truly inspired ideas about hacker meets and other social events, and she spoke from a position of knowledge about the challenges women face in the IT industry.

Unfortunately, I missed the final talks (including Joh's security talk, which I am assured was awesome) but I will be catching up on them as soon as the video links go live on the website.

Thanks must go to Joh who made the whole thing happen, and to all the Haecksen who turned up and made the day something to remember. Also, thanks to Sara for the use of some of her photos. If your photo is here, and you're not happy about it, just email me and I'll fix it up for you.

The complete Haecksen miniconf schedule for 2010 can be found here.

The next is being held in Brisbane in 2011. - haecksen miniconf