LCA: The Business of Open Source, New Zealand, January 2010

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The "Business of Open Source" miniconf at LCA 2010 provided a venue to discuss business aspects of open source.

The slides can be found below.


Ten Ways to Destroy Your Community, by Josh Berkus

In this session, open-source-community expert Josh Berkus shares his 10-step method guaranteed to wipe out your community and bring your project back under control. Spread a little weed killer before that community growth gets too fast. Learn important tips and tricks from someone who has participated in some of the most unsuccessful open-source communities at Sun Microsystems and elsewhere. For example, find out:

  • Why open-source communities are evil
  • How to turn the community against itself
  • Why lawyers are your greatest asset
  • That the most powerful community destruction method is also the easiest

This presentation is a must-hear for all project managers, developers, and executives who have had an open-source community thrust upon them. Don't give in--fight back!

Josh Berkus is a professional Open Source Guy, having worked on, PostgreSQL, OpenSolaris, Perl, LedgerSMB, CivicDB and others. He also regularly speaks at OSCON, pgCon, FISL, and many other open source conferences around the world on engineering and community management.

Sharing Package Copyright and Licensing Data Effectively, by Kate Stewart

Every organization putting out a distro/board support package, has to do legal due diligence to make sure the licensing is adhered to and the copyrights reflect appropriate contributions. For pre-existing packages, this essentially means each team has to figure out the facts from the source code (either manually or by scanning tools), summarize the information and present the facts to their legal team for assessment. Packages can come from a wide variety of sources, and with a variety of licenses.

Each organization has to go through the same fact discovery process, for an existing package, prior to submission to their legal team. This is potentially redundant work, as other teams are discovering the same facts, on the public packages, over and over again. By collaborating on sharing the facts for a package, more eyes can review it, and the quality of the facts improves. By sharing these facts in a public repository, in some standard form, multiple teams can re-use the data. Standardizing on a format, which contains the necessary facts to satisfy the legal teams, is the key to effective reuse of this information between companies.

Kate Stewart is the manager of Power architecture Linux team at Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (We contribute to linux, u-boot, gnu toolchain). After breaking through the corporate legal maze to get changes to open source authorized, have grown the number of contributors with accepted patches. Initially it was a single individual, and is now multiple teams in North America, India and China. Have presented at various company conferences, as well as ACM/IEEE conference in the '90s. Have served on conference paper selection and review committees. Prior to Motorola/Freescale, was part of the Toronto Optimizing Back End compiler project, at IBM, and worked on performance optimizations for the Power Architecture. My Masters degree is from University of Waterloo in Computer Science.

Get your personal financial house in order with gnucash, by Jacinta Richardson

Do you know your net worth? Can you find out quickly? How much did you spend on groceries last month? Was that more or less than what you spent on transport? How does that compare to the previous month, how about last year?

The best preparation you can make for starting a new business is to get your current financial situation in order. Starting a business has up-front costs you'll need to be able to cover. Some can wait, but not all. Even if you get a contract on day 1, you'll probably have to wait until the work is done, or a month has passed before you can invoice for it. Most businesses expect to have 30+ days to pay their invoices, so you need to be prepared to survive for at least 2 months, and possibly up to 6 months without any income for the work you're putting in. Do you have enough money to cover rent, food, utilities etc for that long? How much fat can you trim from your current spending?

This talk will cover how to manage your personal finances with gnucash, from first starting and creating appropriate categories, to reconciling and invoice entry. Although I will use gnucash exclusively for examples, all the relevant theory and ideas are applicable to any decent double-entry accounting system.

Jacinta Richardson is managing director of Perl Training Australia, with more than a decade of experience in teaching, software engineering and technical writing. She is an internationally acclaimed conference speaker, and a regular presenter at Perl Mongers and other technical user groups throughout Australia. Jacinta is passionate about increasing the participation of women in Open Source Software.

In 2008 Jacinta received the prestigious White Camel award for her outstanding contributions to the Perl community. In her spare time Jacinta enjoys scuba diving, cycling, and baking.

Open Hardware Products, by Joel Stanley (presenter), David Rowe and Edwin Chen

For three years the authors have been developing custom, mass produced hardware products tailored to the needs of open software. If a open source developer needs an embedded hardware platform, they usually select a non-ideal, compromise solution from what is available off the shelf. This is crazy as 90% of the value of today's products is derived from the software. Open source developers should be driving the hardware - not the other way around. This talk is about a new idea - partnering with hardware manufacturers to develop custom hardware that is exactly right for the open source project. No more compromises. Since 2007 the presenters have been involved with several open source projects that involved custom harwdware. In particular, David Rowe (Free Telephony Project) has partened with Atcom to develop several open source (and even open hardware) VOIP products. Joel has worked on the OLPC hardware. Edwin from Atcom has had a very positive experience with open source and would like to meet more open source developers and if possible help develop the hardware side of their projects. The talk will tell the story of our partnership, and explain the possibilities of close collaboration between hardware companies and open source developers.

Joel Stanley is a part time Electrical Engineering student at the University of Adelaide, and part time Software Engineer, and full time embedded hardware geek. In recent years he has spent time interning at for One Laptop per Child in Boston, and more recently working on the Linux port of Chromium as part of his second stint as a Google Summer of Code student.


He has presented on OLPC - both the project and the XO-1 hardware - to audiences in California, Romania, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and has been a attendee of OSDC and over the past 6 years. He as also given talks on embedded hardware interests at LinuxSA, the Adelaide Linux users group, and the Embedded Miniconf at


Joel has recently become involved in the Village Telco project as a beta tester and developer of the Mesh Potato hardware, a custom FOSS hardware product developed by Atcom and David Rowe.


