So, Google are recruiting again. From the open source community, obviously. It’s where to find all the good developers.
Here’s the suggestion I made on how they can really get in front of FOSS developers:
Just a quick note to thank you for getting in touch of so many our
Catalyst IT staff, both here and in Australia, with job offers. It comes
across as a real compliment to our company that the folks that work here
are considered worthy of Google’s attention.
One thing about most of our staff is that they *love* open source. Can I
suggest, therefore, that one of the best ways for Google to demonstrate
its commitment to FOSS and FOSS developers this year would be to be a
sponsor of the NZ Open Source Awards. These have been very successful at
celebrating and recognising the achievements of FOSS developers,
projects and users. This year there is even an “Open Science” category.
Google has been a past sponsor of the event and it would be good to see
you commit to it again.
I made the following submission on the Council’s Draft Long Term Plan. Some of this related to FLOSS. This was a 3 minute slot with 2 minutes for questions from the councillors.
I have been a Wellington inhabitant for 22 years and am a business owner. We employ about 140 staff in Wellington, with offices in Christchurch, Sydney, Brisbane and the UK. I am also co-chair of NZRise which represents NZ owned IT businesses.
I have 3 Points to make in 3 minutes.
1. The Long Term plan lacks vision and is a plan for stagnation and erosion
It focuses on selling assets, such as community halls and council operations and postponing investments. On reducing public services such as libraries and museums and increasing user costs. This will not create a city where “talent wants to live”. With this plan who would have thought the citizens of the city had elected a Green Mayor?
Money speaks louder than words. Both borrowing levels and proposed rate increases are minimal and show a lack of investment in the city, its inhabitants and our future.
My company is about to open an office in Auckland. A manager was recently surveying staff about team allocation and noted, as an aside, that between 10 and 20 Wellington staff would move to Auckland given the opportunity. We are not simply competing with Australia for hearts and minds, we are competing with Auckland whose plans for investment are much higher than our own.
2. Show faith in local companies
The best way to encourage economic growth is to show faith in the talent that actually lives here and pays your rates. This means making sure the council staff have a strong direction and mandate to procure locally. In particular the procurement process needs to be overhauled to make sure it does not exclude SME’s (our backbone) from bidding for work (see this NZCS story). It needs to be streamlined, transparent and efficient.
A way of achieving local company participation in this is through disaggregation – the breaking up large-scale initiatives into smaller, more manageable components. For the following reasons:
It improves project success rates, which helps the public sector be more effective.
It reduces project cost, which benefits the taxpayers.
It invites small business, which stimulates the economy.
3. Smart cities are open source cities
Use open source software as the default.
It has been clear for a long time that open source software is the most cost effective way to deliver IT services. It works for Amazon, Facebook, Red Hat and Google and just about every major Silicon Valley success since the advent of the internet. Open source drives the internet and these companies because it has an infinitely scalable licensing and model – free. Studies, such as the one I have here from the London School of Economics, show the cost effectiveness and innovation that comes with open source.
It pains me to hear about proposals to save money by reducing libraries hours and increasing fees, when the amount of money being saved is less than the annual software licence fees our libraries pay, when world beating free alternatives exist.
This has to change, looking round the globe it is the visionary and successful local councils that are mandating the use of FLOSS, from Munich to Vancouver to Raleigh NC to Paris to San Francisco.
As well as saving money, open source brings a state of mind. That is:
Willingness to share and collaborate
Willingness to receive information
The right attitude to be innovative, creative, and try new things
Thank you. There should now be 2 minutes left for questions.
tl;dr formally known as Executive Summary, Openness + Good Taste Wins
Gosh, it’s been a while. But this site is not dead. Just been distracted by indenti.ca and twitter.
I was going to write about Apple, again. A result of unexpected and unwelcome exposure to an iPad over the Christmas Holidays. But then I read Jethro Carr’s excellent post where he describes trying to build the Android OS from Google’s open source code base. He quite mercilessly exposes the lack of “open” in some key areas of that platform.
It is more useful to look at the topic as an issue of “open” vs “closed” where iPad is one example of the latter. But, increasingly, Android platforms are beginning to display similar inane closed attributes – to the disadvantage of users.
I had expected to swan around, sunbathing, drinking cocktails and soaking up some atmosphere. Instead a last minute request for a new “live” blogging section had me blundering around Joomla and all sorts of other technology with which I am happily unfamiliar. Days and nightmares of iPads, Windows, wireless hotspots and offshore GSM coverage.
