PrizCon 2013: Possibly the World’s Second One-Day Tech Conference in Prison

In 2010, a bunch of us both inside and outside got together and put on a technical conference inside the prison at Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, OH. You can read about it here.

It was a positive experience on the whole, but things did not go as planned, either on the inside or on the outside.  Many of our eagerly-anticipated outside speakers turned out not to be able to make it, and miscommunications in the prison led to a much smaller turnout than expected.

So Mark Roberts, perhaps the hardest-working prisoner I have ever met, has decided that we’re going to do it again and again until we get it right, or something like that.  Here’s what he had to say to me:

We are actively moving forward with planning for the Tech Conference. SuAnne [supervisor –Dan] is contacting The Columbus College of Art and Design to see if there is any interest. We have tentatively scheduled January 19th 2013 [this has changed, see below –Dan] in the chapel. You will have to tell me to “Slow Your Roll,” in your best gangsta voice, if you want me to slow this down. Strike while the iron is hot, but not in a rush.

So at the moment I guess we’re looking for outside presenters who would be willing to come in and give presentations on something tech.  The word is that we’re going to be concentrating harder on IT this year than we did in 2010, but a presentation on, say, how digital synthesizers or hard disks work would be welcome, as would something about the various obstacles confronting the union of tech employers and tech employees who are ex-felons and how to surmount them, or why computer programming will be obsolete in ten years.

It looks like I’ll be doing a presentation on test-driven development, and I’m being pushed pretty hard to do one on Arduino as well, although I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to get a bunch of discrete electrical components into the prison.

The handy thing about presenting at a conference in prison is that you have a captive audience, and chances are good that anything you do is better than anything they’ve ever seen before, so the acceptance bar is pretty low.  Of course, you won’t get paid in money; but you’ll get some practice making presentations, which is never a bad thing, you’ll get some renown in the community, you’ll get to make completely outrageous statements with a straight face (“Joel Helbling?  Oh, yes, I know him well–I met him in prison!”) and back them up, and you may very well end up having significantly more fun than you’d expect.

Remember Sandra Bullock in The Net?  Remember Hugh Jackman in Swordfish?  Remember how true-to-life and faithful to the real-world experience of the software developer those movies were?  Well, prison movies are just about as accurate as they were.  Talk to veterans of Coding in the Clink for corroboration.

So if this sounds like something you’d like to take a swing at, contact me and let me know, and we’ll start putting a definite shape on this thing.  Once it has a definite shape, we’ll be able to be more specific about what we’re going to do.

The best way to get hold of me is as @dnwiebe on Twitter.  You can also try dn_wiebe@gmail.com without the underscore.

I hope to hear from you!

Update 10/17/2012: We decided last night that January 26th will be the day–two weeks after CodeMash.

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