Today started off with a bang with a keynote Andrew Cowie. He did an excellent job speaking and wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers. One of the best parts was his proposal to change Linux to "Open Office/Mozilla/Apache/Perl/Gnu/Linux" (talking RMS's GNU/Linux fixation one step further). He also questioned the lack of sponsorship by Open Source companies such as RedHat and Novell. "Why do they not sponser community conferences?" I wondered the same thing at OSCON. He also opined why he choose not to use Mono (microsoft embrance and extend conspiracy theory). It was refreshing to hear someone who wasn't afraid to say his opinion when it may clash a little with the party line.
Andrew then discussed how Open Source empowers the developer. The developer controls Open Source because "no one can tell you [not to develop features]". Therein lies the "freedom" in free software. It was pretty motivational as he discussed how he went from being a lurker to a maintainer of the Java/Gnome bindings.
I then attended a series of Groupware sessions. Namely on Kolab, Evolution and Kontact. Till Adams, the main dev for Kolab and Kontact spoke. He noted that groupware was one of the final pieces needed for migration to complete open source systems. One point he said (that I'm not sure I agree with since it kind of flies in the face of the power of the community (though I admit and have blogged that there are some things that Open Source doesn't do well)) was that there are not enought community resources to compete with outlook/exchange. 8-10 developers can not compete with the 1000 or so working for microsoft on these projects.
Till also mentioned that in order to allow people to at least think about migration you need a full groupware stack. Just having a server or client alone, wouldn't cut it. He then described how the German government employed his company for six weeks (yes 6), to write a replacement for Outlook/Exchange. That hacked out Kolab 1 (codenamed Mission Impossible). Amazingly enough (it took about 3 months he said), it worked enough that it was deployed. The agile manner of fixing bugs or adding features really pleased the Government. But, a re-write was needed, one that actually involved the community rather than 3 developers writing code for 24x7 for 3 months. That rewrite turned into Kolab2.
On the client end evolution and kontact are both advancing in features. I was very impressed by what Kontact has in KDE 3.5. (I think I'll migrate from evolution for a while and try it). It's a testament to kde, qt or something that 1 person working in his spare time can create such a feature rich client. (How many people are working full time on evolution?) Till noted that he had worked with OpenUsability.org to make Kontact more usable. From his demo, it appears their collaboration has paid off. One other thing that I found nice was that both Till and the evolution developers are adopting a project called opensync (rather than writing/maintaining their own syncing framework). That's excellent, it's cool to hear that projects can collaborate, rather than re-invent their own wheels.
I also attended part of a talk by Neeti Agarwal, who has been directing some of Novell's open source developement operations and he discussed some of the difficulties in open source and traditional software development culture and Indian culture. He indicated that the open source idea of meritocracy was in opposition to the Indian culture of respect for elders (and seniority). I (not being Indian) found that interesting. He said that hiring for open source was difficult because you basically had to hire fresh grads who liked open source, since normal (non-programmers) wouldn't respect open source programmers. Re-training experienced people to "unlearn" the standard best practices, usually was a lesson in frustration. A big "no no". Interesting.
Another interesting point he said was that most Indians don't care about the debates and whatnot that go on in the larger open source communities (he gave planet.gnome as an example) (he admitted though that the actual process of debate helped to create the leaders of the community). But they do care about local issues. His idea was that there is a need for local leaders, and the way to attract them was to focus on local issues that local communities could revolve around and actually care about. By creating smaller focused communities, he felt that open source could attract more developers.
One more session I caught was Danese's presentation on giving "Foss presentations". Her main points seemed to be, don't take yourself too seriously, don't have too many slides, and don't give away the reasons for attending your talk before your talk (don't give them the carrot just dangle it in front)....