Patrick Ohnewein of the Free Software Centre in South Tyrol on Open Source and Government

I’ve just uploaded my video interview with Patrick Ohnewein, Head of the Free Software Center in South Tyrol.

I met Patrick at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference (SFScon) and had the chance to ask him a number of questions, including:

  • What is the role of the Free Software Center?
  • Is there greater awareness of Open Source in government?
  • Is there a pattern in Open Source adoption?

Patrick also explains the motivation of the local government in sponsoring the development of the TIS Innovation Park and highlights how local companies in the region are using free software to distribute knowledge and foster innovation.

"Open Innovation" Retro- and Prospect

Some days have past since the Open Innovation discussion panel which got me to reflect more upon the case. There have been some participants already writing about the panel: Josh, Chalu, Ugo, Bertrand. I received all kinds of feedbacks at the conference like “That was the best event at OSCOM conference” or “I left the discussion because I thought it’s about earning money with Open Source and it was not”.

First of all: Such an open discussion can never deal with all aspects of innovation in Open Source. Not if it’s 2 hours, not if it’s simply brainstorming. All I wanted to achieve was to sensitize the participants. Of course, there are those coders who don’t care for the whole issue, they just want to create good software. On the other side, there are those highly intellectual geeks who throw in everything they ever heard of from economics to philosophy and back again.

As the moderator of the event, I had to take care to hide myself in the background, to not interrupt the natural flow of the discussion if not necessary. This included that the invited experts (Danese Cooper, BÃ¥rd Farstad, Roy T. Fielding, David Heath, Chalu Kim, Eric Pugh) sometimes had to step back as well to invite the other participants to join the discussion. Many thanks to all of you who actively participated!

What I liked most about the event were those insights and formulations that only those with experience can tell. Still echoing in my head is the idea that innovation is closely related to the fact that you take care. Combined with the notion of a participant that innovations solve actual problems, this makes me think that Open Source’s reward model is very much about feeling responsible for your own code, for taking care of what you produce. Thus, Open Source is a futile ground for innovation, because problems can only be identified if the programmer takes care of the software he contributes to.

Unfortunately, as Ugo points out in his blog, we did not talk about whether Open Source really is innovative or not compared to proprietary software. This question has been on my list, but there was not enough time. Let me pick up this point: Open Source could be described as a market environment that only allows for the creation of commodity products. The success of MySQL could well supports this point of view. On the other side, the MySQL database is itself an example for incremental innovation, because it allows to integrate different table engines within one database. Hence, maybe the more concrete question would be: does Open Source lead to “big” or “small” innovation?

Then again, isn’t the Apache Webserver itself a “big” innovation? Or look at the Apache Software Foundation: isn’t that kind of organizational model a highly innovative form of collaborative work? Seen from that perspecitve, Open Source has at least to aspects of innovation: that of product-related and the organizational innovation.

There are so many questions that still need to be addressed in the Open Source community to make it more aware of its powers and deficiencies that I wish there were more open discussion panels at Open Source conferences. Especially if representatives from other social fields (economics, science, politics, …) join, then cross-pollination outside, not only within the Open Source community can take place. Some examples:

– Open Companies
– Open Universities
– Open …

Let me know if you would like to organize an “Open *” discussion and I will gladly help you.

Announcing the Experts of Open Innovation Discussion Panel

Announcing the Experts of Open Innovation Discussion Panel

These are the experts I will welcome at the Open Innovation discussion panel which I moderate at OSCOM 4 conference:

BÃ¥rd Farstad

BÃ¥rd Farstad is the Software Development Manager of eZ systems [http://www.ez.no]. He has been working professionally with CMS development since 1999 and have written many general purpose libraries like XML parser, SOAP library (client/server), XML-RPC library (client/server). He is also one of the main developers in the eZ publish CMS. In his spare time he likes to play with his daughter, play the guitar and is also into aquascaping.

Roy T. Fielding

Roy T. Fielding is chief scientist at Day Software [http://www.day.com/], a leading provider of enterprise content management software. Dr. Fielding is best known for his work in developing and defining the modern World Wide Web infrastructure. He is the primary architect of the current Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1), co-author of the Internet standards for HTTP and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI), and a founder of several open-source software projects, including the Apache HTTP Server Project that produces the software for over 64% of public Internet web sites. Dr. Fielding received his Ph.D. degree in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine.

David Heath

David Heath is Web Application Developer at OneWorld International [http://www.oneworld.net] in London. The portal oneworld.net brings together the latest news and views from over 1,600 organizations promoting human rights awareness and fighting poverty worldwide.

Chalu Kim

Chalu Kim began his career as a research engineer â?? starting with real-time coding of the Evans and Sutherland PS300 and mission rehearsal to nuclear imaging. For the next decade, Chalu Kim was responsible for developing new technology and took executive roles at companies such as IBM and a number of start-ups. In 2000, Chalu Kim founded eGenius [http://www.egenius.com], a technology cooperative to help organizations benefit from the use of technology, especially open-source. He is actively involved in Zope and Lenya and Squid and other open-source projects. Mr. Kim lives in New York with his wife and a house cat from Chinatown.

Eric Pugh

Eric Pugh [http://www.opensourceconnections.com/] is a member of the Turbine and Maven development teams and an experienced Java enterprise developer specializing in leveraging open source software. Eric has built several Java based websites using Jetspeed, Turbine, and WebWork MVC frameworks. In addition to coding, Eric has written for OnJava and contributed to an upcoming book on Hibernate.

Wanted: Experts for "Open Innovation" Discussion Panel

For OSCOM 4, I am organizing the discussion panel “Open Innovation” which takes place Sept 30, 16:00 – 17:45 (more information below). If you feel like you could contribute to the discussion as an expert, please write to me in private and let me know your field of expertise. Actually, everyone is an expert on something – so please do not hesitate to contact me!

The discussion will be a kind of brainstorming session that could well end in chaos or deep enlightement – depending on the moderator (me) and the attendees. If you come as an expert, I might ask you some specific questions on your field of knowledge and the other participants might do the same as well. Experts do not need to prepare any presentation, just be there, have an open mind and enjoy the experiment.

So, let me know: sandro dot zic at zzoss dot com

Cheers!
Sandro
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Discussion Panel
Open Innovation: Learning from Open Source

The fundamental strength of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) community is how it allows collections of very different groups and individuals to cooperate, develop, innovate and share.

This discussion panel seeks to bring together the forward thinkers attending OSCOM to discuss the specific characteristics of innovation in the FLOSS community and how they could be adopted by business leaders, educators, scientists and politicians.

The panel will discuss:
* the cultural norms, economic factors and technical mechanisms that the FLOSS community relies on
* the broad cultural norms and economic dynamics of various major non-FLOSS communities
* how and why these norms and mechanism are different
* where and how the strength of the FLOSS movement can be shared with other cultures and organizations, from companies and universities to activist groups and non-profit organizations.
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