How to Attend a Conference.

I have been to a few different business-related events now, where I have seen a lot of people not really know what to do, where to go, or who to look out for in case of questions. In light of my recent attendance of a BarCamp, which is a very different sort of an event, I thought I would put together this guide to attending a conference.

This is a general guide, and each particular event may differ in its set-up and expected behaviours.

Conference

    • Always bring your own refreshments

Not only will this save you time in the breaks between sessions or presentations, but it will mean you know you’re fed. Most events are catered for the days, but invariably it difficult for an event coordinator to know exactly how much people will eat. And the chances of people eating more at an event where the food is provided than they would at home are high… So you’re likely to miss out on snacks… Or, at least, the good ones.

    • Have back up water

If you’re anything like me, you drink more water than the average fish. Venues will quite often place a bottle of water before every setting on a table, if it’s that kind of set up, but where it isn’t, you will be thirsty in the air conditioning that most places insist on placing either too high or too low, which leads me into my next point.

    • Wear layers of clothing

If you arrive first thing in the morning, as most conferences have an estimated start time of “morning”, you will probably want warmer layers than you will need come lunch time or even in the afternoon. At least, that is certainly the case in Western Australia. This is especially true when the venue at which the event is being held can simply not cart for the amount of people milling around and all the hot air being thrust upon an unsuspecting crowd. Once the finishing drinks are done (read: close to midnight), you will need those early morning layers again on your way home. Layers, my friends, are urge key to survival no matter what Bear Grylls might say.

    • Pack thy charger

If you an on using any kind of electronic device at all, pack your device’s charger and label it and hold onto it for dear life. By all means, be generous and allow others to borrow it but, no matter how credible you think people might be, if your charger is not labelled with your name, you will lose it at some point throughout the day. Better yet, if you can, have your gear colour coded or otherwise clearly designated in such a way that no one would dream of pinching it.

    • Don’t mob the speaker

They’re tired. They probably travelled a long way to make it to your event. They’ve slept in a strange bed, eaten strange food and been surrounding by lovely (but draining) fans all day. Let them have a moment to themselves. If you simply must engage with them! make it short and simple and leave them to have their well deserved drink or canapé. This is unless, of course, they make it explicitly clear they don’t mind at all you hanging around, in which case – go for it!

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, so if you have some other rules you think should be included, please feel free to add it to the comments below!

Perth Joins a Brave New World!

Free wifi for all!

 

Well…

 

Provided you download no more than 50mbs per connection, within a one hour connection enabled for any and all wifi enabled device. Should you last an hour without downloading that much, you will have to disconnect and reconnect to keep using it.

 

The Free City Wifi from the City of Perth is the first of its kind in any capital city of Australia, with blanket wifi coverage in the area shaded pink on the map below:

 

Wifi-Map-final

So, what do you think about the move to give all who visit Perth free internet access whilst in the city? Is it a good idea, or just a waste of money? I’d love to hear your views in the comments below.

On Being Thankful.

Giving thanksThis morning an article on LinkedIn caught my eye. I finished reading it and spent a moment thinking about its underlying meaning.

There are things to be thankful for in any situation, but sometimes we find it easier and, dare I say it, more socially acceptable to be down on everything in our lives.

This is my time to be thankful. Being thankful isn’t just able saying, “Thank you,” and moving on. It’s about seeing the silver lining in the darkest cloud, knowing it’s there, appreciating it, embracing it and carrying it with you as you move through the difficult situation. It’s about allowing the good feeling of being thankful to fill you and not feeling ashamed to smile about it, regardless of how people around you are acting.

These are the things I am thankful for:

  • I have a good, healthy life
  • My child is healthy
  • I have a healthy, happy relationship with a partner who supports me and my decisions
  • I can support my family financially and emotionally
  • I have attended university
  • I have people around me who believe I can succeed
  • I am able to show my intelligence and not be sidelined for it
  • I work with great people who are genuine about their interests and passionate about their work

Now, this isn’t about joining in on the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day.

