Back in late June, I was able to attend the Philippine Open Source Summit in Cebu. It was another good trip, both for the conference and the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues.
The conference itself was very well attended, so it is great to see that level of interest in open source in the Philippines, and to meet a number of people involved in communities there. I hope that events like this are an encouragement to grow both individual and commercial involvement in open source in the region.
There were a number of technology-specific sessions as well, and I enjoyed catching Webtide’s Greg Wilkins giving an overview of Jetty and Deng Ching giving an overview Maven, Archiva and Continuum. Also presenting from Exist were Ludwig (Pentaho) and Erle (Eclipse plugin development), and though I was unfortunately only able to catch the last portions of each talk I’m reliably informed they went well.
I spoke there about Open Source Communities, and chose to discuss the model used at the Apache Software Foundation, and to share a few of my opinions on why it works so well, when it does. It was actually billed as a panel, sharing a time slot with two other speakers. Rather than the usual back and forth discussion, it was set up as a series of 15 minute speaking slots followed by a joint Q & A. My talk went well despite the usual hiccups with video, microphones and a partially failed attempt to introduce myself in Tagalog.
There were a number of good questions asked in our segment. The most interesting, and hardest, was the question of whether there was a challenge for Filipinos to get involved in open source projects coming from a predominantly non-confrontational culture. This can be a real difficulty, particularly as many projects are based around decision-making structures that involve public disagreement. However, my belief is that in a meritocratic open source community, respect built on accumulated merit should balance this out – and certainly in my experience, Pinoy culture emphasises respect and a non-egocentric demeanour, which makes a very valuable addition to the dynamics of an open source community.
Of course, in reality, communities are never perfect, and it comes down to individual personalities. Speaking more generally, I’d always encourage anyone to participate when they feel they have something useful to offer. If they are unable, or uncomfortable, to do that in a particular project, they have the choice to try and change it from within, or invest energy elsewhere. It’s the responsibility of the members of a project themselves to ensure they do not have any invisible barriers to participation for contributors who could make very valuable technical contributions – and it is their loss otherwise. After all, the "open" in open source is about more than just the code!
Anyway, no trip to Cebu is complete without discussing the food. We ate at a couple of old favourites there, but another stand out was a small group of us getting all-you-can-eat Japanese. I’m still recovering 3 weeks later! Good times.