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Nate Angell 25 February 2008

Nate Angell

Raised by wolves, accidental open-source evangelist

Born in 1964 to a generation without a name, Nate Angell was raised in rural Colorado. First in Evergreen, then later on a 400-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere and way too close to Utah.

Nate didn’t go to school much as a kid, but when he did, it was mostly to a public, open school with a curriculum based on the Australian aboriginal walkabout. Based on his constant readiness to “go to town,” Nate went to college in New York City, first at NYU, where he didn’t learn much except how to translate Talking Heads songs into Latin, then at Columbia, where he studied Mexican and Argentinean history and culture and explained how low-riders demonstrate an intentional misrecognition of Marxist exchange values. Over-compensating for his early lack of schooling, Nate continued on to get an MA at Brown, finally going ABD for PhD in so-called American Civilization, but mostly studying and teaching in the Department of Modern Culture and Media, focused on film, television and technology studies.

At some point, Nate found time to live in Spain, Mexico and work for disparate institutions, including KPMG Peat Marwick, Mercer Management Consulting, and the AIDS Relief Fund for Beauty Professionals.

In 1995, Nate wed stunning, talented and wickedly smart Heather Angell, then trading his maiden name for his wife’s. Call it a blatant show of feminism, but who wouldn’t trade a long German name that means “babbling brook” for a name like “Angell”? In 1998, Nate and Heather moved from NYC to Portland, Oregon, his uxorial and maternal ancestral city. Being breeders, Nate and Heather then bred two daughters who seem to have inherited only the good traits of their parents.

Since landing in Portland, Nate has been leading web communications, first for the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) and then for Portland State University. Very recently, Nate took up new work for rSmart.

What are you up to?

Last November, I left PSU to work for rSmart, an open-source educational technology company. My new job at rSmart lets me focus fully on the open source projects and communities I first got involved with at PSU, including Sakai, Open Source Portfolio, Kuali, JA-SIG, and Drupal.

Currently, I’ve been helping rSmart continue to refine and improve their supported distributions of Sakai and Kuali, and working to help get the word out that there are viable open source alternatives to the proprietary software our educational institutions have been stuck with.

Thanks to my elliptical orbit around rSmart’s Phoenix headquarters, I’ve also been continuing to help foster the Northwest’s vibrant open source community, hoping to eventually convince the rest of the team that a little rain and a lot of very good beer is preferable to a lot of heat and a lot of mostly bad beer.

What are you into?

According to my blog tag cloud, it must be something like:

But that sounds pretty boring, except maybe the beer/life/food part, so I would also add:

  • Wife
  • Daughters
  • Making New Desiring Machines
  • Almost Newly Finished Attic
  • Playing Basketball

What do you like most about Portland?

Sometimes I think what it will be like when our 300-year experiment with the modern nation-state comes to an end and we degenerate back into various fiefdoms and global commercial entities. Maybe then Portland will be one of the great city-states where interesting things happen and cool people cross paths on neutral ground. Wait, maybe this happened already…

Why should I choose open source technology for my school?

Because you’d be an idiot if you didn’t, and I mean that in the nicest of possible ways ;)

You’d choose open source because you want to take back some control over your financial and technological destiny, rather than spending the rest of your days paying higher prices for increasingly out-of-date technology sold by monopolistic capitalists who view education as a niche market to exploit.

You’d choose open source because you want your technology to reflect and enhance your educational mission.

You’d choose open source because you want the latest technological innovations tomorrow, not someday.

You’d choose open source because you want education to shape tools, rather than tools shaping education. Oh, and you want to help shape the tools.

You’d choose open source because you want all your technology to interoperate following standards.

You’d choose open source because you know that what happens in the light for all to see is more secure than what happens in the dark.

Were you really raised by wolves?

Well, more like coyotes actually. My parents started a commune called Magic Animal Farm and we moved “back to the land” on a ranch that was pretty close to where all the roadrunner cartoons were filmed. I never met Wile E. the man himself, but I swear there was a couple named Fred and Wilma that lived in nearby Bedrock, CO. It sounds crazy out there, but it was more or less your typical childhood…except maybe for that part where we ate my sister’s placenta. Despite all that, I’m (mostly) housetrained now.

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