FOSDEM is an annual free and open source conference for the software developer community. This free and open source community event managed by scores of volunteers and open source community members, and free to attend. Every year, thousands of developers from all over the world head to Brussels, Belgium in droves to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. 2018 was no different. Read the full blog post here.
I went to the All Things Open (ATO) conference this year in Raleigh for the first time. I wanted to tap into the latest open source buzz and to meet up with old friends and make new ones. In its fifth year, the conference pulled in thousands of open source participants sharing their passion about their projects and latest tools. I expected the conference to be heavily Red Hat focused but found it, thankfully, to be warmly welcoming to the diverse open source community.
The conference mostly realized its clearly articulated values of promoting access, diversity, and providing world-class content and value. I had a chance to chat with the conference organizer Todd Lewis (@toddle) and appreciate his mission to build a space to gather, share and contribute. I learned about how volunteers are contributing to projects at Apache Software Foundation (ASF), Raspberry Pi and women tech non-profits. GitHub and CapitalOne’s DevExchange teams shared insights on popular collaborative tools used by their developer communities.
10 keynotes, 22 tracks of talks across 3 days included excellent presentations by Danese Cooper on Open Source Sustainability and Kelsey Hightower on Kubernetes. Fun lightning talks, facilitated by Jason Hibbets, featured 5 minute pitches on CSS, containers and even Lego projects.
While this year’s conference excelled in many areas, I would like to see more attention on some aspects next year. I’d like to see more women recruited to present and attend. I’d like see more diversity in the attendees. I’d like to see topics emphasizing the use of open source to connect the next billion users on mobile, web and cloud platforms. The conference could add build-your-own (BYO) workshops on Raspberry Pi and other platforms. Birds-of-a-feather (BoF) sessions, missing this year, would be another community favorite.
I’m looking forward to returning as an active participant at ATO next year. All Things Open was a great place to network and get a pulse of what’s inspiring the community at large.
Until next year.
I successfully updated my Nexus devices with Android 5.0 aka Lollipop earlier this week. Finally. After 3 tries with the download failing the first time, the install failing the next time and then it finally going through.
Here is what I’m impressed with:
* Look and feel polish – the visual change using new material design ideas
* 68 languages supported with more fonts, faster input method loading
* Camera overhaul – faster to load, easier to use
* Better Notifications
* Smarter battery utilization
* Download footprint (< 400Mb) A comprehensive review can be found at: Lollipop Review
The conference proceedings are being streamed live.
A couple of talks I would like everyone reading this post to attend include a talk on creative techniques for loading web pages for Wikipedia by Trevor Parscal and Roan Kattouw from my team (Features Engineering at Wikimedia Foundation) as well as a talk on how to raise millions of dollars using open source by Arthur Richards from Wikimedia’s fundraising engineering team. Go Team!
A giant step in the right direction in the open source world…. Finally Oracle has donated OpenOffice.org’s code base to the Apache Software Foundation.
Interesting comments by Steven Vaughan-Nichols.
Good reading on the pitfalls faced while startups and open source grow at dizzying rates. And a major new version of Red Hat Linux emerges.
Twitter’s learning experiences about fast growth, new found success and founders working (or rather not working) together. A fascinating account of how co-founders often aren’t good managers, team builders or executives in their own ventures. In most startups, hiring is always a pain point. Underhiring both in experience and quantity can be debilitating.
Yet for all its astonishing growth, Twitter has succeeded in spite of itself — the enviable product of a great idea and lightning-in-a-bottle viral success rather than a disciplined approach to how it’s managed….
What the company needed was simple: people to do all the work. Yet it moved painfully slowly in hiring, with just 110 employees by the end of 2009, even though it had raised $150 million in venture capital by then….
“The mistake I made was definitely underhiring, both in quantity and in experience, in several areas, for a long time,” Mr. Williams says now. He attributes that mistake to the daily distractions of running Twitter and not anticipating how big it would become….
Twitter finally hired a recruiter, as well as people to handle mundane but important big-company tasks like human resources, payroll and ensuring that all of Twitter’s partners use the same blue bird logo….