The plan was simple, the specialist blogger, himself a world renown sailor, would take his tablet device out on the water on the spectator boat. From there he would watch and blog starts, racing, finishes and anguished reactions from parents (if there is one thing that unites races and nationalities, it is parental anguish over sporting achievement).
We had a problem in that the web browser on the tablet didn’t work with the web based text editor used in the Joomla CMS. That had me scurrying around for a replacement to the tinyMCE plugin, just the most common browser based editing tool. But a quick scan around various forums showed me that the alternative editors were not a solution and that the real issue was a bug with the client browser.
“No problem”, I thought. “Let’s install Firefox, I know that works”.
But no, Firefox is not available to iPad users and Apple likes to “protect” its users by only tightly controlling whose applications are allowed to run on the tablet. Ok, what about Chrome? Same deal. You *have* to use Apple’s own buggy browser, it’s for your own good.
Someone suggested that the iPad’s operating system we were using needed upgrading and the new version might have a fixed browser. No, we couldn’t do that because we didn’t have Apple’s music playing software, iTunes, on a PC. Fortunately Vodafone were also a sponsor and not only did they download an upgrade they had iTunes handy. Only problem, the upgrade wiped all the apps that our blogger and his family had previously bought and installed.
Er, and the upgrade failed to fix the problem. One day gone.
So a laptop was press ganged into action, which, in the end was a blessing because other trials later showed that typing blogs fast, on an ocean swell, is very hard without a real keyboard. All those people pushing tablets at schools, keep in mind it is good to have our children *write* stuff, often.
The point of this post is not really to bag Apple, but to bag the mentality that stops people using their own devices in ways that help them through the day. I only wanted to try a different browser to Safari, not an unusual thing to do. Someone else might want to try out a useful little application a friend has written for them, but that wouldn’t be allowed.
But the worst aspect of this is that because of Apple’s success in creating well designed gadgets other companies have decided that “closed” is also the correct approach to take with their products. This is crazy. It was an open platform, Linux Kernel with Android, that allowed them to compete with Apple in the first place and there is no doubt that when given a choice, choice is what people want – assuming “taste” requirements are met.
Other things being equal*, who is going to chose a platform where the company that sold you a neat little gadget controls all the things you do on it? But there is a strong trend by manufacturers such as Samsung, and even Linux distributions, such asUbuntu, to start placing restrictions on their clients and users. To decide for all of us how we should behave and operate *our* equipment.
The explosive success of the personal computer was that it was *personal*. It was your own productivity, life enhancing device. And the explosive success of DOS and Windows was that, with some notable exceptions, Microsoft didn’t try and stop users installing third party applications. The dance monkey boy video is funny, but the truth is that Microsoft did want “developers, developers, developers, developers” using its platforms because, at the time, it knew it didn’t know everything.
Apple, Android handset manufacturers and even Canonical (Ubuntu) are falling into the trap of not knowing that there is stuff they don’t know and they will probably never know. Similar charges are now being made about Facebook and Twitter. The really useful devices and software will be coming from companies and individuals who realise that whilst most of what we all do is the same as what everyone else does, it is the stuff that we do differently that makes us unique and that we need to control and manage for ourselves. Allow us do that, with taste, and you’ll be a winner.
PS I should also say “thanks” fellow sponsors Chris Devine and Devine Computing for just making stuff work.
* I know all is not equal. Apple’s competitive advantage it “has taste” but not in its restrictions.
Hot on the heels of my last post comes a discussion about the subsequent discussions. It would be fair to say my grand plan did not meet with unanimous acclaim. But I am keen for the discussion to continue.
I will attempt to summarise these (possibly unfairly).
1. Good idea
2. Not necessary,our schools/unis are doing a good job
3. Not necessary, I flunked (school/uni) and look at me
4. Let’s all be volunteers
5. Let’s spend money on my pet project
6. Schools can’t do everything
I like this response. It shows foresight, vision and intelligence. Let’s organise.
They are. We do pretty well on OECD stats. This a credit to our society, teachers and education establishments. The debate though is not about current performance but future needs.
Not necessary,our schools/unis are doing a good job
I don’t think the status quo is good enough. If it were we would not be sliding down the various OECD scales we use to measure economic performance. We would not be fretting about where the future developers scientists, technologists, inventors, artists and so on will be coming from, and we would not be seeing 50,000 people moving to Australia every.single.year, no matter who is in power.
We can build on what we have. Improve. Ensure that future Google employees don’t get bored at school, ensure the long tale (often of immigrant children) does not get left behind and ensure that more and more students get a chance to hit their potential.
