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RE: [ox-en] Re: Report from OKCon 2011

Daniel and all,

Thanks for this opportunity to comment directly.

As you know I'm a novice to OKF/OKCon so take my comments in that context.

I think the overall conference content, design and execution was very good
as far as it went. But I would like to see it go further and take up the
broader areas of responsibility that the emerging strength of the "OD
movement" implies.

Two specifics.  Just after getting back to Canada I had occasion to talk to
a very old friend who has a fairly senior (and overview) position within the
Canadian Federal Government.  I asked him specifically about "Open Data" (he
himself is not a techie). What he said was very interesting.  He said that
at his overview-interdepartmental level-Open Data was being taken very
seriously--initially by the techies (CTO's) who saw it as a way of saving
money through creating inter-operability standards etc. But he went on to
say that it was also being taken very seriously by some of the more advanced
thinkers in the policy sphere who were concerned with issues like structures
of governance, access to information policy, public participation and so on.

So my first suggestion is to have a track or at least solicit several
sessions/speakers who can address Open Government Data issues from the
perspective of its impact on broader policy issues of democratic
governance--perhaps both from mainline and critical perspectives--and here I
don't mean techies but rather those in the various governments who are
thinking about the longer term and broader governance impact of OGD. 

Also, just after getting back to Canada, Tracey Lauriault whom many of you
know I guess introduced me to a plenitude of activities in my own back yard
here in Canada specifically addressing some of the "Data Divide" issues that
I was looking to raise--a couple of specific examples being:

EMIS - - Espace Montréalais d'information
sur la santé 
Saskatoon CommunityView Collaboration -

Given the significant support given to the overall direction of my earlier
blogposts I would suggest a further parallel track that dealt quite
specifically with public or community based data
implementations/uses/applications.  This would I think serve to round out
the broader discussion and provide examples and opportunities for meet ups
for those with an interest in this area.

Best to all, and thanks for having me... I very much enjoyed it and hope
that overall my contribution was a postive and constructive one.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-list-en [owner-list-en] On Behalf
Of Daniel Dietrich
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 5:29 AM
To: Stefan Merten
Cc: list-en; Rufus Pollock; Yuwei Lin; peter;
Subject: [ox-en] Re: Report from OKCon 2011

Dear Stefan

Thanks for this feedback. We will definitely take your point in to account
when drafting documentation page for planning upcoming okcons.


On 01.07.2011, at 18:55, Stefan Merten wrote:

Hi list!

I'm just going home from `OKCon 2011`_ in Berlin. I have to say it was
really a great conference and I'm really happy that I were there. 
Knowing what organizing conferences like this means I'd like to say a 
big thank you to the organizers.

I don't have exact numbers but would think that about 200 people
attended the conference.

The conference was rather big in terms of program. For two days there
were five parallel tracks from 10:00-20:00. A regular slot for a 
presentation was only 30 minutes unfortunately so beyond some 
superficial questions there was no room to discuss the things 
presented. Also there were no time in the schedule between the 
sessions so it was always a hurry to change rooms. As a result 
everyone was in a constant hurry which made it difficult to talk to 
each other.

Well, critique aside. As I said the conference was really great. The
program_ did not contain only OKFN core topics but for instance had 
many presentations about Open Hardware. I attended some of them and 
for me they were the most exciting ones.

Since this conference I'm convinced that the Open Hardware stuff will
be the next big thing in peer production. I'm watching peer production 
since twelve years now and this branch of peer production is gaining 
more and more momentum during the last years. There seem to be really 
a lot of hackers out there who really want to hack that mechanical 

When I compare the current state of what I see in Open Hardware
movement with the history of Free Software then I'd say we are 
somewhere around 1987. I.e. the Linux kernel has not yet been invented 
and it's still twelve years until the general breakthrough of this 
stuff. I'm really curious what will happen here.

What really strikes me is that very similar to Free Software the Open
Hardware movement starts with building the basic tools from which more 
Open Hardware can be built. Remember that very early GNU software was 
Emacs (an editor - well at least it can also be used as an editor
;-) ) and the GCC (a C compiler - a very basic tool to compile C 
programs into machine language) with the accompanying toolset. These 
are both very complex programs which are needed to write software - 
proprietary and Free alike. For both tools it took time since they 

Another interesting parallel which I learned about is this. Remember
GNU/Linux 15 years ago. It existed and you could install it but it 
still was better you understood what you are doing. This is no longer 
the case for many years now - nowadays every idiot can install say 
Ubuntu on a normal computer and ends up with a running system. I 
always argued that such a dynamic is possible because in software you 
can automate things and this way obsolete special user abilities. I 
think this type of dynamic is a very important feature to make a 
family of peer products successful. However, I thought that this is a 
special feature of software.