It’s about making sure I, and I hope you as well, take the time to reflect on what is really precious in life. Offering a silent thank you and being truly appreciative is not often something we do these days, but I think it’s a very important part of bringing a sense of balance to an otherwise hectic schedule. All it takes is a moment of your time.

Facebook Ditches Old Settings… Again.

So, the other day I got this email from Facebook.

The Facebook email

I knew the change was coming. I had known for a while but, like most other Facebook changes that are gossiped about, I thought it wisest to leave it until it was officially confirmed by Facebook. I knew exactly why this setting was being removed, even before Facebook decided to tell anyone. What I didn’t count on was no one else picking up on the possible implications of it all.

I logged into Facebook this morning and saw this:

Facebook warning

Well, now it’s on like Donkey Kong.

So, what does the removal of this setting mean for the average Facebook user?

Not much… Unless you like privacy and are lazy in locking down your privacy settings.

Basically, this change is being made to make way for Graph Search. Haven’t heard about Graph Search? Watch this space. I’ll tell you about it real soon. In a nutshell, Facebook’s Graph Search is going to allow for more personalised search terms to be entered into the search bar and yield results which you might think strange.

Rather than searching through your friend list for all your friends who like a certain band, then looking through them to find out who also likes another band, you will just be able to type into the search bar: “friends who like band x and band y” to get your results.

On face value, this seems fairly innocent, right? Right. Except for the fact that this information is being obtained from the 6 petabytes of user information that crosses the Facebook servers every day. If you haven’t already taken a look at your security and privacy settings, to limit who sees what you post, I would suggest doing it now. I would also suggest limiting your past posts. Another thing I would suggest doing, which is going to take you a little time, especially for those of your with large numbers of people in your friend’s list, is to start creating friends lists, if you haven’t done so already. This is going to make sure you can pick and choose who sees what with a little more control.

If you have no care about who can see your personal information, then as you were soldier. If you’re concerned that your personal information might be seen by people you have no association with, then I say to you: Either lock down your profile or get off Facebook altogether.

EDIT:

This morning when I logged in to Facebook, I had this pop-up in front of my newsfeed.

Facebook pop-up

Seems like they’re making sure everyone sees the notification. I’m guessing there’s more to this settings change than most others in the past.. Hmmmmm…

The Cloud is not as safe as you think it is.

We have all been taken in by the romance of the Cloud. Not longer do we require terrabytes of storage for our documents, hooked up to our desktop computers. This has been one of the most important steps in freeing us from the shackles of our desktop machines, bringing about the rise of the laptop/tablet/notebook/iDevice/miniwhatever.

IBM Cloud Computing

But, and it’s a very big but, is all that information you’re transmitting and sharing through the Cloud as safe as you think it is? Short answer: no.

Take, for example, the case of Dan Tynan. Dan was one of hundreds of people using the Cloud to store and share files for work purposes. Through sheer bad luck and a series of seemingly minor errors, his entire cloud-based drive was deleted. In a flash, his entire collection of work documents disappeared. Not only would this have cause hours and dollars in trying to reinstate all the documents, but he could also have been held in breach of contracts he had with companies who included clauses stating he was required to hold onto documents for a period of time, in case of a lawsuit.

Well, surely this couldn’t happen to anyone? It’s just a rare occurrence, I hear you say. Ha!

Between operating system updates deleting your back-ups, the Cloud being blamed for loss of jobs, messy court cases over who actually owns data and if anyone actually has the responsibility of returning data, and Symantec “discovering” that apparently 43% of users lose data in the Cloud, it’s little wonder that more and more people are choosing to turn away from cloud-based computing and return to physical and local storage of data.

Sure, it may not be “cool”. It may mean having to organise an off-site backup for really really important data, just in case. It may even mean investing in a fire-proof, water-proof safe for storing … *shudder* … back up copies, but anything has to be safer than someone you have never met having control over your information.

