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O'Reilly OSCON in San Jose: Good Conversations, Wrong Venue
Many interesting conversations but not a good show

"I liked it better in Portland," said one OSCON attendee to another during Thursday's lunch. This comment summed up the feeling of OSCON 2009 at the San Jose Convention Center. Nice people, wrong venue.

Portland's progressive reputation and its status as the North American home of open-source deity Linus Torvalds made it the perfect place for this modest event. The cavernous, sterile confines of the largest convention center in sterile Silicon Valley brought the excitement surrounding OSCON down several notches.

But in the spirit of hating the sin and not the sinner, it can be reported that there is still a lot of personality and dynamism in the world of open-source software. Open Source is experiencing stimulating times during this global recession, the most exciting period since the great tech meltdown of 2000-2004.

As IT budgets once again go under siege, the concept of "free" software--or at least much cheaper software without vendor lock-in--becomes very appealing to organizations of all sizes throughout the world.

 

This time, Open Source doesn't have to go through that pesky validation process it faced years ago. Linux is well-established, even conquering many segments of enterprise IT. The Firefox browser is the most popular--if not yet the most used--in the world. The great proprietary behemoths Microsoft, Sun, and Intel were all out inf force at OSCON screaming as to how open they really are if you just give them a chance to prove it.

And conversations I had with folks from companies such as Bluenog, WSO2, SourceForge, and Revolution Computing demonstrated that there are many serious businesspeople out there who are using this moment to "innovate and invest" in the words of one of them to secure a solidly defensible position when the economy recovers. WSO2 also presented on the mission-criticality of security and governance, and why it's time companies imbue it at design-time. The New Symbian has a new story--trying to expand paltry market share in the US while maintaining hegemony in the rest of the world--and had the best booth, with glorious yellow beanbags providing a comfortable respite from walking the floor and enduring hard chairs during long sessions.

The political dimension of Open Source Software will never abate entirely. Certainly about half of the booth space here was occupied by the good folks who truly believe in your freedom, in the greater good of the Open-Source movement, and in not trying to make too much money. But the practical dimension seems to co-exist peacefully these days.

The compelling ideas of flexibility and ownership through forking, of community-driven standards, of staying out of the clutches of the monopolists in the crowd, and of using software that works and doesn't bleed you to death have penetrated into corporate consciousness to the degree that it must have seemed like a good idea to hold this event in the Heart of Silicon Valley. Too bad the Heart of Open Source in North America is still in Portland, Oregon.

Details of some of the great conversations I had to follow over the next week...

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.



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