June 29th, 2007


max talks to the children 2.0

I spent 45 minutes the other day at Shodor Education Foundation. They were having a career day, and they invited 4 people from companies in the Raleigh/Durham area to talk to a group of kids. I would say there were about 30 kids total, ranging from probably 7th grade through early college-age, with most of them in the 8th-11th grade group.

It was a great time -- much more fun, and rewarding, than almost any talk I've given about Fedora to adults.

I started off by getting a general show of hands -- who had heard of Free or Open Source software? About 2/3 of the kids. Who had heard of Red Hat? About 1/2 the kids. Fedora? About 1/3 of the kids. Anyone actually use Fedora? About 5 or 6 kids used it, and it turns out Fedora 7 was installed on several of the computers in their classrooms and labs.

I started off my talk by giving a brief history of myself -- how old I am, how long I'd been with Red Hat, that I was a computer science major in college. And then we started talking about free software. I did it in a pretty interactive format, and ultimately sort of just was the moderator in a discussion that the kids were having with each other.

We talked about what free software means. Free in terms of cost, and free in terms of the 4 FSF freedoms. Freedom to run a program anywhere. Freedom to study the source code. Freedom to redistribute. And freedom to modify the code.

A couple of the kids gave a superb definition of what upstream versus downstream means in the software world. I was asked about the Red Hat business model and how we make money. I was asked about how we maintain the integrity and quality of our code when anyone in the world can contribute. I was asked about the differences between Red Hat and Microsoft.

It was a good time -- filled me with hope about the next generation of free software contributors. And since I was already up in Durham, I met up with Seth afterward and we had lunch.