Self-Censorship is Everywhere.

In the decision to publish my last post, there was a greater amount of consultation with others than previously. The question was not whether or not the issue needed to be discussed, because I still maintain that it definitely did. The question was, “Will posting about this cause potential employers to discount my applications due to my writing?”

Image

Censorship by IsaacMao : flickr

I spent a good few weeks thinking about whether or not to write the post, and then a few more questioning whether or not I ought to publish it. As I said on Twitter and my Facebook page, it was the hardest decision I had made in reference to my blog to date. This post is a close second.

Why do we feel the need for self-censorship? Why do we feel that some things we know ought to be said should not be said by ourselves? That it needs to be said, but maybe by someone else? That “something” need to be done by “someone” else. Have we become so afraid of repercussions resulting from the right actions, as much as the wrong ones?

In the current global economic and political environment, I can excuse some of this fear. The need for a job, secure or otherwise, is paramount for most of us. There are bills to pay and roofs to maintain. There’s a need for food on the table, and transport to take us where we need to go. Everything is our lives depends on a steady income, which depends on us appearing to follow the status quo. Don’t rock the boat or you might lose your job, because there’s a million people just lining up to take your position from you. Or so we are told.

But what if that boat needs rocking? What if that “someone” who needs to do “something” never does? What if that someone is ourselves, and if we don’t take that first, scary, terrifying step to lift our heads, open our mouths and actually say something, then no one ever will? Have we become so institutionalised that we refuse to be the first to move?

There have often been complaints against “slacktivism,” suggesting that it is a lack of desire to actually effect change that drives the “likes” and sharing of stories, rather than actual getting off the couch and doing. Perhaps there is a different reason for the rise in the “slacktivist”? Liking something on facebook is a relatively safe activity. Sharing a story through social media is safer than actually joining an activist group and attending a protest. Especially if you have that all too useful “retweets are not endorsements” attached to your profile.

The fragility of our civilised lives has become our prison. We are too scared to act out, speak up or take a stand because this so-called life we have requires so many delicate, easily-removed aspects that we need to hold onto them, despite our desires to show the world who we are, what we actually believe in or how we really feel.

How many times have you been asked how you are going? How many times have you answered with something mediocre? “Yeah, fine. Thanks for asking,” or perhaps “Great. Yourself?” Why not something more truthful like, “Not so good today, but thanks for asking,” or maybe “You know, I’m feeling amazing today!” Because that would jar the sensibilities of the person asking. It’s not something expected. We have instilled within our society certain protocols that must be followed or we don’t know how to react. Think about it. If a stranger came up to you and handed you a flower, what would you do? Would you take it? Maybe, but you would feel that it was so far removed from the everyday that you would probably feel strange doing it.

What if a person on the street asked you to help them restrain someone you had seen assault another person? Would you help, or would that appointment you’re on your way to take priority? Maybe you’d be afraid to get hurt if the person being held tried to escape before the police arrived. Either way, you would be hesitant.

The same goes for speaking up about things we see as wrong. We are more inclined to do as little as possible to bring it into the light, not really committing ourselves to decisive action, just in case it turns against us. We have become a society so scared to act, so ready to self-censor our actions and speech, because we are holding onto the façade of a life most of us realise upon reflection is not the life we want to be living.

I’m not going to stand by and take a mediocre, safe stance on issues. I don’t want to be afraid to speak up anymore. As people were telling me when I was asking for advice regarding my last post, if someone doesn’t want to employed based on the important topics I write about (or some of the not-so-important ones), then they are probably not someone I want to be working for or with. If no one makes a stand, then the “slacktivists” amongst us will have no one to like or share.

Sexual Harassment at a Sex-Friendly Event.

