SXSW Day Two – Non-Developers and Open Source Acolytes: Why Should I Care?

One of my favorite panels of the whole SXSW experience was “Non-Developers to Open Source Acolytes: Why Should I Care?

It was moderated by Elisa Camahort (BlogHer), and panelists were:

It was one of the few panels I saw which included spontaneous audience applause mid-panel, not just the polite applause at panel conclusion one is used to. (The others being Henry Jenkins and Dan Rather).

A number of folks have blogged about it or covered it (the list is from Dawn Foster’s blog entry):

As an attendee I started with the intent of taking notes – but I confess to becoming too interested in the discussion to effectively take notes. ;)

I’d say these are the key points, filtered through my own interests:

  • Open Source is your friend – enables you to use, modify, and (with some restrictions) redistribute stuff you use.
  • If you are not a developer, you’ve got two key ways to use open source:
    • Good open source software you don’t need to be a developer to use (FireFox, OpenOffice, etc)
    • Pay someone to instal / configure / customize for you
  • Open Source developers need to pay even more attention to non-developer users. First, because they are the broadest possible audience and need to be addressed somewhat differently than developer users. Second, becuase they also can contribute: documentation, bug reports, feature requests, marketing, and adoption.
  • Using open source is also akin to putting your money where your mouth is in terms of shopping
    • Like buying “green” products rather than environmentally harmful ones
    • Like buying vegan/vegetarian or organic/local food rather than processed, factory-farmed, cruel food
  • The “openness” part of open source can also make the community more open
    • enables more women in technology, for example.
    • doesn’t mean all open source communities are equally “open” in culture, but at least the simple logistics of a community where conversation happens in the open make true open-ness more possible.

Lots of good audience questions about how to leverage open source as a consumer (what to do about support, for example) as well as how to make money delivering open source solutions (supporting all the folks asking the first question, implementing custom functionality, etc).

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the great review John!

    I basically put the panel together because i didn’t “get” open source and really wanted to…I feel like I probably learned as much lining these women up and letting them walk me through it than anyone else out there in the room!

    Glad you enjoyed it too :)

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