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.

How Open Source Forced Microsoft’s Hand

Even if you’re not using LibreOffice, you owe it a debt of gratitude because it (and its ancestors) forced Microsoft to interoperate, have a stable file format and innovate. I explain more in this week’s InfoWorld column.

Saving Mandriva

Can a community-centric approach save Mandriva from bankruptcy? My article today on ComputerWorldUK takes a look.

Freedom To Create

Sometimes we think software freedom just applies to programmers, but its creative impact can be much broader. This animated video is pretty clever:

[youtube http://youtu.be/Fq9EV2fYF2E]

While it’s called “Stop-Motion Excel”, if you look closely at the screen you’ll see it’s actually made with open source software:

Yes, the spreadsheet they used isn’t Excel at all – it’s OpenOffice.org, the predecessor to LibreOffice (and of course Apache OpenOffice and other branches of the OOo tree), running on a Mac. They actually namecheck the software they used in the making-of video.

Why would they want to avoid Microsoft Excel? One possible reason is because using anything proprietary in a video production requires clearance and approval from the owner of the proprietary product. On the other hand, open source projects come complete with an OSI-approved license that gives everyone the right to use the software for any purpose. Open source unlocks creativity and innovation everywhere.

Influence vs Control

My article for InfoWorld this week considers three different projects – OmniOS (derived from Illumos, the new name given to OpenSolaris), GitHub and OpenStack – and finds different attitudes towards corporate control giving different results.

MinkCast: Explaining OmniOS

Despite Oracle pulling out, OpenSolaris lives on as Illumos, which is a loose-knit open source community with multiple downstream projects. One of those is the new OmniOS operating system built by consulting company OmniTI.

OmniOS is described as a “JEOS” (Just Enough Operating System), the smallest possible subset of Illumos that’s able to self-host (that is, act as a build platform for itself with no external dependencies). As such it’s the perfect starting point for the sort of devops programmers building a high-integrity platform who would in the past have started from Solaris and removed code until they had their perfect platform.

OmniTI CEO Theo Schlossnagle joined me for a discussion about OmniOS, its uses and its relationship to IllumOS.

[youtube http://youtu.be/9h817UTOxmk]

OSI Membership In Two Minutes

I was approached in the OSI booth at OSCON to explain OSI’s membership categories.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DB5SxVjqBg]

That URL again:  opensource.org/join

Explaining OSI Membership

The video of my keynote at OSCON is now live on YouTube:

That link I mentioned:  opensource.org/join

OSI Opens For Membership

You can finally join OSI. I’ve had a busy day at OSCON in Portland, OR today (apologies if I’ve been missing your messages and/or deadlines…) where interest around the conference has been high. Here are some details.

The Open Source Initiative now has two membership categories; Affiliate Membership for not-for-profit organisations, and Individual Membership for open source supporters to personally drive change. The Board expects to create a third category for corporate membership later this year. Together, these membership categories will eventually drive all the activity at OSI, including its governance.

The goal of all this is to turn OSI into a member-driven non-profit that’s a neutral venue for the things that are inappropriate or impossible anywhere else. Ideas already suggested include

  • a global resource network for open source user groups of all kinds
  • a repository of research on open source (like the late lamented opensource.mit.edu)
  • a social fund to help developers attend open source conferences

Of course, all these will only happen if there are people to make them happen – the OSI Board is too small for this. The new Individual Membership category is the powerhouse of the change, connecting the resources from the Affiliates and future corporate members and staffing working groups to achieve concrete, time-bounded deliverables that benefit open source. As the membership grows – in all categories – so will the resources available, both practical and reputational. In future the OSI Board will facilitate rather than staff all OSI’s work.

There are so many things our global community could do together if even a small percentage of us were to unite in this way. The specifics of our different projects, the characteristics of our licenses and our differing approaches to software freedom vary, but that doesn’t mean we need to allow those differences to block our unity. As OSI’s president you’de expect me to say this, but all the same:  please join!

As OSI’s president you’de expect me to say this, but all the same:  please join!


The feature I wrote for O’Reilly is also an e-book.  Without realising it, I have had my first ISBN-numbered publication issued – rather a surprise!

Do you think I should write a full-length book that covers more information like this?  It would cover a range of “thinking tools” for both software deployers and for software creators as they devise business strategies that incorporate open source.  I’d expand on the sorts of ideas you can currently find on the Essays page.

Let me know – you can get a free copy of Open Source Strategies for the Enterprise from O’Reilly in Kindle, e-pub and PDF format as ISBN 1-4493-4117-9. Or of course the feature is also on O’Reilly Radar.

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