Wednesday, July 18, 2012

OSCON 2012 Day One

I couldn't see squeezing past those people with Naga in a bag (Python mascot) and my satchel, so separated from Steve and moved to the side of the auditorium.  This was the opening event in some ways, tutorials over, Camp OSCON behind us.

Tim O'Reilly's keynote had a simple message:  Open Source could do more to tell the story of how it's powering the ecosystem.

Like solar energy, it's often under-accounted (under-valued) because the sun drying clothes or growing food is unmetered.  Those little pie charts showing solar energy as a tiny fraction of the economy's input are talking about metered solar panel income.

That's not the same thing as wealth or value.  Most economists don't grok "cosmic accounting" very well, no secret there.  Economics has been pretty weak in the STEM department.

Take Comcast for example.  Who is making billions from whom?  Customers are paying to view content they themselves provide in many cases.  Comcast gets access to all kinds of free content from the Internet, an open bastion of a kind.  How much of this revenue is attributable to "open source"?  It's a question to look at, a story to tell.

Hewlett-Packard (a presence here), other companies (Microsoft), both thrive in and contribute to, this shared ecosystem.

A first principle, says Tim:  reap less than you sew, create more value than you capture.  Feed the commons, don't operate as a net deficit to your community.  Seems like common sense to me.

I'm in another Go talk this morning, more about the history and management within the community than the syntax, which was a focus of the tutorial yesterday.

I may not get much time to develop either my Go language or Blender skills, but they're both a source of inspiration anyway, in terms of what they're contributing and how they show off what humans working together may accomplish.

The education track was dealing in some interesting heuristics, however they happened to map rather closely to the status quo.  There's a brand of positive futurism that envisions a new standard or protocol, but if you admit hybrids (diversity, multiplicity), then we're back to "what's so" -- meaning it boils down to whether we all want to march to the same drummer.  We do not.  Nor do we want all others to do so, bottom line.

Like "metadata" tends to just mean what we carry around "in our heads" i.e. the persona as filter is better (because real thinking is finely tuned) than any robotized search algorithm.  I think we all know that by now.  Hyperlinks are "metadata" in the sense that human beings find the most relevant links, even if machines are in on the act, aid and abet the experience in various ways.

FERPA, ancestor of HIPAA in some dimensions, seems like a goofy law.  Students aren't bound by it, and may blab about so-and-so being a presence on campus.  Indeed, free speech rights conflict with the right to privacy sometimes.  My secrets need not be your secrets.

Democracies, for one, should be more into promising transparency and sharing data than clamping down on the free flow of info.  If you want your affiliation with an institution to remain classified, consider joining a private academy or LLC that makes secrecy a part of its culture, among other students / employees as well.

State funded institutions should be looking at their student populations as closer to public servants.  Public schools are about preparing people for life in a democracy, and a democracy of necessity provides lots of transparency, as well as some secrecy i.e. no one says you can't encrypt or otherwise protect access to your files -- and feel free to opt out of on-line campus directories and/or other records the school server may ask you about.

Better to offer courses on identity management and countering stalkers by exposing them, than to promise some high degree of anonymity and absence from public records of all kinds.  That's to promise the impossible and to set up unrealistic expectations among students.

That being said, if you want anonymity, I recommend distance education academies.  Other students don't see you unless you choose to attend events where you come out of the closet, as it were, as a peer or alum.  Your affiliation is a lot easier to keep secret when you're never seen in the parking lot.