OSS 2012 Keynote

What’s driving open source in 2012? I presented a keynote address at OSS2012, the 8th International Conference on Open Source Systems this morning. My talk, entitled “What’s Driving Open Source”, tried to capture the forces that are shaping the evolution of the concept of software freedom and its pragmatic expression through open source software.

In the talk, I explained how the idea of open source partly arose from the realisation in 1998 that trying to talk ethics with corporations is largely fruitless (as Bryan Cantrill puts it, they are like lawnmowers; when they cut your hand off, it’s not because they are evil, it’s because you stuck your hand in them to stop them rather than grasping their controls). Open source was shaped by the drivers of 1998 and onwards – mainly price and concepts derived from price by both suppliers and deployers – but in the 15 years since then, the drivers have changed.

Today, it’s licensing for community strength, responding to software patents, independent foundations, cloud computing and big data that are providing the forces that are shaping open source. I’m preparing an article on this for InfoWorld, so will say (much) more later.

Tweetlog for September 10, 2012

Some cool demo shots of Lytro’s refocussable photos: Lytro http://t.co/DBUj0phy

September 10, 2012 at 09:02AM

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Chill out. Watch some clouds drift by 🙂 http://t.co/bDSsGC99

September 10, 2012 at 11:13AM

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Free/Libre Culture Forum in Barcelona, October 15-27 2012: http://t.co/xcAo8YuQ

September 10, 2012 at 01:25PM

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Why does the EC think companies know best regarding children & society & will put them ahead of profit? http://t.co/mWKXFK4e

September 10, 2012 at 03:02PM

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Excellent video about volunteering for animal conservation on new web site: http://t.co/jUs8l06D

September 10, 2012 at 04:54PM

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Kenyan government switches to open source: http://t.co/1b7CaoDr

September 10, 2012 at 06:38PM

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Would you develop an open source education app for $75k? SLC Apps Bounty Program is for you: http://t.co/DPC1PyL4

September 10, 2012 at 08:03PM

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More data on why people reject science – http://t.co/mzn63Zbp

September 10, 2012 at 09:27PM

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Turns out FinFisher needs an export license. Pity it’s not blocked on ethical grounds but at least it’s controlled: http://t.co/K7RWZJ34

September 10, 2012 at 10:41PM

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Distributed Teams And Open Source


Remote staff? Learn from open source. My article for InfoWorld this week observes that having a distributed team works best when you borrow the practices of the most successful open source projects, just as businesses like Automattic and the former MySQL did.


It’s Not Just The Hugos

DRM farces are like London buses. You wait for ever, and then several come along at once. After writing my story for ComputerWorld about the blackout of the Hugo awards by a copyright enforcement robot with no concept of “fair use”, along came an even more stunning story. Yes, the big rally to reselect Barak Obama as candidate for the upcoming US elections was hit by a shoot-first-ask-questions-afterwards bot claiming to be protecting just about every content provider imaginable.

So I’ve updated and expanded the story for InfoWorld – take a look. The key quote:

“When a technologist embodies their or their employer’s view of what’s fair into a technology-enforced restriction, any potential for the exercise of discretion is turned from a scale to a step, and freedom is quantized. That quantization of discretion is always in the interest of the person forcing the issue.”

When you assign algorithms to make subjective judgements, they can’t. Instead, they impose the biases of the people who created them. The content distributors, like UStream and YouTube have a bias, created by US law, to block anything that might turn out to be infringing, because that’s how they get “safe harbor”. Thus the technology they wrote or bought from snake-oil suppliers is imposing their bias.

We fix it not by getting the suppliers to do better bots – they can’t, algorithms are incapable of subjective judgement – but by fixing the law so it doesn’t incent the providers to have this bias.

“Fair Use” Robots Are Science Fiction

The black-out of the Hugo Awards by a “robot” that thought the clip of Doctor Who shown just before Neil Gaiman spoke was proof positive of piracy is educational. My article on ComputerWorldUK today explains why.

London Thrill Ride

Seems the fairground is now a London fixture. Walking back across Waterloo Bridge at the end of our last holiday break of the summer, we saw that the London Eye has been joined by a sort of “London Needle” that provides a high-level thrill-ride on flying swing-seats over London. We didn’t have time to try it out but it looks exciting!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqFrRTE83Gg]
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