I recently was invited to attend the Perth edition of the ever-popular sex-friendly event, Sexpo. I was there as part of a group educating about, and sometimes demonstrating, the fetish side of things. I attended the event over the course of two days, and found the crowd to be largely respectful and genuinely interested in learning, even if it wasn’t “their thing”.

"Consent Comes From My Word" by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

“Consent Comes From My Word” by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

What took me by surprise, however, were the occasions where sexual harassment was displayed by members of the public against members of our group and against myself. Now, you may think that it was naïve of me to not expect such occurrences at this type of event. I say to you, that sexual harassment is never okay. It’s not okay in the workplace. It’s not okay at a restaurant. It’s not okay in journalism, and it sure as hell isn’t okay at events celebrating consenting adults enjoying their sexuality.

The first instance I experienced was when I had just finished displaying some techniques to the crowd. I had been consulting with the person who was acting as crowd control (we were drawing rather large crowds and we were being rather vigilant on the “no photos” policy). I was having difficulty hearing something they were saying, so I leaned forward, over what happened to be a piece of furniture designed for spanking. A member of the public who just happened to be walking past, came up behind me and struck my backside with such force that my feet actually left the ground.

The BDSM community places a big emphasis upon consent. I had not consented to being hit. I did not know I was going to be hit. My mere presence at this particular place did not constitute consent. When I turned around and confronted the young man in question, he looked shocked that I would take offense to him doing something that I had not consented to. While he eventually apologised, hastily and perhaps in the presence of the male counterpart of our group, it was not a heartfelt apology. He didn’t look remorseful for his actions, and he still had a deer in the headlights look about him, like he honestly had no idea where he had gone wrong.

Is this the “rape culture” I have heard about? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I think that it is definitely a sign that we need to educate everyone on appropriate behaviour, and what exactly CONSENT is and is not.

If you took this situation out of the context of a sex-friendly environment and put it perhaps in a restaurant, it would still be non-consensual abuse. Say I had gotten up from the table, my dinner guest said something, I couldn’t hear so leaned over the table to hear better. It is my bet that the entire restaurant would stop and look if some random person walking by smacked my backside. I would be willing to bet that that person would be escorted out of the restaurant. I would bet that I would have been asked if I wanted to press charges, should I feel the need.

While I thank the other members of the group I was with for backing me up on the issue at the time, and for making sure I had calmed down and was alright, the attitude of security when being told the situation, and of other crowd members was shocking.

 

The second situation involved a lass who had engaged in activities with her partner that had placed  her in a state known as “sub-space” (you can check this term out here). She was safe in the arms of her partner with a friend nearby for support, as she regained her composure. She was being held in a loving embrace and she was smiling happily with her eyes closed. Again, a member of the public came up and suggested she’d had “had a good f**king and she must have “been a go-er” and maybe someone might “give him a go later.” The person in question had been drinking, had caused a fuss previously, by making completely inappropriate remarks about latex attire a member of the group was wearing (the outfit in question was of a socially-acceptable standrd, were it not for the fact it was made of rubber). We had asked that the man be removed from the venue as he was harassing people who were watching and learning. He was not and returned later to create the previously mentioned scene.

I would have assumed, and perhaps that is my own failing, that such an event would want to keep the space as friendly without being over-friendly as possible. Sexpo is known for its female-friendliness, but I have not necessarily seen this premise upheld by the security crew hired to staff the event. I don’t know the company involved, but I have to say, from a personal viewpoint, I did not feel very secure with them around, and was infinitely more at ease with men from our group (including some I had not met before that evening). When the obnoxious man in question was finally asked to leave by security, it was some time after we had been suggesting he move on as he was causing distress to a few of our group. Again, sexual harassment is never alright or excusable, regardless of how much you’ve been drinking.

Let me say, here and now, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are never okay – regardless of the setting, regardless of the occupation of the person being abused, regardless of your attitudes to BDSM. Consent is King and you are not allowed to touch another person or enter their personal space without it.