Today I learned that similar things are possible with mechanics. In
his presentation Lieven Standaert briefly compared the RepRap with the 
MakerBot. Although it is possible to build a RepRap it takes weeks to 
build and to fine-tune it so it gets close to some precision without 
which the whole thing makes no sense. The parts of the MakerBot on the 
other hand are created by a laser cutter which has itself a very high 
precision. This high precision is "inherited" to the parts so it's 
easy to quickly build a pretty precise machine even for a laymen. This 
quite closely resembles the dynamic I described above for software: 
you can design things in a way that obsoletes special user abilities. 
Being not an engineer I wonder whether this type of dynamic is 
applicable more generally or whether this is possible only in rare 
instances like this.

I didn't take notes during the presentations but the slides from most
presentations were pretty good so you may check them out when they are 
online (which I guess will happen at some point).

Here are the presentation and talks I attended and I found remarkable
with some short comments:

* `From Openness to Abundance`_ by Glyn Moody

* `Implementing an Open Data programme within government`_ by Andrew

 Andrew gave a very good idea of what it means to implement an Open
Data policy in government.

* `Global open data: a threat or saviour for democracy?`_ by Chris

* `Scholarly Publishing Reform: What Needs to Change?`_ by Björn

 Björn gave us an interesting insight in how the current scholary
rating works - and how flawed it is. Björn also gave some idea of  
what needs to be changed. This may be of special interest for CSPP.

* `Structural changes of the information economy ? Google Books as a
Blueprint?`_ by Jeanette Hofmann

 Jeanette gave us some very good insights into Google Books and how
it changes the way of using books. One only can hope that this will  
not be the blueprint of information economy.

* `The emergence of a free culture movement`_ by Mayo Fuster Morell

 Mayo interprets the things going on around free culture as a social
movement. In her talk she highlighted similarities and differences  
between classical social movements and this social movement.

 I found it interesting to see things this way. As you may know my
approach is to see this movement more as the new "class" which is  
already part of the new society. Its main interest in this society  is 
to support their own interests. This is similar to the early  
capitalists which supported their own interests in the feudal  system. 
They were more part of the upcoming form of society than the  feudal 
one. I guess it was just as difficult to classify these early  
capitalists in terms of feudal notions as it is today for the peer  
production "movement". I talked to Mayo afterwards and I understood  
that basically she agrees with this perspective.

* `We are the Creators!`_ by Till Kreutzer

 Certainly Till's presentation was one of the most entertaining ones
because he gave us some funny videos of mixing culture. Beyond this  
Till gave interesting insights in how copyright and the need to  
license stuff prevents culture to flourish. He finished with some  
suggestions on what needs to be changed on copyright. The most basic  
measure would be to change the focus from the rights of the creators  
to the rights of the public.

* `Developing open & distributed tools for Fablab project
documentation`_ by Anu Määttä

 One of the main ideas of Fablabs is that you can produce designs you
find elsewhere. Anu gave us some insights in the difficulties on how  
to organize a proper documentation so this is actually possible. She  
also presented solutions to this problem.

* `Repairable machines: lessons learned developing open hardware`_ by
Lieven Standaert

 That was the session I talked about above. Check out `Lieven's
website`_ (link is from my memory so might be wrong).

* `Open data as business model`_ by John Sheridan

 Instead of what the title suggests John gave us reasons why there is
a need for a business model for high quality government data: Cuts  in 
public budget which make it increasingly difficult to have high  
quality Open government Data. He argues that for this it is  necessary 
to develop a business model to fund creation of high  quality Open 
government Data.

Unfortunately I had to leave so I missed presentations from Benjamin
Mako Hill, Stefan Meretz and Christian Siefkes. @Mako, StefanMz,
Christian: May be you can tell us about your presentations here.

Well, I also have to say that if I see the level of the more
theoretical discussion on the conference the level we reached here on 
Oekonux is still quite ahead...



.. _OKCon 2011:

.. _program:

.. _From Openness to Abundance:

.. _Implementing an Open Data programme within government:

.. _`Global open data: a threat or saviour for democracy?`:

.. _`Scholarly Publishing Reform: What Needs to Change?`:

.. _Structural changes of the information economy ? Google Books as a

.. _The emergence of a free culture movement:

.. _We are the Creators!:

.. _Developing open & distributed tools for Fablab project

.. _`Repairable machines: lessons learned developing open hardware`:

.. _Lieven's website:

.. _Open data as business model:

Contact: projekt

Contact: projekt

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