Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thoughts from the OSCON Executive Briefing

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the first half of the executive briefing; however, the portion that I attended was immensely valuable.

Favorite Quotes*:

  • Michael Tiemann (Red Hat): “You can look at cost all day, but it is really about value.”

  • Matt Asay (Alfresco): “Tim is being too nice, I'm going to be Danese.”

Matt's quote about being Danese referred to a previous session where Danese Cooper had the honor of grilling, oops, I mean interviewing Bill Hilf from Microsoft. She asked some tough questions, including this gem: Danese asked about Microsoft's previous disinformation campaigns, and Hilf responded by saying that Microsoft did not have disinformation campaigns, but that in the future, they will do a better job of targeting these campaigns to the right people. Interesting ... they do not exist, but they will be more targeted in the future. Hmmm.

For those who regularly read my blog, you know that I have been interested in how we can use the lessons learned from open source software as web 2.0 evolves. There were several interesting points along these lines:

  • Brian Behlendorf from CollabNet talked about how the best model for open data is less about the open API and more about seeing the discussion. For example, when looking at a controversial Wikipedia page, it is good to be able to see the back and forth that happened. From my perspective this highlights the desire for more information and the desire to participate in the creation of information that users are coming to expect as web 2.0 becomes more prevalent. We are no longer content to read static web pages; we expect to be able to read and comment on the content or in some cases make corrections directly to the content in the Wiki model.

  • One of the panels talked about how the nature of software development is with a small group of people, which is why you see a small core of developers; extensions allow thousands of people to contribute in a modular manner. I think that this is part of why Firefox has been so successful. Developers can write an extension that they find useful without having to make it mainstream enough to be accepted into the main source tree, and users can customize their experience to install as many or as few extensions as they want. The extension model allows us to fill small niches way out in the long tail, while keeping the main Firefox code base lean and efficient for the masses.

  • Jim Buckmaster from Craigslist talked about how they have only 22 employees, and they rely on users to create content and to flag inappropriate content. He also said that they rely mostly on user feedback to make changes and add incremental features – new cities, etc., but they do not feel like they need to build the next big thing. This makes Craigslist is a great example of the user created content model at its finest. They make it easy for users to create their content, and they stay focused on doing one thing and doing it better than anyone else.

  • Ian Wilkes from Second Life talked about how more of our lives are moving online, how eventually everyone will have an avatar, and how real life and virtual interactions are merging. This is something that I have been noticing, but I will not rehash it here, since I blogged about this idea a few days ago.

OSCON is one of my favorite events. O'Reilly does a great job of taking a topic (open source) and expanding around it to get us thinking about new ideas. I am looking forward to what I will learn over the next couple of days.

Do not forget to check out our session on the Art of Community on Thursday at OSCON!

* Keep in mind that these quotes and the rest of the information in this post are approximate and are based on my imperfect note-taking abilities and my recollections from the day.

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