Saint Tim & Co.

by Mark Finnern

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One of the best speeches of the Accelerating
Change Conference 2003
was Tim O'Reilly's talk about "Diffusion of
Memes in the Media". (Only talks, that stay in my head and keep my brain
churning for days earned the label "best".)

He told the story of how it came to be that O'Reilly is doing conferences:
The CEO of Borders told Tim in the early 90s, that Programing
is one of the 100 most sold books of that year. Tim was very surpised,
he knew that the book was selling very good, but no one out there in the press
was talking about Perl.

It was a grassroots thing under the radar of most people. They realized (in
his talk Tim always refered to the O'Reilly team, he never claimed to have done
it alone), that something was missing for these Perl programmers: Somewhere
to meet and exchange ideas.

They started their first conference in 1997, which later expanded to the Open
Source Convention
and other conferences.
Open Source is one of the memes that the O'Reilly folks helped to create and
spread. That was very important, because the "Free Software
Movement" was at that time in a corner being perceived as radical. By creating
the Open Source meme, the dialog shifted and all these new possibilities opened up.

I just like the way he operates in general, see his Weblog:

"In my introduction to the session, I outlined some of the key elements
that put technologies on my radar: hackability, being in line with some major
trend (such as the increase in ubiquitous networking), disruptive potential,
grassroots enthusiasm rather than top-down corporate promotion but still the
presence of professional practitioners and a possible business ecology."

Or his support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
and the Internet Society, from an interview:

"In the case of both, I was motivated by the thought that 'we need
a Sierra Club for the Internet.' I loved the open, cooperative nature of the
early Net, and worried as I saw it become increasingly proprietary"

Tim O'Reilly often claims to only follow the Alpha Geeks. It is way more: O'Reilly
provides a platform with their books, the conferences and this online presence,
a fertile ground for new ideas to develop into whole new industries.

Tim and your tribe, keep up the good work.

I don't know Tim's birthday, but just pretend it is today and send him some
good words; even saints need to be reminded of their goodness once in a while.