Talking about an Evolution
Thursday June 28th 2007, 7:08h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Education, Linux, Research, Ubuntu

This June was quite full of talks about open source related issues. The day after LinuxTag Jacqueline Peter of SVIA and I organized a conference for teachers and invited 6 speakers (including one Ubuntu enthusiast ;) to talk about open source tools related to education. We took the chance and started again another platform for open source software at schools called OSS an Schulen. It includes a support mailing list for teachers with questions e.g. related to experiments with open source in their classes. A next presentation on the advantages of open source for schools will take place in September in Bern for ICT coordinators organized by the PH Bern. The next second full-day conference will probably be in May next year regarding the feedback of the participants.
My second presentation was quite spontanious the week after. I was invited by Grégoire Hernan to talk about community building for the open source task force of the Swiss computer science committee of the Cantons (Schweizerische Informatikkonferenz SIK). He told me the federal administration is interested in creating an own voluntary action-based community of the IT departments of the 26 Cantons - which makes absolutely sense for a country like Switzerland with highly dispersed regional governments. So I redesigned some slides of my master thesis topic and explained the main issues relevant to create a productive open source community. By chance Kurt Bader, the head of IT of the canton Solothurn, attended the meeting as well so I could invite him as speaker of the next OpenExpo.
Finally, DIGICOMP organized a so-called OpenDay which gave me the chance present the Nokia case of open source community building. Well, this talk teached me to really address the interests of an conference’s audience: While our scientific research project is of quite high relevance in academia, with only 4 participants in my presentation it showed the low interest of Swiss practitioners in this topic. Nevertheless we had interesting conversations in our little workshop ;)

About the Success of Fruits and Open Innovation
Tuesday June 12th 2007, 11:28h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Linux, Research, Ubuntu

While The Economist is usually focussing on political or economical issues, this week’s Technology Quarterly is really worth reading every article. My favorite is of course the two-pager Brain Scan of Mark Shuttleworth, creater of Ubuntu ;) Another two great texts are about Apple and its to-be-released iPhone, pointed out by Joel West as well. While he and his colleague, Michael Mace, strongly believe in the success of the iPhone, this time I rather stick with the Economist’s view that “the iPhone’s success is not guaranteed.” Just by extrapolating the iPod’s triumph on a device which hasn’t been released and tested yet by its users, I wouldn’t rely only on Apple’s marketing. In effect I doubt if the overall strategy in the ICT industry of hiding knowledge and excluding third party contributions works on the long run at all. Other experienced manufacturers pursue a completely different approach. Mobile devices such as Nokia’s Internet Tablet or the OpenMoko base their development on knowledge revealing and follow a strategy applying user innovation and community building - while not being bad in business as the transition of the Nokia 770 towards the N-series located N800 this January proved.

Well, although I don’t like Apple’s strategy providing mostly proprietary software coupled closely to its own hardware, the Economist’s article about the success, failure and resurrection of Steve Jobs is really amazing. I remember very well 1996 being in high school, all enthusiastic about Macs, and receiving the news our hero is coming back to his brain child - this was really a relieve! Nevertheless, many years followed until Apple is today again such a highly respected brand as it was in the 80’s. I recall many disputes with my Windows friends in school laughing at my juicy computers… Well, let’s see if in some years the same happens to Ubuntu. When people realize fast food electronics isn’t that great after all, digital freedom is necessary to counter lock-in mechanisms of large firms and that knowledge revealing is essential in the long run to conduct real open innovation (the last point being the main idea of our current research paper on Maemo).

The Economist

27% Annual Growth of Open Source Software Industry
Thursday June 07th 2007, 9:35h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Research

Seb pointed out a new, interesting IDC study on the potential of the open source software industry. With an annual projected growth rate of 27% up to 2011, this industry sounds promising to keep staying in. Hopefully, there will be as well a growing number of Swiss VCs realizing the promising future of open source and Swiss firms active in this business.

At LinuxTag 2007 in Berlin
Monday June 04th 2007, 12:33h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Linux, Research, Ubuntu

Last week was busy but extremely cool. Visiting LinuxTag 2007 in Berlin on Thursday was great since basically every large open source project was present at the exposition with a booth (except for TYPO3 - where are the marketing guys of the most popular CMS in Europe??) Particularly holding one of the developer OpenMoko’s in my hand (it’s quite heavy, more than I expected) and meeting the creators of this revolutionary device was a nice experience. Of course I invited them immediately for OpenExpo this fall in Zürich - as I did with many other project representatives and speakers bothering them with our soon finished Call for Participation. Although there hasn’t been much collaboration next to some flyer, the Open Events Foundation aims to bring all European OSS events together so I’m interested if in future there will be some contacts-sharing among the organizers of LinuxTag, FrOSCon, Chemnitzer LinuxTage etc.

On Friday, Martin Michlmayer’s track on “Building and Management of Communities” started. His speech about release management in OSS projects (the topic of his recently finished dissertation) clearly favored time-based releases since it gives more continuity into the process. My own presentation about “Crowding Effects: How Money Influences Open Source Projects and its Contributors” went well and was attended by quite a large number of people despite the early time it was scheduled. Afterwards several project coordinators as well as individual OSS programmers came to speak to me about their personal experience of motivation and extrinsic incentives. Particularly the contact to Axel Hecht, translation manager of the Mozilla project, was interesting since he forwarded me to Seth Bindernagel, community coordinator of Mozilla.

One presentation important for our current research project on Nokia’s open source involvement was the one of Quim Gil about the Maemo project. Next to already public stuff he revealed some news about the future of the Internet Tablet operating system. From now on, the Forum Nokia will manage users of the devices where as Maemo will become again more R&D focussed. They plan to do some application certification process in the future, improve the update mechanism of the operating system and make the API management more transparent. Concerning community building an interesting move is to spin-out the Hildon framework into a more community-managed project. So it will be highly interesting to follow the next generation software platform of Nokia getting even more open as it was the previous 2 years.