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OSCON Keynote Reviews

July 29th, 2008 by tamuwebmaster

I just got back from OSCON on Sunday and after readjusting my internal clock, I’m back in action. I came back with a lot of great ideas and a better understand of the Free/Open Source software community. I stayed mostly on the PHP track while there, but I went to some other interesting sessions as well. To start, I’ll review the keynotes I attended and what they mean for me and higher education as a whole. The first keynotes talked about mobile computing, privacy, and Web 2.0.Wednesday’s keynote speakers were Tim O’Reilly, Christine Peterson, and Dirk Hohndel. They all had unique and interesting things to say, and they were all looking forward to more participation from the open source community in the future of computing and politics.


Tim O’Reilly recapped his talk from the year before and talked more about Web 2.0. Erick has talked enough about Web 2.0 from his conference and all of what he said was reiterated by Tim as well. Web 2.0 is about user participation in technology. He spoke of mobile computing and social media.

Christine Peterson talked about physical security and the cross section of government and open standards. She stressed that we should not give the government full control over security and thus enable a “surveillance state”. Instead, she is looking to the open source community to enable citizen-centric, open security standards and participation. This includes data collection and sharing, and things like open source voting system standards.

Finally, Dirk Hohndel spoke about mobile computing and the Moblin project. This is linux on mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs. He contents that mobile computing should also be the realm of open source software and community and that projects such as this are user driven and therefore answer to a broader group of people and their needs.

Meaning and Higher Education

In higher education, I think we’re lagging behind on the mobility aspect and we need to start looking at how mobile computing affects our users. Students entering college these days grew up with the ability to look up restaurants and entertainment on their phones, and they expect their experiences here to be the same, if not better. We need to start publishing mobile content in the first place, and make sure it follows open standards and is easily accessible. I think this will further our goals of reaching the broadest audiences possible and becoming “on demand”. Instead of making phone calls, students use twitter or blog to let their friends know what they are doing. This is an on demand, push style update, and the higher education community needs to learn how to leverage this to their advantage.

As a state funded university, A&M already knows about open records, but do we truly share data? I think this is somewhere A&M in particular could really improve. Collaboration and open data would make this university far more able to move swiftly and react to patterns found across datasets. As it is, each part of campus works with a small finite set of data and it limits their ability to see broader trends across other groups. As a whole, I would like to rant about the lack of community and collaboration in the IT areas of campus, and I think sharing data openly would change this a lot!

Finally, Christine Peterson gets special note because she really drove home the fact that the electronic voting debacle should have been avoided entirely by having open software and data processing standards used in voting machines across the country. She worries that without community participation the government will work itself into a vacuum of bad ideas and decisions regarding privacy and surveillance.

I could not agree more! And I think that higher education in particular has to contribute to this movement. We have both the old guard and the next generation here and these two together give universities a unique platform from which to pull ideas from both. Experience and expectation can be combined here and could shape the future of this country. BUT, it has to start with sharing data and making it accessible. So, I refer back to my first two paragraphs on this and let you ponder how that will work.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 Miscellaneous
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