FSOSS 2008 Paper
My first year at FSOSS was definitely a great experience. I was able to volunteer for Thursday morning giving me the unique experience of seeing how things were done behind the scenes. It was interesting for me to see the speakers as they signed in. They weren’t what I expected in a huge IT Conference. Throughout the morning it got a little busy as people signed in so it was unfortunate that I missed the first time slot of speakers so as soon as things died down I went off to the Open Source Design seminar with Brendan Sera-Shriar and Geoff Palin and then the TikiWiki CMS/Groupware seminar with Marc Laporte and Nelson Ko. Here are my findings on each of the talks and how they shaped/contributed to my view of Open Source. I chose to discuss these two talks because of the contrast between them. Though I’m not 100% sure of what the purpose of the talks was, I found one of them very helpful and the other not so much.
Open Source Design
Going into this seminar I had no idea what to expect but it became clear within the first few minutes. Brendan was quite a character and it was very easy to listen to him and he had a good way of keeping your interest. The seminar was mainly about using open source tools in the design world. I felt bombarded with the information given but it was presented in such a way that I got a lot out of the presentation.
Brendan founded PHUG, which is a PHP user group in Toronto and now has over 4000 members. His goal was to develop an open source culture where developers and designers can meet. Brendan started in television and film and in the last 15 years has moved into the web, more specifically designing web apps using open source tools.
In his seminar his main point was that the Open Source movement is growing. People are using Open Source Tools more and more in the real world; Brendan even gave examples of companies and even a movie that was made using Blender 3D. He elaborated on the fact that in the past a designer was a designer and the developer was the developer. There’s been a shift in that. Now more designers are becoming a hybrid and are designer/developers. Brendan made the point that designers must be interacting with developers and vice versa. Some people don’t associate code with design but “Code is design and design is code”.
He then briefly outlined the tools that are starting to be used in the commercial world like: gimp, inkscape, Blender 3D, Wordpress and drupal; and showed some examples of the work done by them and some comparisons between them and the closed source alternative. He also gave excellent examples of work done using these open source tools.
From this seminar Brendan’s views on Open Source and its community was very clear. He was definitely “pro-open-source”. It’s obvious that Open Source is on the rise especially in the commercial industry. It’s going to be huge and these are the times of growth. He sees Open Source as an “alternative to main stream” providing “leverage in design”, lower costs, and a helpful community. Brendan stated that Open Source was all about the community and being part of this culture meant sharing and helping with-in the community. This is a huge contrast to “main stream” (or closed source) because in that community people don’t want to share, they compete and not give stuff away in fear that it will get stolen. His seminar definitely brought me back to the article given in the first week of classes about the Cathedral and the Bazaar. A question arose in the seminar about companies taking advantage of the community and its accessibility and “freeness”. Brendan simply answered “I don’t care, as long as the community gains recognition and grows”. He also said “there’ll be a time when we can fight for that but for now I’m happy that it’s getting recognized and used”.
The TikiWiki seminar started off well but half way through it turned into a lab. Marc and Nelson gave a good introduction about TikiWiki but as time was limited they ended up stopping at that. Even their introductions of each other were quick and it was hard to take note of them. All I got was that Marc used to work in Content Management Systems and then switched off to Open Source.
They started their seminar talking about mass collaboration. The conclusion of the discussion was that it was impossible before internet and that Wiki’s support this more than any other tool. The example of email was given and how it doesn’t work very well and is hard to attain real time collaboration with it. Then Wikipedia came up in the discussion, Marc stated that if Wiki was good enough for an encyclopedia it should be good enough for projects and companies.
He then elaborated on what wikis are for. Some of the things that came up were: Wikipedia, documents, collaboration, corporate intranet/extranet, great for unstructured content but can be structured using categories/tags, and effective document workflow. They saw this and saw an opportunity to expand on it; thus bringing us TikiWiki. From there on the seminar became much like a sales pitch for TikiWiki.
TikiWiki (Tightly Integrated Knowledge Infrastructure|Wiki) is a fully fledged CMS, Wiki and Groupware. Basically merging CMS (forums, articles, wikis, etc…) and Groupware (management system, groups/roles, etc…). TikiWiki is almost 6 years old, runs on standard hosting (php/mysql, making it’s hosting easy) and allows for unlimited users, groups, etc… Marc was keen on explaining that TikiWiki will not be great for EVERYTHING. The features list is offered and the user/implementer of TikiWiki will need to see which features will useful for the situation and search for other things to use for the weaker points. When asked about people commercializing TikiWiki Marc commented that he wasn’t worried. He would just be happy that the software gets its recognition and use.
I think the biggest learning curve or point to be made in the seminar wasn’t something Marc or Nelson said but the interest in the product. The room was full and it was full of people who were interested in implementing TikiWiki into their workplaces. There were representatives from York University, Ryerson University, a couple from the United States and more. This showed the “globality” of open source and the impact it can have on various aspects of society.
Presentation-wise the two seminars were polar opposites. In the Open Source Design seminar I was intrigued and engaged while in the TikiWiki seminar I was almost turned off at the “sales pitch” approach. Besides the quality of the seminar their points on Open Source, regardless of how little or much they gave, were pretty much similar. Both main speakers stated that the recognition, usage and growth in community were more important than making money and such. I think that it’s clear that Open Source and its community is on the rise and it’s great to see the recognition that it is getting; from big production companies to universities. The Open Source community is definitely doing great things for the IT industry and it’s evident in the noise that it gets.
In conclusion, these seminars and the whole FSOSS experience affirmed my views of Open Source. Like I stated earlier, it is doing great things for the IT industry and it’s only a matter of time before Open Source will blow up and become the tools of choice. Brendan said that the Open Source alternatives would definitely not take the Microsofts and Adobes out of business, and I agree with that, but I think that if people were more informed of Open Source it would definitely become more of an option and recognition and usage would definitely increase. I believe the most valuable thing about Open Source was its community and this was greatly affirmed in these seminars and FSOSS as a whole. The community and its ability to be humble and selfless, sharing and collaborating with each other are the greatest strong points of Open Source. FSOSS was a great experience and it got me excited for DPS909 and my ability to contribute to this community even though I’m merely a student with a lot to learn.