Green networks

I had a sense of deja vu this morning, listening to Victor Reijs presentation on “green IT” at the TERENA Technical Advisory Council meeting in Vilnius. It was an excellent presentation, making a strong case that the European R&E networks need a forum for focused collaboration, sharing, and new initiatives in sustainability and green IT.

Two years ago – at the TERENA Networking Conference in Bruges – I gave a brief presentation on Green IT and its relevance to the research & education networking community. I suggested then that this is a topic that warrant far more attention from the community, a topic with interesting and important work to be done – and a topic where we in Europe need to do much more to match the excellent work done in North America.

Since then, sustainability has been included in the GN3 project, as a study in Environmental Impact of research network. There is fine and important work being done in this task; the CHG study in a major contribution. In addition, a number of European R&E Networks have made contributions, notably a CHG study in Netherlands by SURFnet and HEAnet joining the GreenStar Network project. However, much remains to be done, and compared to the North America we’re still not doing much.

Victor presented well today on the achievements in the past two years. He also made a strong case for doing more, and doing it together. More than anything, I think the presentation made it clear that we have succeeded in creating a European R&E community, albeit a fledgling one. We have something to build on that allows us to formulate more expansive goals, and to do something concrete and involving together. I think the time for a TERENA taskforce is ripe, if not overdue.

Paper, paper, paper….

I’m getting ready to go to TNC2010 – this years edition of the TERENA Networking Conference. By tradition, the conference, held annually, roams Europe, from north to south, from east to west. This year we go to Lithuania. As always I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues from around Europe, to catch up with people, projects, and ideas in the community, to get inspired, and hopefully provoked.

As always when I go to these event – and, actually, whenever I travel – the last step in my preparations have been printing. Hotel reservations, airline reservations, google maps, addresses for restaurants, agendas and locations for meetings, etc. I might live the digital life, I might be heading to a conference about advanced technology and community for the digital life, but for my travel essentials I’m still strictly analog. OK, I do also copy all this stuff to dropbox, as PDF’s, for easy access from laptop and iPhone, and I do copy stuff to my kindle. But I’m not relying on that. I’m a seasoned traveller, I’ve had both flight and hotel reservations disappear mysteriously, and when that happens in a far away place, a place I don’t know much about and where I do not speak the local language, I want my papers. I want paper to show at check-in counters and hotels, and I want paper to show to the taxi driver when I arrive four hours laten, and say “take me to my hotel”. And I don’t want to have a flat battery get in my way.

It’s a hassle with all that paper, and environmentally wasteful. Hopefully some day I will trust the digital version. But not yet.

Federating networks – first steps

I had my first travel for more than a month today. I can’t remember when I last went this long between trips abroad, but the volcanic ash situation has cancelled several meetings; I’m particularly sad to have missed the e-IRG meeting in Barcelona (even though it will be done in June i Madrid, so I’m looking forward to that), and the NORDUnet 2011 program committee meeting in Reykjavik. On the positive side, most of the work has been done anyway; the volcano is doing a great job driving the further adoption of video-conferencing.

My trip today was to Stockholm – and into the warm, sunny weather they’ve been having in eastern Scandinavia. That was a welcome change from the rain and cold we’ve been having. Even better, my meeting with CTO’s of the Nordic research & education networks was positive, energized, and productive. We’re getting down to business, finding ways to federate networks & services, extending collaboration to new areas, and sharing experiences. We’re also seeing results of initiatives started in the past year; I’ve been very pleased to see a federated networking proposal evolve quickly and being accepted for implementation. Inter-organization sharing of network ressources to reduce cost for all is a great way to apply the optical network technologies we have been implementing in recent years.

We’re creating change, and we’re having fun doing so. This was one trip definitely worth doing.

Malamanteau – Hacks and why I (still) love the Internet

I always loved a good hack. No – not the “break into computer systems” sort of vandalism, but the clever, playful pranks that smart people will go to great lengths to carry out; pranks that twist our reality or make us see things we didn’t see before. And, not the least, pranks that cleverly break the rules to remind us that the world is a playground.

Ages ago – when I started hacking software and later joined the evolving net – there was a lot of that playfulness and cleverness about in those communities. That was a large part of what attracted me to USENET and other forerunners for what we today know as social networks or social media. And it is fitting, because hacks are first and foremost social – they work by hacking the way people see and understand the world and behave accordingly. By playing on the human tendency to be a little too serious.

The Internet was from the start a wonderful media for that sort of thing – and happily it still is. I was reminded of that today by this xkcd comic. As explained by BBC, it plays wonderfully on both language, wikipedia, and the social mechanisms that govern how wikipedia work. It is at the same time a clever language hack and a brilliant social media hack. And as all good hacks, it has spawned both reactions and controversy. Being perfectly self-referential only make it better.

It makes me smile that things like that are still done, that people still create clever hacks, and that people are finding new ways to hack the new media – by taking advantage of the fact that it’s the same old human nature behind it all.

Andy, we feel your pain

Andy Schleck (pro biker) blogged about the joys of modern airline travel – in particular in these days of volcanic ash. The rest of us might not have the glamour of being top athletes, but anyone who travels professionally will sympathize. We’ve all been there with delayed and cancelled flights and endless waiting in airports, and I think we have all probably spent time sharing tales of travel madness with fellow victimstravelers. In the current situation I’ve had to cancel several trips; just this week a trip Iceland (yes) had to go.

Andy is looking forward to the Tour de France. So am I, but only as a spectator. But let’s not forget that we have big events of our own to prepare for; demos, conferences, publications, etc. In the research and education networking world, a major event on the calendar is the TERENA Networking Conference, this year to be held in Vilnius during the first week of June. I have a paper to present, so there’s preparation to do. And as always at TNC, lots of friends to (re)connect with, side-meeting to hold and talks to listen to. It’s bound to be an exciting week. What’s more, I’ve agreed to be “official blogger” for the conference this year. Not quite sure what that will amount to yet, but it sounds like fun; watch this space.