How To Improve Conversation At A Comp Sci Open Day

By Andrew Price, 2007-02-08 10:02:52 in General.

Yesterday I helped out at a Computer Science department open day at uni. It was my job to talk to prospective new students and their parents to make them feel at home and answer any questions they might have about the university and being a Comp Sci student here.

At lunch, I was sat at the end of a table, a lecturer and a research student at the opposite end, an enthusiastic kid to my left and to my right, a quiet kid and his father. The conversation made its way onto what I did in my spare time and I mentioned open source software and Ubuntu. The father to the right of me's eyes lit up and he said he was trying out Ubuntu at home and then went on to ask for my help getting his Windows machine to be able to see a samba share on his Ubuntu box. Although I had configured samba before, I couldn't remember the exact syntax so I pointed him towards the Ubuntu wiki (which usually has these kinds of helpful things on it) and I also mentioned the other ways he could get some information about it - the Ubuntu forums, mailing lists, IRC, and failing that, just Googling.

The conversation carried on and the kid to my left asked what Linux is. I explained how Linux is an OS kernel and that other programs are bundled with it to make Linux OS distributions such as Ubuntu and other things. He seemed quite interested and took it all in. It had been a quiet open day before that and I was rather pleased at how much the conversation picked up after mentioning Linux.

The thing that struck me the most was that at one table there was such a contrast between the prospective student who had no idea about what Linux is and the father on the other side of the table who was working on getting a samba server set up on Ubuntu. I think the lecturer and research assistant on the other side of the table were just glad that I was talking about something so they could enjoy their free lunch uninterrupted.