Get your FOSS on: Wellington’s regular geeky events

OLPC testing at the Southern Cross by mangee

I was surprised to learn about all the regular tech events that happen in Wellington, especially for the size of the town. Wellington’s open source communities are especially vibrant and welcoming. This is part one in a three part series on the open source and library technology communities in Wellington.

OLPC WellyNZTesters Every Saturday morning a group of 4-15 people meet to test software for the One Laptop Per Child program. Currently the group meets at the Southern Cross, from about 11am to 1pm. It’s a diverse group of people including programmers, educators, usability, and open source folks ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s. Sometimes people bring their kids. It’s lots of fun to see how kid friendly both the hardware and software are. Tabitha Rodger does a great job of organizing the hardware, testing plans, and sending feedback to the developers. When she’s not there we mostly eat breakfast, fiddle around and play. I think this is one of the only regular OLPC testing groups in the world.

Thursday night curry According to legend, and the website: “Once upon a time there was a gathering of engineers, sysadmins, programmers and other technical people. They came together in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, with curry and beer. Often, quite a lot of beer. They decided to continue this consumption each week, and thus Thursday Night Curry was born.” A few people told me that it was a core group of uber nerdy SysAdmins, but the one time I went I found it to be a really friendly and eclectic mix of programmers, policy people, open source enthusiasts, and out of town visitors. I’m not a big fan of Indian food, so I’ve only been once. If you are new to Wellington I’d definately recommend showing up for curry night.

Linuxchix I like the explicitly feminist statements on their website: “Women make up approximately 42% of NZ’s IT Industry (Stats NZ), but once data entry and unskilled work is excluded this drops to somewhere nearer 15%. Linuxchix and the New Zealand chapter of Linuxchix exist to connect women working in the IT industry, contributing to FOSS, as well as female users of the Linux operating system looking for support and community.” The people I met at the meetup I went to were really friendly and helpful. I met a grad student who had to zip off to monitor something in her lab, a punky looking mobile phone tester, a lawyer who is part of the organizing committee for the Linux conference that will be happening here next year, and Brenda Wallace. Brenda is a open source programmer, geek and organizer. I like that she just rolls up her sleeves and gets stuff done.

WellyLUG hosts regular monthly meetings/presentations and mailing list. While I didn’t make it to any of the presentations, people on the list were really helpful with my newbie linux questions.

Geek Girl Dinners are organized several times a year. They are networking events for techie women that happen over drinks and dinner, and include presentations on geeky topics. I am so disappointed that I’ll miss the next one.

Webstock This is the conference for web folks. Unfortunately I just missed the conference, but was here to attend their 3rd birthday event. There was a large bar tab, cupcakes, and a bunch of 5 minute lightning presentations.A   The Webstock folks run the Onya web awards. They also co-sponsor Full Code Press, a competition where a Kiwi and Aussie teams have 24 hours to build a website for a non-profit organization. This year the Code Blacks won them bragging rights for their site for Rainbow Youth, a queer youth group based in Auckland.

Pecha Kucha These seem to happen about once or twice a year in Wellington. The last one happened on a cold and rainy night and I didn’t go.

Super Happy Dev House is a “monthly hackathon, combining serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere.” This also takes place at the legendary Southern Cross, which is my favourite place for breakfast, an afternoon coffee meeting, or late night jumbo Jenga on the back patio.

Wellington is a very geeky and community minded place. I can’t think of a city that, per capita, runs as many regular events. If I missed one of your events, please add them in the comments.

Part two of this series will look at the some of the open source projects and techy people in libraries, in and around Wellington.

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