Twitter’s executives talk about the “Dunbar number” — the maximum number of people, generally believed to be 150, with whom one person can have strong relationships….Each time employees log on to their computers, for instance, they see a photo of a colleague, with clues and a list of the person’s hobbies, and must identify the person. And notes from every meeting are posted for all employees to read.
Read more at NYT.
What Dries Buytaert is thinking about the commercialization of Drupal. Dries talks about the concern that open source projects when commercialized may spur concerns that the spirit of volunteerism could be lost or a volunteer project can be tainted when paid staff is introduced.
When new ground needs to be broken, it’s often volunteer communities that do it. But a full-time, paid infrastructure can be necessary for the preservation and protection of what communities begin. And when new advances are to be made or gaps to be filled in, volunteers rise up within the paid infrastructure. There will always be a place for volunteers, just as there is a place for professionals….
It’s quite common in the software industry that great movements are started by volunteers. While this can work quite well initially, there comes a time when a volunteer-based project becomes a threat to larger, controlled organizations (e.g., MySQL to Oracle, Linux to Microsoft). At that point, if the Open Source organization is to survive and compete, it may have to fortify its position by fostering commercial involvement that helps the project advance and compete. Red Hat is a good example. Without Red Hat, Linux might not have the strong market share it has today. It is also one of the reasons I co-founded Acquia, and why it is important that all Drupal companies contribute back to the project….
The commercialization of a volunteer-driven Open Source project is part of a project’s natural life-cycle. While it can be a significant change, it is a great opportunity. We can reap the benefits of growth, prevent volunteer burn-out and distribute the effort.
Read more on Dries’s blog.
Red Hat finally releases Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) version 6 after more than 3 years. The new version of RHEL boasts of a modern Linux kernel (2.6.32), improved performance, optimized resource management through kernel improvements, RAS, scalability, virtualization, power saving features and ext4 support.
Filesystems: The new default file system, ext4, is faster, more robust, and scales to 16TB. The fourth extended filesystem (ext4) is based on the third extended filesystem (ext3) and features a number of improvements. These include support for larger file systems and larger files, faster and more efficient allocation of disk space, no limit on the number of subdirectories within a directory, faster file system checking, and more robust journaling. The ext4 file system is selected by default and is highly recommended.
Power Management: The tickless kernel feature keeps systems in the idle state longer, resulting in net power savings. Active State Power Management and Aggressive Link Power Management provide enhanced system control, reducing the power consumption of I/O subsystems. Administrators can actively throttle power levels to reduce consumption. Realtime drive access optimization reduces filesystem metadata write overhead.
Stable Application Development and Production Platform: Ruby 1.8.7 is included, and Rails 3 supports dependencies. Updates to the popular web scripting and programming languages PHP (5.3.2), Perl (5.10.1) are also included.
A Conversation with Planet FLOSS India’s co-founders Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay and Sayamindu Dasgupta.
India’s free and open source software community is known for its vibrant diversity. It is diverse geographically, technologically and ideologically and has voices that range from the inspired to the obsessed. Planet FLOSS India is a successful online platform representing India’s many FOSS voices. I’ve known the planet’s co-founders, Sankarshan and Sayamindu for many years now and recently talked to them about the planet’s origins, success and future. Here is what they had to say.
1. India’s FOSS community is large yet mostly unknown. Planet FLOSS India is helping make the community’s voices more widely known. Tell me about how this Planet came about and who came up with the idea.
Sankarshan: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://planet-india.randomink.org shows that May 20, 2004 was when Planet FLOSS India first appeared on the World Wide Web. The idea for this planet was floating around in our heads for at least 3 months before that. As far as I recall, one evening, at Sayamindu’s place, we realized that the two of us read other planets all the time. We ended up wondering what it would take to build one for India.
It took ten minutes to register the domain and a day or so to obtain the hosting space. Sayamindu helped out a lot by doing some research and selecting Dreamhost. Between the two of us, we did not actually know many folks; so we decided to get some word of mouth going (including instances where we had folks telling us “you have a piddly 12 folks blogging and getting syndicated on the planet and you call it Planet FLOSS India ?”) That was then. We’ve come a long way since then I’d say.