My Grandfather was principal of Scotland’s first comprehensive school. He believed everybody had a talent for genius. The trick was to give them the opportunity to recognise and develop that talent. I would like to know from teachers and parents if we are doing that, across the board?
Not necessary, I flunked (school/uni) and look at me
Seriously though, talk to your grandparents or people in less developed countries. Access to free public education is critical for breaking from the traps of poverty, both physical and mental. It is also critical for little things like democracy, the development of economies and freedom.
One of my prouder moments was getting a degree in my 30s. May not be much use in my day job but I certainly found the process and disciplines of obtaining that degree very helpful. See, anecdotes work both ways. Evidence is better. Evidence favours education.
Let’s all be volunteers
Yes, let’s. That is very important.
But volunteer-ism does not and should replace core services, it augments and helps form and sustain strong communities. But to it can replace core services condemns us to reliance on Victorian Charity, which was discredited as long ago as Victorian times :-)
Let’s spend money on my pet project
I found this response the most depressing to be honest. It felt as though all the talk about education, weightless economies and so on was just talk. If we in the business communities want to thrive and survive we need to start acting and not just talking.
I am no educationalist or an expert on what parts of our system need the most attention. I am happy to leave that to experts.
But, let’s triple the money available to those people. Now.
Schools can’t do everything
No they cannot. But they can educate, that is the core of their mission. I am proposing they are allowed to do more of it and to reach ever higher standards.
In order to reach our goals of diversifying our economy and applying focus on weightless exports I am suggesting that we triple our spending on education over the next three years.
Tom Brown's School
There were many discussions at the recent kiwifoo unconference about education and how it is so vital to our future in many different ways. Here are some statistics on what we have been spending on education:
So, if we are *really* serious about wanting to raise our global competitiveness and guaranteeing our future (including retirement funds) it would seem education is going to be the success critical. In which case, let’s built an Education / Industrial Complex that enriches us. The opposite of the Military / Industrial complex that is now beggaring the USA.
I suggest starting a campaign that should be focused on building up our education capacity and capability. The title of this campaign could be the one I use in this email heading, designed to be as a-political as possible. It would have to work for a broad spectrum of political views
I suggest we have a goal of doubling education spending in real terms over the next 3 years and then committing to retaining that level of spending for 2 generations (30 years).
I don’t think this is unrealistic and could be financed in a number of different ways. Such as:
a 1 cent education levy on income tax
reducing other capital spending commitments (UFB, new roads, $2billion IaaS – come to mind)
It would be ok with government spending in other areas fall *if* it were compensated by a rise in education spending.
I have already had a variety of interesting feedback on this idea which I will write about in the very next post.
I was asked to write this article for an IT publication a month ago but missed the publishing deadline. Due to the wonders of modern technology the world is still able to share and acclaim my wise words:
Photo Google Schwag (CC) Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Some rights reserved
The Cloud application of the moment is Facebook. Facebook represents the web within the web. It is a privately owned world that is more populated than most countries. It allows individuals and businesses to create their own identities, manage their contacts, find new contacts, conduct business and develop applications specific to Facebook’s technologies.
It seems everyone is “on” Facebook, whether you are a government department, Telecommunications business or simply someone with funny cat photos to share.
But there is a cloud on the horizon. The Bloomburg Business Week is reporting that Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, may have signed a contract which if upheld, would see the company transfer ownership (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-20/facebook-lawyer-unsure-zuckerberg-signed-contract.html). In addition to its ownership uncertainty, Facebook has a nasty habit of making unilateral changes to the usage policies, effectively the contract it has with each Facebook user. This is a risky proposition for businesses relying on Facebook for their future, and for individuals putting significant parts of their life on one platform.
While I was in the UK recently I heard about a musical instrument supplier. They have sold their goods through Amazon for many years, with Amazon taking about a 7 percent commission. That week Amazon announced that it was getting into the musical instrument vending business itself. Co-incidentally Amazon was also unilaterally doubling the commission they were charging to third party music instrument vendors.
So what do these anecdotes mean for people who have invested everything in “the cloud”. The people who rely on Facebook, or Google apps, or Amazon, to be the “internet of everything”, for their livelihood?
How do you shift from one vendor to another? If their infrastructure is cutting out, or the terms of service becoming more and more unfavourable, or your ISP is favouring a competitor’s traffic, or your clients are moving from one application to another (Bebo anyone?) how do you move? How do you get your data and applications transferred? Is the data you created even yours in the first place?
