Monthly Archives: September 2013

Frismakers Festival Berlin – “Open Source as a corporate culture”

Is it possible to convey an idea comprehensively  in 5 minutes? The Frismakers movement seems to think so. I had a chance to try it at the recent Frismakers Festival in Berlin, where I presented on how we apply the Open Source way to build Endocode and its corporate culture. This was a challenge for the five minute format because it is just not a trivial idea.

Endocode Frismakers PresentationThe question I raised in the talk was how experienced Open Source contributors would design a company. When asked about what motivates them, contributors often say it is the sense of creative accomplishment and working with others that share their interests. When we started Endocode, we wanted to retain and channel that kind of intrinsic motivation. While others are searching for the Open Source business model, we wanted to create a business that allowed us to work in the Open Source Way, a place where contributors like us would want to work. Among other things, this means implementing meritocracy, open governance and attribution. Meritocracy boils down to having influence that matches your contributions. In our case, it means for example that all employees gather share in the company according to how long they have been with us. Open governance is not anarchy, quite contrary it is implemented by having well defined, inclusive decision making processes. Attribution is a bit harder to implement, the contributions of individuals in Endocode should be visible, instead of the individuals disappearing in the machine like cogs. At Endocode, we actively strive to follow these principles while the company is growing. So far, our employees agree with us that Endocode is a great place to work.

The idea of creating a place for meaningful contributions and calling that a company induced a number of thoughtful questions and comments. It also raised attention in unexpected places, for example TechNet. One attendee raised doubts on whether our goals can be achieved. To that the answer is we do not know yet. Building a work place driven by purpose is a process, not a one-time effort. Companies change and grow. What we do want to do is keep these ideals in mind for future design decisions, and strive for it. I hope we can review the results in ten years time.

The festival was expertly organized by Anna-Lena König and Daniela Bentrup of newthinking communications, who together with host Gallup Germany made it a great experience.

So does the Frismakers concept work? During the preparation of the talk, I found it quite hard to identify those bits of the train of thought that absolutely have to be presented to the viewer. Of course that enforces the presenter to weed out all the cruft. On the other hand I had the feeling that it would have been easier to understand the presentation in ten minutes than in five. For example, when removing a few of the comments I usually add, I firmly expected that interested people in the audience will ask questions about that after the talk. And that is exactly what happened. This means that those who did not have time to ask afterwards won’t get the full picture, or go home unsatisfied. Consequently, I am sure that there is a class of ideas that can nicely and profoundly presented in five minutes. This class however is a subset of all (potentially interesting) ideas, and I have the impression that it does not contain all the really fascinating ones. The five minute concept seems to be more suitable for product presentations and start-up pitches. Not bad per se, but something to keep in mind. TED talks have been claimed to “turn scientists and thinkers into low-level entertainers”, and they last 15 minutes. Given the current enthusiasm for brevity, make sure the selected format is appropriate for the content presented.

“Open Source in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” an der Sommeruni 2013 des evangelischen Studienwerks

Jedes Jahr wieder findet die Sommeruni des evangelischen Studienwerks statt. In diesem Jahr mit dabei war das Seminar “Open Source in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” von Mirko Boehm. Paul Adams unterstützte als Ko-Referent. Karsten Gerloff, Präsident der FSFE, trat als Gastredner auf. Da sich die Teilnehmer ihre Seminare nach eigenem Interesse selbst aussuchen, fand sich ein bunte Mischung von Medizinern über Naturwissenschaftlern bis zu Theologen zusammen. Die Verbindung aus Neugier, Heterogenität der Gruppe und inspirierender Umgebung sorgte für explosive Debatten, hitzige Diskussionsrunden und eine wie Flug vergangene Woche.

