OSCON and the Future of Open Source

Clinton R. Dreisbach, Former Viget

Article Category: #News & Culture

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Last week, I attended the 10th annual O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) in Portland, Oregon, and, as usual, came back inspired and excited about where the open source community is headed. At Viget, we use almost entirely open-source technology for our development, and we contribute back to open source vigorously, so we like to keep our finger on the pulse of the community.

I had the honor of giving a half-day tutorial on plugins for Ruby on Rails, and it went well. Even more exciting for me was the opportunity to learn from others. I got an in-depth lesson about memcached and MySQL from Brian Aker, one of the chief architects of MySQL, and a fantastic expert lesson in JavaScript from John Resig, author of the jQuery library, as well as many other exciting technical sessions.

OSCON always has fantastic keynotes, and this year was no exception. The one that left a big impression on me was Christine Peterson’s talk about open source physical security. She correctly pointed out that “open source” is a confusing term to the public, and when we are talking about public software, we should demand “no secret software,” which is much more clear. She discussed the U.S. e-voting system, which currently is done with proprietary software that we cannot see the source for, so we have no real assurance as to its accuracy or privacy. She then focused on the need to make sure that our future anti-terrorism sensing and surveillance software does not have the same problem. Her call that we demand that no secret software be used for data collection on citizens was inspiring and struck a great balance between the need for security and the need for personal privacy and government transparency.

Overall, I left with the impression that the open-source community has achieved maturity. Many sessions moved past the question of how we introduce open source to questions about community organization, the inclusion of women in the community, and reflections on open-source adoption. This was my third year attending OSCON, and it has been more exciting for me each year. I highly recommend attending to anyone involved in open source -- developers, managers, or executives -- if you get the chance.

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