Last year, Atul had coined a phrase, "The Guru Shishya Syndrome", in a mail to the list. The year has passed us by and now in one of the recent posts, he has had to re-hash it, only with a little bit more sting in its tail (Crikey !). And I say that probably because it touches a few raw nerves - something which was probably more my fault than Atul's. But just so that you know what I'm talking about, let me re-quote that entry with my inherent biases and emphasis added.
For example, if you are involved in a FOSS project and have solved a problem in that area that helped the project improve its performance, ... stop believing that your contribution was too small to talk about, stop believing that your "overlords" in the headoffice in the USA are the only ones who can think.
I don't have a talk proposal for FOSS.in/2006. I had been vacillating about giving a podium talk for a while - I'd rather talk with a 10-15 member group than "to" 45. But eventually, I didn't have to make the decision. On Sunday as the deadline approached, I was sitting at a close relative's bedside, in Cochin hospital. But even without that twist of fate, I wouldn't have been talking about APC or giving a generic dotgnu talk. But before I go into the reasons for such unreasonable behavior, let me digress into some other territory.
'Jool Noret' effect: To give you some context, this is a character from one my favourite fantasy books - Dune. An excellent fighter who spent a life time achieving perfection with melee weapons. But what sticks in your mind, while you read about this character, lost in all that drama, is his philosophy - "I have so much left to learn, to start teaching".
And as I've previously blogged about, shining a light into the darkness of your ignorance only serves to highlight the shadows cast. In essence, what makes me good (IMHO) is what prevents me from stopping the journey to evangelize or pick laurels.
And even if I had actually gotten time on saturday or sunday - I wouldn't have submitted an APC: Maximizing Throughputness talk, I would've talked about something new, fresh & risky - something like Scripting your Application or probably about using lua or python to script your events and build plugins in (like this). Last year, I did a talk on Firefox: Plug it in - and I'd never written a single firefox extension till the talk schedule was out. But that was a good talk, because I understood and tackled a lot of the problems a newbie faces while writing their first extension. Compared to that, my contributor talk on dotgnu had a definite So On & So Forth feel to it.
I can't afford to experiment with topics or technology at say, LCA (here's why). For my LCA talk proposal, I'm actually planning to write a minimal basic-block JIT for PHP to show off libjit, but that's not quite pushing the boundaries for my personal knowledge - it is more of use than explore. FOSS.in, on the other hand, is as close to a home ground as it gets. That gives me a bit more confidence to do something which I'm not already an expert in. Rather than rehash what I already know, I'd like to pick up something new and run with it.
I'm quite aware that this is completely at cross-purposes with what a conference organizer would obviously want. Rather than have me skim the surface of a new topic, they'd want me to go deep and technical in something I'm really good at. But that sort of expert speak works only with a lot of audience involvement which just does not happen in a group of 50+ (hardly even in groups of 20). Bouncing ideas off others requires that you shouldn't need to wait for someone to shut up before you speak.
So all in all, I'd rather do a BoF with 20-odd people and end up with a new idea, than go the Attention Class! route that the podium talks force me to. If I didn't submit a talk, it had nothing to do with any bigshot from the US headoffice, but with fate keeping me offline on the weekend.
I didn't decide. It was decided for me.--
If you understand what you're doing, you're not learning anything.
-- A. L.