The NYLXS "protest" had absolutely no impact whatsoever on the conference. If anything, the complete lack of presence and impact was more of a topic of conversation than their lunatic fringe point of view.
All that aside, I was fighting [the return of] a cold on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was rather tired when I got home. Plus the lack of wifi onsite was a real PITA. (The conference was at 21st and H; the closest Starbucks HotSpot was at 18th & H, across Pennsylvania Ave.)
9am: Peter Gallagher of devIS talks about how OSS can get in through the back door of government procurement. In many cases, government procurement is made in terms of COTS (commercial off the shelf software) because it reduces costs. Peter makes a very good case that this standard should be updated to focus on COTS/OSS. He also talked about how standards (er, Web Services) help because everything is componentized, and underlying implementations matter less and less.
9:45am: I listened to Sam Hunting of eTopicality talk about Topic Maps. Sam's presentation wasn't very good, since more than half of his talk was spent trying to introduce REST, and he defended the need for it (vs. SOAP/XML-RPC) very poorly. He ended with a demo of a topic map browser that didn't quite work. I caught up with Sam later, and he kindly answered my questions about topic maps.
11am: Bruce Perens was on stage with Rishab Ghosh and Brian Behelendorf talking about possible future threats to open source. Bruce was talking in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner, and if you weren't at least familiar with the problems he was talking about, much of what he had to say probably didn't make any sense. Rishab summarized some aspects of the FLOSS report. He noted that OSS uptake in Germany was much greater in both the public and private sector, partially because the German government was so pro-open source (or, rather anti-monopoly). Uptake was least in Scandinavia (Sweden?), partially because of cultural issues around tech purchasing and partially because the government doesn't endorse open source as deeply as the German government.
Brian had some truly interesting and downright optimistic things to say. First he mentioned that «technological shifts always precede social shifts, so there isn't really anything to fear here». That is, society changed after the introduction of the telephone, the railroad and the car. We are in the midst of a similar shift, and we're seeing Microsoft act out in the same ways as telegraph companies, shipping companies and railroads acted out in earlier times. Brian also said that «people are very tired that every other year there is a new regime that they have to buy into.» Specifically, Brian was talking about how overhyped technologies like push and web services wind up being distractions, and most companies actively want to avoid this forced march.
11:45am: This was the big event: Microsoft's presentation of Shared Source.
Most open source advocates recognize shared source as a scam. This presentation did very little to change that perception. Jason Matusow from Microsoft had the standard kind of speaker training that every Microsoft employee gets before facing the public. In this presentation, he described how most customers want better support, stronger deployments, the possibility of security audits, and a means to augment custom application development. At the same time, access to source code is a red herring; most individuals who download source code don't look at it, and many who do certainly do not modify it; most organizations are primarily interested in source code only as a means of risk mitigation (a rainy day fund).
Jason was obviously coached very heavily on the message Microsoft wants to present on shared source/open source. After disarming the primary argument on access to source, he addressed alternative mechanisms to deliver the desired benefits. He also attacked the perception that opening the source is sufficient; MSDN is supposed to be a much better resource for developers developing for Windows than a project's source code is for any given open source development platform.
Jason also craftfully evaded some direct questions: I asked how does Microsoft intend to address other benefits that accrue from open development: open standards, open formats and open protocols. His first answer totally focused on the term "standards" and talked about how standards are often complex, never fully implemented (even in open source), and largely unwieldy things like X.400. When I pushed for an answer on the other two prongs (file formats and protocols), Jason came back with a canned response that wasn't on the top ten list: customers have the option to use standard formats (e.g. RTF and ASCII Text) each and every time they create a new file, yet they choose to use the richer native formats provided by applications. A completely bullshit response.
2pm: Michael Tiemann had some interesting perspectives on why open source (specifically Linux) (specifically RedHat Linux) is a worthwhile platform for government agencies. His talk was a reflection of lessons learned on Wall Street over the last 3-4 years. Michael talked about how the demands of the enterprise environment has helped morph RedHat from a vendor of consumer linux distributions (that are refreshed every six months) to a vendor of enterprise linux platforms (that change much more slowly and are supported much longer). He also talked about how some big investment banks are reducing IT costs by standardizing on commodity platforms; 80% of the Lehman's IT budget now goes to 20% of their computing (proprietary platforms) and 20% of their budget now goes to 80% of their computing (x86/Linux). Great way to effectively rebuild a destroyed data center with limited funding in a down market.
Networking, Coffee Break, etc.
4:45pm: Ernest Prabhakar made a very good case why Mac OS X belongs as a part of a diversified IT environment. It's a commercial UNIX, but it's also an Open Source BSD. It's a desktop platform, and it's also a server platform. It's a UNIX desktop, but it's also a mass-market desktop that supports commercial desktop software. Plus Apple thinks it's the best platform for Java development ever. I didn't learn much from Ernie's talk, but it was nice to hear it.