Was at the AO2005 event yesterday (it was a 3 day deal, but I could only make it yesterday). All-in-all, it was an impressive gathering. I didn't liveblog it because 1) I couldn't get their wifi to work, and 2) I am conflicted about liveblogging in general because I don't wish to be simply a transcriber and insightful thoughts usually take a few days to distill up. Also, I was feeling a tad lazy yesterday and just wanted to sponge in as much as I could.
The audience featured the usual diversity of Tony Perkins events, including big name executives, entrepreneurs (famous and infamous), venture investors, and a whole lot of PR people.
The first panel was titled "Is the Whole World Going Open Source" and featured:
Moderator: Ray Lane, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Jonathan Schwartz, president & COO, Sun Microsystem
Kim Polese, CEO, SpikeSource
Marten Mickos, CEO, MySQL
Rahul Kapoor, partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Rod Smith, VP Emerging Technologies, IBM
All-in-all, this was the weakest panel of the day for the simple fact that it lacked substance. All of these people are smart and articulate but time and again kept falling back to the "why open source matters" meme even though I don't think you would find many people in the audience or the webcast that would need a refresher on that.
Actually, the most interesting part of this panel format was watching the IRC stream on one of the large screens next to the stage - the comments could be absolutely brutal or insightful, and in the rare case both. But I have to say that the comments about Kim Polese's appearance are really juvenile and have no place in a professional conference, my compliments to her for having the thick skin to put up with that crap.
Marten Mickos was the best talking head on the panel, he really gets the open source value, both strategic and tactical, but doesn't get hung up on open source for the sake of open source. Schwartz can always be counted on to make a couple of insightful points, but I have to say that I have a real issue with his style but can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps the issue with Schwartz is that he comes across as condesending and more than a little arrogant (and I alone do not hold that opinion - trust me), but he does make a lot of good points about what customers want. At the end of the day, Schwartz is all about Schwartz and Sun (in that order?), I really don't think they give a crap about OSS beyond it being a means to an end, but then again isn't that how an executive of a publicly traded company should behave?
Rod Smith from IBM presents an interesting case of what happens when tech companies get huge. I've met the guy before, think he is super sharp, but whenever I hear him talk I can't help but wonder if what he is saying applies across all of IBM. In other words, it's hard to have a face of the company to a specific constituency when the company in question is as big and diverse as IBM is.
The second panel of the morning was:
Open or Closed Web
Moderator: Marc Canter, founder and CEO, Broadband Mechanics
Mark Fletcher, vice president & general manager, Bloglines at Ask Jeeves
Joe Kraus, founder and CEO, JotSpot
Doc Searls, Senior Editor, Linux Journal
Ross Mayfield, CEO, SocialText
Toni Schneider, VP, Yahoo Developer Network, Yahoo!
I had a conference call scheduled at 11am that I rescheduled only minutes before this panel because I really wanted to see it (sorry Rajiv!). This was, IMO, the best panel of the day because it touched on really thought provoking questions about what it means to be open or closed.
Marc Canter is a good moderator for this kind of panel as well, respected among his peers for his ability and enthusiastic about the topic. Doc was also an interesting addition to this panel, damn that guy can really nail issues. Ross opened up a whole can of worms by introducing the notion that openAPIs are not always open and threw SAP a nice compliment by highlighting the guarantee that we make when you write to our API set. To his point was the observation that a company can publish an API set but restrict the use of it to non-commercial apps, or simply change the rules once you have already started using it.
Doc made a good point about how companies are increasingly banding together to create standards outside of the IEEE processes for making standards. Doc is big in digital identity and pointed to Microsoft's Infocard as an example of bundling standards that were agreed to by a consortium of companies but not "blessed" by IEEE. BTW, the Identity Gang wiki is a great example of how a wiki can be used to develop consensus among a disparate group of participants. In the end I found this panel to be the most intellectually stimulating of the day.
The afternoon sessions were connected in a way because both featured Bill Joy.
Bill Joy: The Six Faces of the Web
Bill Joy, partner, Kleiner Perkins
Moderator: Steve Jurvetson, managing partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
Is Technology Making Us Safer?
Moderator: Paul Saffo, Research Director, Institute for the Future
George Gilder, CEO, Gilder Technology
Bill Joy, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Jaron Lanier, computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author
All I can say is that if Dante ever envisioned a 10th level of hell it would surely be along the lines of being in a car with no radio on a cross-country trip with Bill Joy as your passenger. As someone put it aptly yesterday, Joy is one of those super smart tech leaders that actually saw a nuclear suitcase bomb and got pushed over the edge.
As Gilder put it well yesterday, Joy looks at technology as inherently dangerous and something to be controlled by a small group of people in an effort to protect the masses from themselves. Actually, the dogfight between Gilder and Joy throughout the panel was enough to justify the cost of going to this entire conference. Gilder is a riot... and I never would have thought to see a day where Jaron Lanier would be considered the moderate on the panel. Speaking of Lanier, I've never met him before but like a lot of people in this business are aware of his work. He really does come across as a thoughtful and reasonable person who is touched by the interactions he has with people. Nice guy, the kind of person that I would like to have him over to the house for dinner and discussion.
I want to think about the rest of the panels before I put any
words bits to paper screen.