Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Making History

Our cult leader Tim O'Reilly is helping launch OSCON 10 (or The Perl Conference 12), encouraging us to keep chronofiles (logs, journals, personal accounts, autobiographies).

The open source trajectory, as popularized by Eric Raymond in the 1990s, using this quote attributed to Gandhi: first they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us... then we win.

Django, Alfresco, Zimbra, Drupal, memcached... these are topics on the uptick (over 200% growth rate). Python is up a respectable 56%. Tim is good at this kind of reporting.

Big Challenges and Opportunities: cloud computing, programmable web and open mobile. We can't take for granted that our current strategies for keeping software liberal will remain all that relevant in the cloud.

Decentralization, increased participation... these are our values. Hadoop, Eucalyptus, 10gen, Drizzle, Reasonably Smart Platform...

The Web 2.0 API directory shows mashups are data-oriented (bookmarks... GIS), i.e. the component subsystems will be data-oriented in many cases. Programming Collective Intelligence is the recent popular O'Reilly title on this subject. Dopplr...

Many companies today well understand how they depend on their newly won freedoms, want to keep platforms, including mobile platforms, open. Let's keep wrestling with angels (i.e. lets work on what's hard, not rest on our laurels, really make freedom ring).

On the nanotech front, Christine Peterson of the Foresight Nanotech Institute: sensing is proceeding by leaps and bounds, with lots of dystopian possibilities as a consequence.

Christine somewhat blames the open source community for not staying out in front on the voting machine issue, when push came to shove. I'd say some of us tried, but those seeking to sustain the status quo of corrupting elections have friends in high places, an old problem in democracies. In fighting back, transparency is our weapon of choice.

:: Christine at DemocrayLab booth ::
But then not enough surveillance is also a problem, leads to bad data, bad decisions, criminal behavior, such as that cruise missile attack on that Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in 1998 under Clinton (her apropos example). The overly paranoid indulge in sociopathic behaviors -- not a new problem. Better data (better reality checks) provide an antidote in some cases.

So how do we do adequately police against dangerous substances and/or crazy schemes while preserving individual privacy i.e. how do we have freedoms and security at the same time? Does detecting one pot molecule mean emptying the meeting hall for mandatory breath testing? When shall we anonymize data?

Christine thinks our geek community needs to figure this stuff out, as DC isn't doing it intelligently, is ignorantly and misguidedly top-down in its approaches, using inappropriate tool sets. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were founding geeks, we should get inspiration from them.

Would these talking points help: no secret software for public sensing data; no secret software for public voting data? There's a difference between software and data though. We need some more clarity here.

Overhearing geeks later, I heard both discomfort and relief over the fact that keynoters would take such bulls by the horns (brave of them -- geeks with courage, imagine that).

Tim is interviewing MySQL principals about their acquisition by Sun.

Sun is an old engineering company making some of the same adjustments IBM had to make when embracing Linux (my spin), as now engineers used to writing secret code have that feeling of perfect strangers scanning their source (an uncomfortable feeling sometimes).

Tim is reminding us of our original Unix philosophy (related to Shuttleworth's emphasis on designing for extensibility): get a lot of pieces that work together in potentially unexpected ways (through hacking), each doing one thing well, don't always think you need to reinvent the wheel by writing these large monolithic monsters. Cobble together, then render seamless. The open curriculum movement could probably benefit from this lesson.