Friday, July 27, 2007

OSCON 9 (conclusion)

The final day was perhaps the most inspiring. Nat is stepping down after eleven long years of chairing O'Reilly's OSCON committee and gave a wonderful three part talk we might entitle "it's too easy to be mean (so try to aim higher)."

Even better than the precept, was his demo of how to do it, taking our respective open source communities one at a time, as if the twisted offspring of your average mom & pop: Perl will change when it has to, love it for what it is; Python is so serious, needs to go to college to discover slacking off; Ruby is youthfully defiant, and so on. In every case, he played a great Dr. Phil.

Beyond that, we had a lot of rousing calls to continue opening, not closing. Searching has become too proprietary (Wikia is fighting back), as well as access to data. Hardware is just beginning to open up.

In one of the breakouts, Robert Lefkowitz made some of the most cogent arguments I'd seen in awhile, about how software is the new trivium of Century XXI, rhetoric being like programming, making it part of the new literacy. He cited Guido's CP4E at this point, other champions, such as Adele Goldberg and Alan Kay.

Lefkowitz mines old books on rhetoric for terms to recycle, to help clarify a muddy meme pool (information technologists have made a mess of their priest craft).

This connects to his interest in word-meaning trajectories, a field he's tagged as "semasiology" (another example of recycling a word). Larry Wall and his wife were in a row in front of me, loving the ride. Anna and Alex were off to my left.

Geeks are always bellyaching that English has this built-in ambiguity between "free" as in "free beer" and "free" as in "freedom," and all because it doesn't have a suitable word deriving from the Latin root "liber." But it does: "liberal," as in "liberal arts."

Anyway, I'm seeing a lot of my Quaker values reflected in the "OSCON community" (synecdoche). Apropos, I just noticed a current thread on Quaker-P about Quaker Meetings in Second Life. Second Life's Philip Rosedale kicked off today's keynotes.

When mom called from Miami, enroute back from Bolivia, speaking of inter-cultural tensions at her peace conference there, I said: "you should have been at OSCON; they were projecting pictures of Gandhi and everything; it was like a peace-maker's paradise here."