Q1 2011

The first quarter of 2001 was quite a ride. Especially, there was a lot of Free Software stuff going on, not all of it was KDE-related. It included legal matters, Free Software politics, marketing, conference preparation and other activities. In the great tradition of quarterly updates that I am starting today, allow me to entertain you with what happened...

Lawyers and Free Software

In late January, I attended a full day work shop on German contracting law. I know, it is not coding, but it never hurts to learn outside of the box. Once my brain wrapped itself around the legalese, it became quite fascinating. It continued to be, until I asked about the implications of the GPL and LGPL on today's IT business, and how lawyers support businesses that want to release their work as Free Software. The presenter, a seasoned salt-and-pepper lawyer, answered straight-faced and without flinching that he recommends all his clients to stay away from even using Free Software, not to speak of developing or distributing it, because the attached licensing strings pose a legal and financial time bomb that no responsible business should ever bear. This, in 2011, and in front of a room full of management people, was very unexpected.

Only three months before, at a presentation of another lawyer about "Software Patents and Open Source Software" held at the Berlin chamber of trade, the same thing had happened. The opinion that Free Software is a huge risk is obviously still wide-spread. What is scary is that apparently, this is the expert legal opinion that is presented to decision makers in very large companies. Good that we have the FSFE to produce anti-FUD, there is still a lot of work to do.

open it Berlin

Another process that started in January and ended in March was the effort of the city of Berlin to create a brand under which their various Free Software and Open Standards related activities can be combined. And there are a lot, the city is spending a sizable budget on creating and supporting community work and fostering businesses networks in that field. For example, Berlin supports droidcon, LinuxTag and of course the Desktop Summit.

The project consisted of a series of workshops that I attended, and was carried out by our friends at newthinking communications (http://www.newthinking.de) in a very entertaining and impressively well-coordinated manner. We community people look at brands (like KDE) as identities that are created from substance (our code) that is developed first. It was quite educational to see how professional marketeers go at the task of creating a brand first that will form the nucleus of substance to be created later. It is also cool to know that brands can be dry, warm, heavy, sour and prickly.

In the end, the chosen name for the brand was open it Berlin, there is a logo, and a website will be published soon. The city will start to use the brand to categorize events, companies and communities that contribute to Free Software. One of them will be the Desktop Summit.

Desktop Summit Preparations

A lot of things happened with regard to the Desktop Summit. The call for papers closed mid-March, it generated more then 170 talk submissions, many of them quite good. About 80 of them can be accepted so that they fit into the schedule. This promises a great and quite massive conference program. Prepare to call fork() twice to attend all the tracks. The paper committee is now sifting through and grading the submissions. The results should be published within the next couple of weeks.

Hotel and hostel information has been published at the desktopsummit.org web site. Again, make sure to book your room early, August is not exactly a slow month in Berlin. Chris Kuehl is scouting event places to host our parties, and Claudia Rauch is busy talking to potential sponsors and supporters.

The local team met again on March 17 and reviewed the ongoing preparations. We are well on track, the next big thing will be to find a design for the merchandise, and polishing the web presence of the event. The planning of the work shops and BOFs during the Open Days will also start in the next few weeks. In late May or early July, there will be a last larger meeting not just with the local team before the final preparations of the conference begin. The t-shirt design contest has just recently been published (https://desktopsummit.org/tshirt).

Registration for the event has been opened along with the call for papers a while ago, but may have gone unnoticed largely. Go ahead and register, please, we need to get a feeling of how many visitors to expect.

Making Money with Free Software

A very cool event that was also organized by the city of Berlin together with the FSFE was a panel at the Investitionsbank Berlin (a bank that manages grants to startup companies, amongst other things) titled "Making money with Free Software" on March 31st. The room was full with about 300 community and business people and politicians. Till Adam presented Kolab Systems exemplary as a company with a Free Software based strategy. As part of the panel group, I had to answer questions about business models in the Free Software realm, and what potential political implications might be. During the discussion, old and new IT partly clashed on issues like which business models have already been obsoleted by Free Software. Good thing that there were drinks and snacks, and that the event lead right into the party for the 10th anniversary of the FSFE.

Party! Mobile World Congress! FSFE!

On January 28, the KDE folks in Berlin gathered to celebrate the KDE 4.6 release with dinner and just a few drinks at an Indian place in Kreuzberg. On February 15, I attended a meeting with Forum Nokia at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelino that gave quite some input to http://blogs.kde.org/node/4394. The FSFE celebrated it's 10th anniversary at CBase on March 31. CBase is an awesome place, hackers should feel right at home. This was another party I could not miss :-)

And finally, I did become an FSFE fellow as promised in a previous post, and will try to contribute to put Free Software on the political agenda where it belongs.

In the second quarter, I will focus more on the Desktop Summit, since it is approaching fast. There will be development sprints and more political activities. Expect an update in early July.

mirko@kde:~$ whoami