Dave Winer's Keynote at OSCOM

[Other good sources: Aaron Swartz’s live notes on this session, which appears to be a fairly true transcript, moreso than my notes below.  The style of these notes below is taking from “scribing,” which is meant to be a redaction of the key statements made during the session.  Check here for Roger’s notes.  And, of course, don’t miss Donna’s take on things at the main page of the Harvard blogs space.]

Charles Nesson: Introducing the Berkman Center‘s reasoning for getting involved in OSCOM: we’re into openness on the Net, and something is happening here.  There’s a great trajectory for this organization.  Once the open source community learns some hard lessons, we’re going to succeed.

Introduces Dave Winer: a force of nature, provocative, and “the king of the blog world” in all sorts of ways.

Dave: Thesis: Find ways to work together.  Words like “proprietary” and “closed” are terrible words.  Look for people you can make friends with.  The story of “Microsoft v. you” is destructive.

Look for the philosophy of open source.  Let’s get rid of the lines and start working together.  There are lots of people who are doing some combination of open and proprietary.

Joseph Reagle of MIT: Talking terminology can go a long way and take a long time, so you may want to cut it short.  The term “proprietary” started not with open source people but with developers of proprietary software who were promoting it as a good thing.  While I haven’t developed proprietary/commercial software in the past, I would consider it — I’m not one to pigeon-hole people.

Halley Suitt: What does LINUX even look like?  I’ve never seen it.  Is there some giant non-sales-and-marketing effort for open source?  [Someone shows Halley what LINUX looks like.]

Dave Winer: Sometimes you have to argue not for things that we like, but against them.  There’s a remarkable way of working: reach some kind of consensus.  Don’t make it a bunch of powerless people fighting amongst themselves to be heard.

Tony Burn from CMSWatch: 1) There are successful 40-person software companies (Dave had been citing the demise of this model), developing shrink-wrap and/or serving as ASPs.  2) There’s a fundamental difference between developing software for other developers and stating that CMSes are the wave of the future.  The people playing with Apache are developers and sys ad types.

Dave: Become a user yourself.  You can’t develop presentation software without doing presentation.  Same for outlining software.

Dave to Charlie Nesson: I don’t think you really want my source-code.  I don’t think you really know what you want when you say you want open source.

Larry Rosen from the audience: You want to be able to create derivative works.

Audience: Switching costs are high (training, not data conversion).

Aaron Swartz: You should be able to fix bugs when the company goes belly-up.

Dave: That’s a legitimate concern. 

Audience: Use source-code escrow.

Sam: I don’t want to be stranded.  My blog doesn’t always look great in IE, and I want to fix that.

Dave: MSFT should give up the IE source-code, because they’re not updating it anymore.

Paul from Zope Europe: Users and usability is a key point.  Tony has a cool piece on it.  What’s the motivator in developing open source?  First it solves something I want done.  Then, 47 reasons later, it’s about making it easy for a secretary to use.  So, two great take-aways: 1) Users first.  And, 2) Don’t fight amongst ourselves.

Dave: Paul, you wrote a very good piece that said “Don’t argue about data formats is right.”  That’s right on.  We should stand on the shoulders of giants, not on one another’s toes.

Audience: I want to be part of a community.  What that means is having access to source code.

Bill Ahern from Washington, DC: In order to live in a democracy, I need the right to vote.  I take issue with your question about defending why should we be using open source.  We don’t have to ask about “why are we living in a democracy?”

Dave: We have property, like houses.  Your analogy doesn’t follow.  The things that I create are mine, not yours.  I gather you wouldn’t want to use it if you can’t have the source.  That’s your choice.  I want to live in a democracy, not in a communist state.

Bill: Maybe there’s a little communism in a democracy.

Brian Cortes: There’s a big aversion to tooting your own horn.  The open source community is flaming its friends.  That’s problematic.  Big businesses are asking what I’ll get out of going open source.

Dave: That’s a legitimate concern, isn’t it?  So, you also have to ask the question: will someone ever fix those bugs?  Just because the code is out there, doesn’t mean the bugs will be fixed necessarily.  **Common denominator: I want to use software that will still be around in two to four years.**  [Ed.: That’s a great place to start, no?]  Apache will be running 10 – 20 years from now.  Windows will be running 10 – 20 years from now. 

Larry: This is a useful point, but you’ve got the wrong audience for it.  Ask a business person, government staf, a lawyer, people who don’t get the tech.  People want safe, usable software from a company they can trust.  Look at it from a user perspective; they don’t care about the source code [Ben Edelman has made this point convincingly to me in the past.]

Dave: Somehow my work is less valuable when I’m doing something other people will be doing in a few years.  And I’m charging for it.  But not via patents.

Mike from IMB Enterprises: Manila didn’t make it because of Radio Userland.  You’ve got a support issue and a documentation issue.  Blogger’s got the same thing. 

Dave: There’s no money in software.  It doesn’t exist.  The software industry doesn’t exist.  We can’t give you support for $39.95.

And, more Dave: we shouldn’t make a religious war of whether you like Bill Gates or Richard Stallman.  I don’t like either of them.  Neither of them take baths, by the way.

Audience: Let’s talk RSS.

Dave: OK.  We need to get back to the roots, trace the trail, and we’d be in a better place than where we are now.  Joi Ito wants to know which version to use.  Man, I don’t know.  I can tell you what would work with my software, but not what will work with other people’s software.  That’s a big problem.  There’s been lots and lots of gratuitous incompatibility.  If we got compatibility between the big three tools, then we’d be able to solve lots of problems. 

Dave: Blogging is not a democracy, that’s why it works.

Bill Kearney: [Challenges Dave.  Unclear exactly the nature of the complaint.]

[Sparks fly here.]

Bill Kearney: People want to be able to collaborate and to contribute, rather than be dictated to.

Charlie: Dave, explain to me the obvious enmity.  What is the dispute between the two of you?

Dave: I don’t even know where to begin.

[More personal stuff, not worth repeating in detail.] 

Gregor: This dispute points to the trouble we had in working out OSCOM. We have to get past the social problems before we can work on the technical problems.  We have to go to the pub and drink beers together before we can get things done.

Larry Rosen: There are lots of people in this space who hate one another.  That’s a huge problem.

Charlie: One thing: it requires that there be a moderator who is not interested in the dispute.  Let’s move on.

Michael: I now understand why the Jerry Springer show was invented.  It’s better to move on.

Audience: One of the issues here maps to how you get credit in an academic setting for something like this, and the open source community doesn’t work this way.

[End of session, extremely abruptly, an elephant in the room, on a note that speaks to the issue we’re talking about, on the issue that Dave started with.  Can this open community approach work productively?  Can we get past the personal to the technical?  This break-down is very importantly illustrative.  We started with a philosophy of open discussion; it worked for about an hour; and it then got hijacked by a personal dispute.  Is this any way to run a railroad?  -Ed.]

1 thought on “Dave Winer's Keynote at OSCOM

  1. Unforuntately open collaboration can only happen when the participants value opennesss..

    Unforutunately DW does nto support this view since he stop distrubting Frontier as a Free prodduct in the 1990s..

    Not to say that DW doe snto contribute to Web standards or to CMS stadnards but tis not open in any shape or form..

    Alos people are confusing a Deocratic Republic with what we have on the net which is more democratic and less republic..:)

    Personal attacks by DW do not count as technical debate or conjecture and do nothing such as ad to the conversation that was supose to occur at OSCCOM..and that was my original objections to DW being picked in the fisrt place for OSCOM..

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