OSCON D3.1

by brian d foy

I'm glad that I don't have to help out too much with the Stonehenge party: it sounds like its a really big production. It's coming down to the wire and the details are working themselves out as they always do: at the last minute.

I started off sitting with a couple of people talking about open source employees. One person brought up the fear in his company that when people gave things away, they would later walk away from the company and try to sell it updates to the stuff they locked it into. I can understand that. Some places even have rules against this sort of thing: you can't become a contractor after some long period that removes any advantage you might have from working there.

Other places want to own your mind, your body, and your soul. They aren't interested in hiring you unless you will work for them for twenty years. They see employees as an investment rather than a trade. Anything that gets you out from under their control, such as participation in the open source community, frightens them. They can't control you when you have opportunities. It amazes me how companies want to hire mediocre people just so they won't have to hire again in a couple years. They don't see any advantage to retaining employees by keeping them happy.

On the other hand, some places expect that you are going to change employers every couple of years. They recognize this and adapt to reality. If they can't help their employees move forward in their own lives, they know that the employees are going to walk out. Instead of sticking their heads in the sand, they make happy employees. I know several big companies that have insanely loyal employees for just that reason. Phil Graham said as much in his talk last night: good people care more about how they are treated and what they work on than how much they get paid.

At the moment I am back in the press room, which is right next to the big room where the big talks are going on. I saw part of Tim O'Reilly's talk, but since I tend to keep up with Tim's writings and talks, I knew most of the talk already. However, I can still hear it while I sit across the hall. Not only that, I have subethaedit open, so I can read the transcript as it happens.

Subethaedit collaboration is this amazing thing (and Randal has been bugging me to start using it with him). If students can bring laptops into the classroom, this is going to be their killer app. Conference attendees are taking notes in the same document (each author gets a color), so they can add things that the other people may have missed. They end up with a very good set of notes, in real time. Authors fade in an out (probably chatting on IM) and other authors take join in. And, everyone, including me, can read it.

The subethaedit notes tend to read like a screenplay as the author not only include notes on content, but presentation and environmental details. If a picture shows up on the screen, they describe it inline:


blah blah blah
[picture: exterior nature scene]
blah blah blah
[picture: Sam Adams beer]


I think that this could even be the new boring-meeting game. Everyone looks like they are typing or adjusting numbers in their spreadsheets, but they are really just typing back and forth to each other. Maybe they have another document open with the real notes and everyone is talking one set of notes.

This could also be a really good tele-conference tool. I have always tried to convince my employers (back in the day when I had a job) that we should be on IM when we are conference calls with clients. We could warn each other about things we shouldn't say, remind each other of things we should say, or tell people to stop talking immediately to avoid conversational land mines. Add subethaedit and you don't have to designate a scribe because everyone can take notes.

Now, related to all that subethaedit raving, I have also noticed that the terminal room (sponsored by Apple) is almost empty almost always. Most everyone seems to have wireless, and the wireless coverage on the conference floor, and even my aluminum PowerBook gets four bars. We've come a long way since the first YAPC in Pittsburgh when it was a novelty. There are a lot of PowerBooks and iBooks here, and I bet most of those people bought Airport cards when they got the computer. The PC people seem to favor the Lucent (or whatever their name is now) cards.

In the fireside chat with Tim O'Reilly and Nat Torkington, Nat hinted at a possible OSCON maybe in Europe, but he didn't narrow it down more. Besides making it closer to a far away market, a lot of people who don't want to travel to the US for political reasons. That's all he would let on. I'd be happy if they could just make it as far east as Chicago.