Schwerpunkte des Seminars waren die Fragen, wie Open-Source-Communities eigentlich funktionieren, was Einzelne zur Mitwirkung motiviert, wie sich freie Produkte in die Wirtschaftsordnung integrieren und welche politischen Herausforderungen und Veränderungen zu bewältigen sind. Während schnell Einverständnis herrschte darüber, das der Open Source Way ein gesellschaftliches und kein technisches Problem ist, wurde zu anderen sonst in der Netzgemeinde als selbstverständlich vermutete Ansichten wie “das Internet gehört den Benutzern” gut argumentiert hinterfragt. Wer trägt die Verantwortung für durch unvorsichtige Bewertungen beschädigte Reputation, muss alle Teilhabe in Zukunft im Netz stattfinden, braucht es eine Internetpolizei, das Strafrecht der realen Welt erweiternde Sanktionen, die Regulierung des Netzes? Durch die diversen Blickwinkel war manchmal nicht klar, wer mehr von wem lernte, die Seminarleitung oder die Teilnehmer.

Karsten Gerloff berichtete über die politische Bedeutung von Freier Software und offener Innovation, die Bedrohung durch Softwarepatente und die Kampagnenarbeit der FSFE.

CAM00409

Paul, Karsten und Mirko bei der Sommeruni

Die Beschäftigung mit der Materie war dabei von deutlicher Ernsthaftigkeit geprägt. Zum Beispiel brauchten die Teilnehmer etwa fünf Minuten, um den systematischen Unterschied bei der Integration von Copyleft- oder Permissive-lizensierten Beiträgen zu verstehen – ein Prozess, der bei nicht wenigen Freie-Software-Communities entweder gar nicht oder erst recht spät verstanden wird. Paul Adams war sichtlich beeindruckt. Dieses tiefe Eintauchen ins Thema steht beispielhaft für das allgemein starke Engagement der Stipendiaten, die ihr Studienwerk in weiten Bereichen selbst verwalten – bis hin zur Zusammenstellung des Programms der Sommeruniversität selbst.

Bei der traditionell turbulenten Abschlussveranstaltung am Donnerstagabend wurden die Vier Freiheiten anhand der kollaborativen Beschwörung des Geists von Villigst illustriert – wenn das nicht eine erfolgreiche Wissensvermittlung verdeutlicht… Unser einstimmiges Fazit – definitiv eine Woche lohnend investierter Zeit, die Paul Adams und ich in guter Erinnerung behalten werden. Neben den Teilnehmern war auch das Organisationsteam (ebenfalls sich freiwillig engagierende Stipendiaten) ausgesprochen engagiert und sorgte für einen reibungslosen, angenehmen Ablauf von insgesamt sechs parallel verlaufenden Seminaren. Sehr beeindruckend.

KDE rejects Fairsearch initiative claims: Free Software is competitive

The Fairsearch initiative is a Microsoft-led consortium that aims at activating European policy makers to indirectly achieve a competitive advantage against Google’s dominance as a search engine. Its recent complaint to the European Commission raised serious concerns in the Free Software ecosystem by calling the distribution of Android at below-cost anti-competitive behaviour and predatory pricing. While the methods with which companies compete for the market share of their search offerings are not relevant to software freedom, every Free Software platform is distributed below cost. Creating Free Software is not free, and a price of zero will never cover cost. The issue was quickly picked up by FSFE and other parties, and now the KDE community approached the European Commission about the issue. The response is available here, and also in PDF format. The KDE response was announced on the Dot.

Some reviewers have taken issue with the aspect that by opposing the Fairsearch claim of anti-competitive behaviour, we are endorsing Google’s strategies to promote the use of their services, including search and others. It is important to understand that there are two separate components to Fairsearch’s claims – one where Fairsearch complains about Google’s behaviour, and one where it lobbies against the distribution of a Free Software platform. As a community, only the latter is of relevance to us. We are neither endorsing nor condemning other actions of the parties involved in the debate. We do care about Software Freedom, and that is where Fairsearch crossed the line.

KDE Community Working Group is looking for a new member

The KDE Community Working Group is crucial to KDE’s open and inviting culture. It’s mission is to maintain an environment in which contributors feel welcome and get their work done comfortably. The Community Working Group is looking for a new person to join it after one of it’s long term team members recently resigned. Continue reading