My OSCON 2009 Talk on Open Source in Government

The good people at O’Reilly have posted my Open Source in Government talk at OSCON 2009 on It’s also on YouTube. I’ll admit to cringing a bit when I started watching, but I’m pretty happy with how it all went.

Open source has a posse.

Here are the slides.

In the panel afterward, someone asked my why open source developers should be helping companies make money on open source software, or helping the military-industrial complex or the prison system. I completely sympathize. There’s no reason whatever that someone should help the military or the prison system if they don’t want to. Those were just the examples that I used. There are many opportunities to work with the government elsewhere, especially at the local level. A good way to start is by finding something that’s annoying or broken in your local schools or library, and use open source software to fix it. Open Source for America should be making it easier for people to find these opportunities. But more on that later.

As to why developers should help commercial open source companies make money, that’s some well-trod territory. But I’ll take a stab. The point of the organization isn’t to make these companies richer, the point is to make it easier for the government to adopt open source. That’s an inherently good thing. I fully expect people to make money as a result of this — that’s how we know it’s working. Open source creates opportunities and makes it easier for people to enter a market. That’s great, right?

In all, I’m happy with the talk, I’m happy with the questions I got, and I was very happy with all the great feedback I got. Thanks to O’Reilly for giving me the time.