Sayamindu: We could do more stuff really I guess we are limited by our own interest in getting things through.
2. Planets are excellent tools for community building. What has helped you in building and managing this community and maintaining its quality.
Sankarshan: Personally, one of the satisfying results of helping host this planet (I pay for the hosting while Sayamindu does other larger bits) has been seeing the breadth and quality of people we have come across. Most of the time the conversation has been long-lasting and interesting. There is a tremendous amount of work in the FLOSS space that happens in India, and what we syndicate now represents the subset of just those who write. Having a pan-India planet is also interesting as it allows us to see the regional or task specific ones (planets) like Planet Durgapur LUG and so forth.
Sayamindu: I’d also like to believe that it has allowed an online space for conversation. We have had bloggers send us notes of appreciation when someone stumbled on to their work because they were syndicated and, thereon collaboration flourished. This makes us happy.
3. Have you ever had a problem where you had to drop a blogger off.
Sankarshan: We don’t actually have a policy on the content. The planet began with an aim to allow both of us to get to know folks and, we do tend to believe that it is always better to let every facet of personality shine through. Having said all of that, there have been times when we have had to comment out the feed URL in the configuration file thus taking the blogger off the planet.
Sayamindu: As a best practice, we try and reach out asking for a specific feed and so forth. It has not been a problem but yes, like other planets we have had to exercise some editorial control on the content.
4. What are your plans about growing Planet FLOSS India?
Sankarshan: The planet’s growth has been more of an evolution.
One aspect we’d like to think about is how to get folks to have the discipline to write about what they are up to. The more they think about it in terms of collaboration (and less in terms of PR for their projects), we should see a good amount of writing coming up. We also try to convince folks to write in their local languages. Local language content would make a good amount of material fly past our readers, but it would be good to see content and blogs getting syndicated in Indian languages.
We haven’t run too much analysis on the content that goes on the planet. Nonetheless we tried to test the grade at which it was written (turns out that it is mostly easy to read) but I’d say that in our evil plans there is this idea of expanding the ‘S’ in FLOSS beyond Software per se and make it easier for anyone to feel that they could be syndicated.
Sayamindu: There are some technical parts to the infrastructure that we have to look at in the near future – these include the ability to self-add oneself to the planet. For example, The Fedora Project Planet does this nicely. We also need someone to do up a newer theme and CSS for the planet now that I don’t have the time at all. ** The current theme was cooked in one night and uses quite a few hacks which fall apart in some corner-cases. It would be nice to have someone preserve the look and feel, but rewrite the entire HTML/CSS part in a cleaner fashion. **
5. How do you support the infrastructure for the Planet. Do you take donations, gifts and hardware? What about ads? How many hits do you have to handle?
Sayamindu: Hosting and domain charges are paid entirely by Sankarshan personally. We have around a 1000 unique visitors to the site per month (its not very high, but most of them access the site daily). Moreover, people also access the site via RSS feedreaders. There’s also a Google SMS channel which sends out a mobile text message when a new post shows up on the Planet. Most of the visitors are from India, and some are from North America and Europe.
6. What’s next for Planet FLOSS India. What’s in store in the future?
Sayamindu: A major priority is cleaning up of the design (visual as well as from the point of view of HTML/CSS). I also have some ideas like having a Google custom search so that people can search the posts made by the people on the Planet, letting people share and designate favorite posts directly from the planet interface, making the Planet self service (for example, people can add themselves, change their hackergotchi/rss feel url) etc.
And of course, we are always looking for people who would like to get syndicated on the planet. Please email us if you are interested in getting syndicated or volunteering to help with planet maintenance.
Thanks Sankarshan and Sayamindu for discussing Planet FLOSS India. I wish you great success in growing Planet FLOSS India!
Recent statements in the world of Open Source and Linux.
Hancom, South Korea’s leading software developer says it will open source its popular word processing software Hangul for community to develop software for mobile devices.