The success of “the cloud” is also its massive failing – scale. The scale of the cloud has pushed down costs and increased convenience significantly. But, as Google’s Vint Cerf points out, there are no accepted standards or protocols for cloud services and systems to store and exchange information and systems.
With the huge scale that the internet has enabled comes an equally huge imbalance in the nature of the relationship between cloud service vendors and users. The magnitude of the lock-in that users of cloud applications find themselves committed to far outweighs anything that has preceded the current phenomenon.
So, what do we do? If the convenience of cloud services is impossible to ignore then the pitfalls and potential for “all of business” disasters are should be evaluated and mitigated.
To start with, your data should be available to you on a device of your choosing at any time and in an open format that can be easily recognised by different software systems. This means that you should be able to backup and download your data easily and at regular intervals.
Secondly, you should easily be able to transfer from one platform to another. The best way of achieving this is to ensure that whatever cloud service you are using is based on software that is free and open source. This is easier than you might imagine. For every Google app, Twitter, Amazon Web Service, there is an open source alternative. Most, if not all, of these also run as cloud services. Examples include WordPress, Status.net, Teambox, RedMine, FengOffice and WikiMedia. Using open source cloud services ensures that transferring from one provider to another is not just possible, but straightforward. It also guarantees that your data can be processed if you decide you have to make the shift.
To conclude, the advantages of cloud services have been well sold, I would say oversold. They represent a privatisation of what we used to call “The Internet”. The pitfalls are less well expressed but they exist.
The trick for businesses and government in particular is to ensure that they avoid becoming enslaved on a scale that has never previously been possible. Fortunately free and open source software proves, yet again, to be an effective way of getting the best of all worlds – access to high quality technology and services without the proprietary capture and other business risks that are a feature of many cloud services.
There are 8 categories this year: Open Source Use in Government, Open Source Use in Business, Open Source Use in Education, Open Source Use in The Arts, Open Source Software Project, Open Source Contributor, Open Source Advocate, Open Source People’s Choice Award
Think about the people in the New Zealand open source community whose contributions have made a difference to your life or your business over the last couple of years – the last awards ceremony was in 2008 – and send in your nominations now.
Remember that these awards aren’t just for the coders, but also for the supporting cast of people contributing, using and making a difference with open source software. Don’t forget to nominate your own contributions, projects, or even yourself if you’ve been doing great work that you like to see more widely recognised.
OSSAT (that is, Open Source Show and Tell) events have been happening in London on a 3-6 monthly basis since 2008. The events are a showcase for people working with open source, open standards, open data to tell people about what they’ve been up to and share what’s great about it.
Now it’s Wellington’s turn. Grant McLean has been busy setting up WOSSAT – Wellington open source show and tell – and he’s written a blog post all about it.
By 8am this morning, a crowd of 13 people had gathered in the drizzle outside Wellington’s Magnummac store, eagerly awaiting the New Zealand launch of Apple’s iPad.
I decided to ask them why.
“This device is changing the rules of digital engagement”, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one; I want to be the first person in New Zealand to get one.” The hopeful, but ill-informed, gentleman at the head of the queue told me.
“You know that people have been importing them for months?”
“This device is changing the rules of digital engagement” he replied, effectively ending the interview.
I moved along the queue, stopping in front of a lady who, I quickly noticed, had a tattoo of a heart with an apple in the middle of it on each hand and “A-P-L-E” spelled out across her knuckles. I moved along the queue.
A normal looking gentleman told me: “We want to stand at the intersection of computers and humanism”. I noticed that he was nervously fingering a small white book on which I could make out the title “The Quotations of Chairman Jobs”, and I fled.
As I passed the last person, he grabbed me and confided that, in his inebriated state, he’d thought it was the queue for the soup kitchen. I explained. We fled together along Vivian Street.
“The Saratogian” used a mixture of Scribus, Google Docs to put out their newspaper on Independence Day as a gesture of support for the Free Software movement. The paper went out and looked good, leading one to wonder what they could do if they adopted this approach permanently and took advantages of the freedoms of Open Source to customise it. Quoting from their site:
“So why did we do it? Crazy? Maybe. Tired? Definitely. Proud? You bet.
The free software experiment is part of the Ben Franklin Project of the Journal Register Company, which owns The Saratogian, 17 other dailies and a slew of weeklies and has been expanding its online presence with a content-driven, digital-first mentality that reflects where the world of communication is today and where it’s headed.“