Friday, February 22, 2008

how to spoil an OSS conference

I'm expecting to be in Washington D.C. on April 22-23, so imagine my delight when I learned of a "Military Open Source Software Conference" at that very time... in that very place! I work on a military contract! What could be better?

Now imagine my shock when I went to register. $1.945. For two days. Two days!

This, folks, is the problem with conferences run by for-profit training companies instead of volunteer organizations. No, wait, it's just one of the problems.
26 Senior Experts from: OSD, BTA, DHS, DON/CIO, AFAE, SPAWAR, FCS-BCT PO, HPCPO NGA, NASA/JPL, PEO-STI, USACE, Hill AFB, BAE, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Unisys, IBM, CSC, Rockwell Collins, Sun, Booz Allen Hamilton, Autodesk, SEI, and Mercury
What's wrong with this list? Not one representative of any open-source project! With a speakers' list like that, I don't know if it's even worth pilfering a hotel catering uniform and a pitcher of ice water to go eavesdrop on the talks.

Apparently, the topic is limited to decisions regarding open-source at a managerial level, rather than the actual use of the software and participation in its communities. That shows a serious lack of understanding. Breaking the separations between decisionmakers, code-writers, and users is part of what gives open source its power.

And suppose you, as an attendee, wish to suggest a topic, present a talk, or facilitate a discussion? Well, you can't. There's no provision for participation by the attendee community. Again, they very seriously do not get it, only seeing one-way relationships from paid content creators to passive content receivers. It seems that, just as "you can write COBOL in any language", you can buy proprietary software under any license.

It all makes me extra-grateful to the volunteers who run conferences like PyCon. (Register by March 7!)

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