EuroOSCON – Day Two

Blipverts, from the second day of Euro OSCON…

  • Tom Steinberg took the audience on a rapid-fire journey through the work of MySociety,org – honestly.gov – their achievements include Pledgebank, TheyWorkForYou and others. Steinberg closed by proffering advice on how to launch successful and effective eDemocracy projects. Tom also later ran a session titled Democracy: A Hacker’s Guide, with more practical steps on running eDemocracy services, Notably, Steinberg advises operators to make public data findable by search engines, provide email alerts, aggregate performance/ratings data to incentivise politicians, create new forms of pressure such as the discursive nature of HearFromYourMP.com and finally to be prepared for effect’s. Oddly, Tom related that the Auk’s non-partisan democracy community is larger than other countries such as the UK. MySociety has tackled abuse simply by trusting its users until they do something to undermine that trust.
  • Dale Doherty’s segment on Make and the re-emergence of DIY tech sought to connect the traditions of homebrew computing, DIY and amateur electronics to current trends in open source; notably the urge to ‘scratch one’s own itch’ and distribute ‘recipes’ as a means for social validation. Dale also previewed the upcoming Craft magazine, to accompany Make.
  • Douglas Arellanes spotted on my blog yesterday that I missed his session so caught me sneaking out of another session. However, I had a great time learning about his work on Campfire and I can hopefully introduce him to Lee at Fonly, Jim’s work on OLPC’s 2B1, Surj’s Tuxphone, Aaron’s Aidphone work and maybe even Craig’s Spiricomp initiative. Doug’s a lovely guy – I hope we can work together on something…maybe some content from Believr.
  • The Secret Sauce of Robust Developer Communities was a joint presentation between Collabnet and O’Reilly, listing collaboration, recognition, dynamic content, conversations and passionate participants as the key ingredients as well as leading suites for eBay and BEA Systems!
  • At lunch I met Rob Savoye, creator of GNash (an open-source, embedded Flash player) and the guy that ported the US air traffic control system to Linux after 9/11! Gnash could be very useful to the OLPC guys…they were comisserating the lack of an open source plugin for Flash. Rob’s also an expert in alternative energy systems, habving taken his home off the grid altogether 🙂
  • Jim Purbuck was back to talk more about Second Life and The Creation Engine: Collaboration, Community and a Creative Commons in Second Life. Second Life is unique in that the number of contributors is a high proportion of the total population…the mode of Always On creation coupled with modes of collaborative construction are seen to be driving this. Second Life is coming to a turning point as real world companies and organisations (e.g. American Apparel and Creative Commons) begin to establish themselves…with every object in Second Life being copy-able, the potential for a virtual open-source world is very high.
  • MySQL CEO, MÃ¥rten Mickos, spoke about Cultures Consequences On Open Source Communities & Business. MÃ¥rten asserts that European higher education, civic traditions and passion for freedom (particularly Nordic openness) makes Europe great for open source. In contrast the US is cost-conscious, less risk-averse and looks to advantage by technological innovation as well as largest finances and talent pool. Indeed, MySQL’s move from Europe to Silicon Valley brought improvements to team spirit and market opportunities. However, MÃ¥rten is mindful of difference in European and US attitudes, but also observing Asian attitudes as they develop in India and China.
  • Tor Nørretranders was speaking again today in his session Dare, Care, and Sharethematically the segment explored the motivations for why individuals undertake difficult endeavours; exploring Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption, Spence’s Costly Signals and Zahavi’s Handicap principle. Notably the disability principle leads to an exploration of culture as the vehicle for natural selection and survival; if you can find time to create and explore culture over and above daily survival, this is a means of signalling that you are strong enough to exist beyond the mundane. Nørretranders explores his perspective further in his book, The Generous Man. Nørretranders promotes the notion that every second of your life is a choice to Dare, Care & Share – or not. Closing on the web gift economy, Nørretranders suggests it is a natural development  as gifts build relationships and societies. Gift economies and sharing are the best mechanisms for regulating an open source society…indeed most human activity is ‘gifting’. Openness is the ultimate handicap 😉
  • I had a great chat about LEGO, the Chumbys and visualising startup employee migrations with O’Reilly’s director of research and analysis, Roger Magoulas. A lovely guy – he reminds me of Jeff Goldblum 🙂
  • Simon Willison’s  Yahoo Interface Library talk outlined where Yahoo! has sought to abstract browser differences and create a core of reusable components, divided into UI controls (sliders, autocomplete etc.) and behavioural utilities (events, drag’n’drop…). The library appears to be very powerful, notably the DOM library in reducing the complexity of many Javascript operations.
  • Sam Hiser‘s presentation on The Future of OpenDocument recognised Europe’s more advanced deployment of open formats. The longevity and persistence of data for states outweighs that for corporations, hence the public sector has been one of the leading adopters of open source file formats. Though formats like RTF can be syntactically read, context is lacking and hence without semantic understanding, they cannot be considered open in the longer term.
  • At the evening’s Make fair, I met Mark and his $75 laptop, fashioned from an old Apple eMate!

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