maddog the catalyst


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Dec 05, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


Every once in a while something happens that makes me fairly proud of what I do. Whatever I actually do I am often not quite sure at the time and usually find out about it much later.


I am proud that a few words of mine helped to start an open source development center in Soweto, Africa (one year later I found out about this), and I am proud that a talk I gave in 1999 inspired Mark Spencer to make Asterisk a FOSS project (discovered this in 2001). I am proud that I helped get Linus an Alpha processor and encouraged him to make Linux a 64-bit operating system (three-year payback on this one), and I am proud of the many students and FOSS developers and advocates that I have helped along the way. I still receive letters from students I have not seen for thirty years, as well as newer students.


And of course I am proud of the work I have done to try and promote FOSS, and proud that a lot of the people in the community view me as a friend.


I view myself as a catalyst. While others may mix and combine things, I am often the little bit of something extra that pushes them over the top. I view myself as the platinum screen that allows hydrogen and oxygen to combine and produce electricity and water in the fuel cell. Sometimes there is that oddball explosion, but most of the time the result is controlled.


So recently when I received an email from a friend of mine that said he had taken my advice and created a short course for how to program the Arduino, once again I felt proud of my “influence”.


You may remember that I wrote about Alvaro in the December issue of LinuxPro Magazine. He is the college student who set up the “Hack and Beer” sessions in Rio de Janeiro, one of which I attended. From that I suggested that Alvaro give some workshops at Latinoware, which he also did. His next “area of influence” will be at Campus Party in Sao Paulo.


But I did also suggest he turn his sessions into something more formal and offer it as a paid course.


This is a great way for FOSS people to make some money while doing something they are passionate about, with very little investment other than their time. Of course it is still not “automatic”, or even “easy”.....most things worthwhile are neither “automatic” or “easy”.


First a little research is handy. Are people interested in your topic, and would they be willing to pay for it? Would they recognize you as someone that would be worthy of having them part with their hard-earned cash to learn that particular topic? Do you feel you would do a good job as a teacher of that topic?


Alvaro could answer all three in the “affirmative”. His previous experiences with Arduino events showed a huge interest, and that he could develop and present the information in a way that people appreciated.


Another question centers around the audience, and whether they are interested in the training for hobbyist purposes (where they may not pay as much) or professional purposes (where the ability to absorb higher tuition rates exist).


Next you have to have a commitment of time. From my own experiences, it takes about four hours of preparation for every hour of presentation, and that is if you know the material. If you do not know the material, it can take up to eight hours of preparation for every hour of presentation. I think Alvaro knows the material, so his three days of eight hours each will require 96 hours of preparation.


Finally, you need the infrastructure. The place to hold the class, to host the course materials, web site, and even the course itself.


There is no guarantee that the course will be successful. You may find that people are unwilling to pay the price you are asking for your time. You may find that (in the end) it is not worth your time, or that the course may be a “one time thing”.


However, I am proud of Alvaro and his decision to move forward with the course, and I am proud that I “inspired” him to do it.


I only hope that Alvaro still continues with the “Hack and Beer”s.


Carpe Diem!

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