OSCON 2006: Day One


The first day of OSCON 2006 was interesting.

The opening keynote from Tim O’Reilly was a bit provocative, but also invigorating. He posited that open source licensing is, essentially, a dead issue. Software licensing is a tool that’s most useful when you’re giving software to someone to use on their own computers. So much of today’s software is web-based that the end user never really installs the application onto their own computer. The finer point is that access to the underlying source code isn’t terribly useful without the (sometimes huge) datasets which that code uses. Having access to Google’s source code, for example, wouldn’t be of much use without the database of web sites. The real issue is open access to data: being able to use new services by importing your existing data, and being able to leave that service later, should it fail to meet your needs, and taking all of your new data with you.

The sessions I’ve attended so far have been: Maximum Netfilter: this was a long presentation, but it had a very useful payout at the end. fwknop takes port-knocking to a new level, using a single packet authentication mechanism that looks really slick. The Atom Publishing Protocol as Universal Web Glue: I’ve been following the slowly developing Atom specification from the sidelines for some time. I prefer Atom feeds when I can get them, and I’ve been eager for a more standardized publishing mechanism to compete with the metaWeblog API (though, to be honest, I’m hard pressed to say why, exactly). Tim Bray gave a great, hands-on introduction to the Atom-based publishing. The Challenge: Digital Media and OSS: John Terpstra, AMD employee and member of the Samba team, led a fascinating evaluation of the history and future of digital media in the open source world. He said up front that he didn’t have any answers, and was more interested in engaging us – the audience – to investigate the assumptions in the status quo, and working together to find ways to promulgate open media in the ways we’ve promulgated open source. Perl Lightning Talks: I attended the first half of this session. Interesting stuff, but not too much for me to really sink my teeth into. How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People (And You Can Too): the bulk of this presentation was drawn from experiences in the Subversion development community. It was wonderful. It was a very down-to-earth overview of how to grow and cultivate a robust community that can withstand the attacks of dedicated trolls, and how to intervene when necessary without completely disrupting the overall project. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the word “humility” in a geek talk. Too often geeks focus purely on technical merits, and overlook the softer sides of human interactions. I learned a lot, and I’m hopeful to be able to (some day) apply this stuff to projects in which I might participate.

I had lunch with Rich Bowen, Ken Coar, Sam Ruby, and a handful of other members of the Apache Software Foundation. Even though it was a low-key lunch, I still worried that I looked like a starry-eyed fanboy sitting with these luminaries of the open source community!

The exhibit hall was giving out a lot of great swag. I picked up half a dozen tee shirts, a bunch of pens, and some hats. Some of the booths were from companies I’d never heard of before, and it was great to see what some folks are doing in various niches. There were a few content management systems, a wiki company, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff.

For dinner, Rich and wandered off to a Chinese restaurant, ostensibly to obtain fortune cookies. Then we walked to Veritable Quandary for a few drinks, and some pleasant conversation.

It was a great start to the conference, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the week unfolds.

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