Sebastopol, CA--An intriguing theme permeated the 2004 O'Reilly Open Source Convention (aka OSCON) in Portland, Oregon last week: "open thinking." The process by which projects are vetted and improved through group effort is spreading beyond software and into areas such as cartography and bioscience--welcome affirmation of the open source way for the 2,000 convention participants.
"We've unleashed enormous technological changes, but where are they going?" asked O'Reilly Media, Inc. CEO Tim O'Reilly. "What are the paths by which technology moves from the cutting edge of science, through hacker culture, and eventually into the mainstream? One of the lessons of open source is that the project with the best community adoption characteristics wins. Open source has found its natural communities, and is now reaching out to new ones."
This was the busiest convention--in terms of attendance and programming-- in three years, underscoring the fact that open source and free software continues to be adopted by mainstream enterprise, from Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Novell to Sun, Hewlett-Packard, and Ticketmaster. "We're at an interesting stage with open source," observed convention program chair Nathan Torkington. "The programmers who make it all possible are still going strong, stronger than ever--they have Perl, Python, Mono, Java, Apache, and dozens of other platform pieces to build on."
In addition to keynotes, tutorials, and sessions lead by innovators such as Freeman and George Dyson, Bdale Garbee, Robert Lefkowitz, Milton Ngan, and David Rumsey, evening events kept the conversations rolling into the wee hours, punctuated by receptions and sponsored parties. A moot court, organized by UC Berkeley's Pam Samuelson and Pamela Jones of Groklaw, aired the legal issues of the Linux/SCO case. Perl legends Larry Wall and Damian Conway and "Hackers and Painters" author Paul Graham all spoke during the traditional Tuesday Night Extravaganza. NASA's Jeff Norris gave a presentation on how open source is powering the Mars Rover mission. In addition, attendees packed the sold-out exhibit hall during its two-day run; organized birds-of-a-feather sessions on topics like Plone, poker, human creativity, and e-voting; and wrapped up the convention with a field trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
OSCON continues to be a forum for important announcements. Some of the organizations and businesses getting the word out at the convention include:
"Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves, which is very gratifying," concluded Torkington. "We're going to do everything we can to make next year even bigger and better."
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