Hancom, the developer of a word-processing program known to Koreans as Hangul and foreigners as HanWord, said this week it will open up the product’s source code so other people can modify it for smart phones, tablet computers and other new gadgets. smart phones, tablets and other new devices. Hangul was adopted by the South Korean government nearly 20 years ago and has been a standard in most South Korean companies too, making the country one of the few places where Microsoft’s Office suite of workplace products has taken a back seat. Nearly all documents by the government, except for those of Korea Intellectual Property Office, are Hangul files, which are known by their “HWP” file extension. Companies and individual users have to either buy the software or download a free ‘HWP viewer’ to be able to read them. A person could open Microsoft Word documents in the Hangul program, but not vice versa.
Read more at WSJ.
Bdale Garbee, HP’s Chief Technologist for Open Source and Linux talks about a decade of Linux at HP and what’s coming up in M&As – perhaps Novell?
“HP is absolutely committed to open source”. Bdale Garbee shares some statistics to back up this claim:
* Over 6,500 HP service employees to implement and support Linux and open source worldwide
* Over 3,000 open source software projects initiated
* Over 2,500 HP developers focused on open source
* Over 1,200 open source printer drivers provided
Read more at OSNews.
Red Hat CEO says open source is not a business model; it’s a way to develop software.
Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, the oldest and by far the most successful company whose business is based purely around open source, makes no bones about it: “Selling free software is hard,” he says. In fact, he goes further: “Open source is not a business model; it’s a way to develop software.”
Read more in this interview with Glyn Moody at CIO UK.
OpenOffice.org – A Developer’s Viewpoint: A Conversation with Michael Meeks
OpenOffice.org could be so much more, given a less top down approach to project management and a looser rein on developers’ ability to get involved.
Read more at the H Open.
In a recent conversation with Nnenna Nwakanma, one of Africa’s leading open source experts and community lead for Dreamfish, Nnenna shared her experiences, passion and ideas on this exciting on-line community. In her own words, Dreamfish is an open and friendly community which balances software development with human interaction and best of all converts project work into jobs and real income for its members. Here is what Nnenna had to say.
Q. Tell us about your involvement with the African open source community and your experience in growing the local ecosystem.
Nnenna: My passion for openness, I was born with! So my engagement with open source is natural. In 2002, we started the Open Source Task Force for Africa. In less than 100 months, open source in Africa has grown far more than we had initially expected. I have seen the rapid growth from the Task Force to the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA). The community has grown and is no longer spreading by additions but by multiplication. I have learnt that hard work, dedication and good leadership are key to growing any ecosystem.
Q. Tell us more about Dreamfish. How does its mission of building community, using open source and creating jobs resound with local communities.
Nnenna: The Dreamfish story is a unique one. The work cooperative is built on the sheer will of its members. People who rise above their difficulties and challenges and with the help of one another, achieve ideals that even beat their dreams. People who are discovering how their work matters by contributing, who are open and collaborative on ideas, projects, dreams and ambitions. You need to read it here.
I am yet to see someone who is not interested in Dreamfish! Dreamfish is more than creating jobs. It is about building community, communication, friendship, continental ties, global knowledge base, experience sharing and life-long learning. Dreamfish members are being coached in project management, software development, leadership skills, personal management and a whole lot of other skills are monetized, within and outside the Dreamfish platform. Every member who joins gets a friend in not more than 24 hours. Dreamfish is the one place where, every time you sign in to chat, you will find a community team member there to open the door for you. Dreamfish is office, it is work, it is friendship, it is family, it is a life-long school. It accepts our present and inspires our future. Dreamfish is work for all in us that is human. Here is the community’s Humanifesto.
Q. How did you get involved with Dreamfish and how do you plan to grow its community further.
Nnenna: I am a community fish. I was looking for a community that balances software development with human interaction. I was also looking for something that has been missing for some time for me – an interface where an online community translates into project and cash for its members. I also was looking for doing lots more and traveling less. Dreamfish gave me the answers I needed – Community, Collaboration, Global Reach, Learning Opportunity, Humanifesto, and my personal dreams.
As Community Lead, I am working with the wonderful Community Team at Dreamfish. Our objectives now are to build capacity. We expect hundreds of thousands of people in no time. So, now, we want builders and leaders in enabling new open source projects to get started in empowering and human environment. We are expanding our successful Fellows Program to experienced software technologists and designers, who want to mentor open sour projects in Dreamfish and build Dreamfish. Dreamfish is recruiting developers who want to further our mission and teach others to fish.
