A blog for the enterprise open source community
OSCON 2008 – Power to the usersJay Lyman, July 24, 2008 @ 5:50 pm ET
Going to my first OSCON five years ago, it was held at the downtown Portland Marriott, and the halls were more crowded, which was nice. However, OSCON has grown beyond the split-level Marriott, where you would sometimes be swept away from conversation by the cavernous escalators. Now OSCON is at the Portland Convention Center, and while the conference has a different feel, it is still the most unique tech conference with its developer focus, sandals and lack of ties. So while I still enjoy being able to wear shorts to a show and briefings, there have been some significant changes to OSCON in addition to the location move.
One of the big themes that stood out this year and one of the biggest changes at OSCON was the importance and impact of open source software users. Believe me, at OSCON 2004 there was certainly not as much talk, focus and demonstration that was user oriented. In contrast to this week, there seemed generally a lack of concern about what the code meant to the user. This is logical since back then, open source software was far more infrastructure-oriented. However, I think it reflects a maturity of open source that is helping to fuel broader commercial adoption.
Some vendors queried about my sense of how developers view the business end of open source. While we certainly see somewhat negative reactions ranging from resentment to trepidation, we have to remember that we are at an open source software developers conference, where developers can be developers and not worry as much about the business, legal or other ends of commercial open source.
However, when it comes to users, I believe that open source software developers are coming around to not only considering and including users in communities, but to value their contributions. Whether it’s features or code, shaking out bugs or establishing more enterprise use of open source, communities and companies are realizing the imporatnce of users. When Mark Shuttleworth talks about taking Linux desktop past Apple, it shows the user is more intensely involved in the Linux desktop than ever before. Ubuntu has been a big part of the user focus. The debate among Gnome and KDE has also, I believe, showed us that to overlook or underestimate the importance of the user is folly.
Instead, the successful vendors and communities all seem to be embracing users, customers and their input. They generally see value in user contributions, which have often been scoffed at, laughed at or dismissed by developers in open source history. Beyond the large swaths of end users, open source also has much to gain from the biggest open source software users. Consider the importance of large enterprise users that are contributing significant code, features and suggestions to open source software projects and vendors. The two groups seem to be coming closer together, and both have much to gain in doing so.
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