Ich bin ein Berliner

I left Austin for Berlin on Friday morning. After flying for an eternity, I landed in Berlin about an hour before I was due at the iCommons workshop at Wizards of OS. Without my luggage. And my power adapter was in my checked luggage. Oh, boy! That should explain why I've been so quiet recently. Two of the three bags arrived yesterday and the final one (the one with the power adaptor) arrived today.

What little I experienced of Wizards of OS (I arrived on the last day) was very interesting. The audience at the iCommons workshop was definitely quite anti-Flash. In fact, some in the audience were probably anti-Flash to the point of fundamentalism. I had one attendee tell me afterwards that he was recently asked to evaluate technologies for their next rich Internet application project and that he found "no justifiable reason not to use Flex" but that he made an "ideological decision" and convinced his company to go with an HTML-based solution. (So, basically, instead of choosing the best technology for the project, he chose the one that he is ideologically compatible with.) His rationale is that he finds Flash "technically superior" and that scares him because the Flash platform is not fully open. I find this somewhat silly and furthermore, a hurtful representation of the free software community.

During my talk I had brought up the Java platform as an example of where Flash could be heading. Although the Java virtual machine was initially closed, it didn't stop a huge number of open source projects from being created on the platform. This sort of support virtually guaranteed the survival of the platform but it also did more than that. It gave those in the developer community the ability to influence the direction that the platform has taken. Today, open source Java virtual machines are no longer a pipe dream. The worst thing free software developers can do is isolate the Flash platform because it is not as open as they would like it to be today. Instead, I hope there were those in the audience during the workshop at Wizards of OS who will take my call for them to "embrace" and "engage" us on the Flash Platform. This is the only way they can influence the future direction of the platform.

As an aside, Wizards of OS, despite the name, didn't feel like an open source conference but more a free software conference. The Free Software Foundation had a huge presence and nearly every other person was wearing an FSF t-shirt. It's important to remember that free software and open source are not the same thing. The former is very much an ideological movement where as the latter is a practical one. I personally favor pragmatism over dogma.

Finally, it was a huge honor to present alongside Lawrence Lessig and he was kind enough to give me a few pointers about using the Lessig technique, including a neat little trick in Keynote that makes it much easier! :)

Oh, yeah, and absolutely-truly-finally, could the asshole who is posting spam comments on my blog please stop. You're very annoying. Please get a life. Thanks!

PS. Berlin is absolutely lovely.