Chris Fei - Leslie Hawthorn Talk

Leslie Hawthorn’s talk, “Social Change Begins with Software” was entertaining and informative. Leslie offered a good overview of free and open source software. She talked about topics most of us already know about such as Stallman, the GNU Project, and the basis of the Free Software Movement. The most impressive and important part of Leslie’s talk was that it was accessible to non-tech and non-CS people. Although most of the audience had knowledge of or experience with FOSS, those are not the only people at which Software Freedom Week was targeted. To me, Software Freedom Week was meant to inform community members who may not be so tech-savvy of the social philosophies and technological achievements of the FOSS movement. Leslie, who focused her studies on Medieval Literature, really presented her information in a way that was interesting and comprehendible to even humanities students (no offense). With her charismatic diction, bubbly mannerisms, and light humor, she seemed to keep the audience’s attention through sections on the philosophy of the movement such as its history, important figures, and licensing, and technologies such as Sahana and OpenMRS.

Even more interesting than the talk, however, was the Q&A session Leslie held at dinner. Silicon Valley is really the Hollywood of the technology industry and Leslie offered a wealth of information about life out there. Listening to advice and stories about work at one of the field’s most progressive and innovative companies was invaluable. Also, it was certainly reassuring to be told that my experience gained with the HFOSS program really gives me a head start on other candidates. It is rare for undergraduate students to have experience with important software development practices such as version control, documentation and user guides, and the ability to work well in a group.

Overall, Leslie gave a fantastic and interesting talk and it was a pleasure to have her as a guest at Trinity.

RAM Comments: I'm glad you found the evening informative and enjoyable. Your experience with FOSS work is very impressive and should indeed give you a leg up on other students with similar academic backgrounds. You'll have to work on presenting it to a wider audience through papers/posters at conferences and through creating a portfolio that highlights your contributions.