Q. What is your message to the global community. Why would an Indian developer, a Malaysian student or a Brazilian professional join Dreamfish.
Nnenna: All three can be hired, all three are welcome to hire. But beyond work… you can actually find true friends, share experience and make your dreams come true. When we remove the ‘national’ tag, what we get is students who have learning opportunities, developers who can have enough code-writing to keep their minds challenged on a permanent basis, the professional who can meet and collaborate with others on his and their projects.
Here is what you need to do.
- Visit Dreamfish and sign up!
- Read about people’s experiences and success stories.
- Hang out on chat.
- Join a group, a project or a service team.
- For developers like you, head straight to the Dreamfish Network.
Let me also use this opportunity to invite you to our Global Meetups on Eventbrite. The next meetup is scheduled for July 7, 2010 3PM GMT. We will be covering a very important topic – Communicating Across Cultures. Join in at http://global-meetup-dreamfish.eventbrite.com/.
Q: How does one join Dreamfish? Do they need to lurk on a mailing list or can they participate right from the start?
Nnenna: That is the interesting part of Dreamfish. You can use Dreamfish for exactly what you want and say ‘no, thank you’ to what you don’t want. You don’t even need to join any mailing list. Feel free to sign up, walk over the chat, create a project, join a project, take a bus tour, make friends.. and if there is something you don’t like about any thing.. well you just change it! Everyone is a leader in Dreamfish. Contributors are all equal owners of the cooperative.
When you arrive, we will be there to open the door, welcome you and support your dreams. That is why we call it Dreamfish!
Thanks, Nnenna. Wish you lots of success. See you on Dreamfish.
On April 20th, 2010, a methane gas explosion ripped apart the operational oil rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico. This accident has become a catastrophe – the largest oil spill in US history. It has damaged the entire ecosystem of life in the Gulf. The ocean waters and shorelines of Gulf states all the way to Florida and the Mississippi river delta continue to be ravaged by the gushing oil. The spill is affecting millions of people, marine life and wildlife. Major parties involved are trying to find effective solutions to control the spill and cap the leak. More needs to be done.
Tracking the damage
In the last 64 days, many technologies have been deployed to track the oil spill damage and its cleanup. For example, the Oil Spill Crisis Map project by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Tulane University students has successfully been used to track oil spill reports and incidents.
Oil Spill Crisis Map is built on Ushahidi, an open source platform for crowdsourcing crisis information. Ushahidi allows the project team to visualize data on maps and gather data via multiple channels – Web, Email, Text Messaging (SMS), Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Twitter and Cell Phones (including iPhone and Android). Anyone can use these channels to report geo-tagged incidents about oil damaged terrain (beaches, islands, shorelines) and wildlife. Reports can even be submitted anonymously by people.
The power of such a distributed design is evident. 923 reports have been filed to date with 81.26% verification. This information is open, free and accessible (available in multiple open formats such as RSS, KML, JSON, CSV) to anyone who needs it. Anyone can also sign up and receive email or text alerts about spill damage reports in their local area. The tool has empowered local communities to actively participate in tracking, reporting and preventing further damage.
A Potent Combination
Together, crowdsourcing and open source are a potent combination especially during possible emergencies. In this case, the Ushahidi based Oil Crisis Map has helped share data across communities and has openly presented the magnitude of the oil spill. Also, it has enabled people on the ground to actively participate in solving this crisis using current and accurate information.
Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony”) itself emerged from another emergency – monitoring a disputed Kenyan election in 2007 with a mash-up of eyewitness reports onto a Google map. Today Ushahidi has developers from Kenya (where it started), Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Netherlands and the US. Ushahidi was also used in Project Vote Report India for India’s 2009 general elections to track election irregularities.
Crisis management software has entered a new era with open source and open data tools like Ushahidi. Open source maximizes opportunities for reuse. Open data maximizes opportunities to share and analyze results. Broadcasting results through the Internet makes outreach possible to affected communities within hours of any emergency. Tools like Ushahidi lower barriers to automated tracking and reporting on crises. Ushahidi is a game changer.