Accessibility requirements of software and implications for FOSS, by Nic Steenhout

One of the major potential clients or adopters of FOSS are government departments or governmental organisations. Many FOSS projects want to expand in that area.

In many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and most of Europe, legislation or regulation require access to information in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities.

In the same countries anti-discrimination legislation or regulation require employers not to discriminate on the basis of disability.

The impact of these two aspects of legislation on FOSS is often not considered, yet it is potentially a major barrier to FOSS acceptance both by government or by business. If their website, services, or both are not accessible and usable by people with disabilities, they run afoul of the law. If they routinely use software that someone with a disability is unable to use, they may be unable to hire an employee with a disability – opening themselves to discrimination complaints.

This presentation will give an overview of accessibility requirements for FOSS projects from a perspective of helping potential customers meet their legal requirements.

Nic Steenhout is passionate about disability rights and equal access to software and information. An individual with a disability himself, he first worked with web accessibility in the mid 1990's.

He has been involved with many FOSS projects since the early 2000's. Nic was a core developper on both Mambo and Joomla!.

Nic has presentated to governments, businesses, community groups, and IT conferences mainly on the topic of disability awareness, building accessibility, and website accessibility since the early 1990's.

In his spare time, Nic enjoys cooking and photography, often combining both to do food photography.

The 100 Mile Client Roster, by Emma Jane Hogbin

In small-town Canada we have seen an increase in the "cottage industry" as retirees cash out of urban centres and move to the country. These micro-enterprise businesses often have only the owner (and their partner) as staff. Although the businesses offer a huge range of services, they have one thing in common--very small budgets. Individually these businesses can rarely afford expert technical support and services and as a result they often end up experiencing vendor lock-in in the worst possible ways.

By combining the idea of a LUG and a Chamber of Commerce, it is possible to subvert the proprietary economic model and gain new clients in the process. In this presentation Emma Jane Hogbin you show you how to convert businesses to FOSS by creating a sustainable, technology focused, business network. Pulling from experiences with her own client user group, Hogbin will show you how to: create self-sufficient clients that still pay you money; manage expectations (client budgets and contractor time); attract new clients by distinguishing yourself from your competitors; define and achieve success; and spread the ethos of free and open source software into the business world.

Emma Jane Hogbin is a Canadian Internet consultant, F/LOSS advocate and the founder of the rural technology community consultancy HICK Tech. After spending ten years in Canada’s largest city working as a college professor and open source Web developer, Emma brought her urban Web 2.0 experiences back to the country. She has been learning about the real impact of community on technology ever since. Her raucous presentations on women in FOSS and world domination have inspired a new wave of action and hope around the world.

Building a service business using open source software, by Cameron Beattie

At the intersection of the trends toward services and away from proprietary software, there is an emerging industry in developing and integrating open source software to deliver services. These services enable the service provider to maintain a competitive advantage both through differentiation and cost. Find out how you can capitalise on these emerging trends.

Cameron Beattie is the founder, majority shareholder and Managing Director of Conversant, New Zealand's leading virtual phone system provider. Cameron has architected the platform from the ground up using Open Source software such as Asterisk, Kamailio, Adempiere, Intalio BPMS and many others.

Cameron has a Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Law (Honours) degree from the University of Auckland. From 1992, Cameron worked in business process re-engineering, change management and Enterprise Resource Planning throughout Europe, America and Australasia. This gave him substantial expertise in the tools and processes that make businesses more successful. Whilst in the UK he started a successful Application Service Provider. Returning to New Zealand in 2004, he discovered our local businesses didn't have the same opportunity to benefit from open source software or internet phone systems that equivalent companies have overseas and so Conversant was born.

Being an Upstarta - building FLOSS compatible businesses, by Arjen Lentz

Ideas that are weird to some are common sense to others. Funnily, when people in our sphere start and build a business, many of the philosophical basics from FLOSS appear to not get followed, for perfectly sensible (business) reasons. This tutorial aims to correct the presumption that that path is inevitable.

Choices have consequences, and even when you don't make a specific decision, your business processes (and hence its culture) evolve from what and how you do things. So in most ways, you (can) define your own future!

The currently defined foundations for an Upstarta are:

  1. Neither a borrower nor a lender be (ref:Polonius): no credit or external funding.
  2. Work on the basis of a 0 budget.
  3. Have a flexible business plan designed to explore, learn and adapt.
  4. Pragmatic on Intellectual Property (IP): speed-to-market over protection. No software patents.
  5. Put profitability before growth.
  6. Set sensible and reasonable prices, not try to extract maximum $ per customer.
  7. Be disruptive/extraordinary: it makes no sense to sell the same as everyone else.
  8. Eliminate/minimise impact to environment
  9. Focus on people (internal and external), prevent stress
  10. No spam. Not if you call it "email blast" either. Newsletter for clients is fine.

From these foundations follow many other things, and each business and geographic location has specific needs also. The session covers some of these aspects, sufficient for people to decide whether they like it but also giving many practical ideas they can use straight away. As with all of my presentations and tutorials, interactivity is a major part of the session. Many of the ideas can be used in any startup, it's just when you apply them all effectively that the special magic can happen.

Arjen and Elspeth created after Brisbane Barcamp III in July 2009; it's a user group (not a business itself) of people who use or are otherwise interested in these concepts, mentor each other actively (online and at meetings), and share information/resources.