Landmark in a Long Journey — Creative Commons Global Summit 2019

Sebastiaan ter Burg 2019, Creative Commons Global Summit 2019, , CC-BY 2.0

I am bad in making important decisions in life, but sometimes I was brought to places I never dreamed of.

Creative Commons about lifting the fear of sharing copyrighted content legally and internationally. We promote cooperation and create win-win situations in a world where many in power prefer winners take all. I made the right decision to attend the Creative Commons Global Summit 2019 this year and ended up as a keynote speaker.

So, how did I end up on stage as a keynote?

Photo credit: Kin Ko

In my early years, I knew that I was interested in research and I was doing well in school. I further tested out this career path by working as a research assistant in 1996–7. By then the future obviously lay with the Internet. I was interest in how communities could be built virtually without face-to-face interaction. These communities were supported by online tools such as forums and newsgroup which were offered for free in the dot-com era. I already questioned the sustainability, especially in terms of financing these virtual communities. I wanted to make it my PhD research topic. My first PhD supervisor stopped me and she was right as the dot-com boom then followed by the bust. The services of many free tools ended. Even for Twitter, only recently in 2018, it became consistently profitable.

At the end of the dot-com boom, Linux and Open Source became keywords for IPO. For example, VA Linux Systems broke the record for the largest first day gain by raising 698% above the IPO price. By then, I had a change in PhD supervisor and searching for a new research topic as well. “Open Source” caught my attention and I ended up studying web sites that facilitated Free/Open Source software (FOSS) development such as SourceForge (The BitKeeper/Git episode only started to unfold …). My supervisor and I was wondering if Open Source was going to bust just like dot-com at the beginning, but by the end of my PhD, we were both sure that it was here to stay. That was more than ten years ago and it was lucky to end up with the right research area.

I also released my PhD result as public domain and PhD thesis under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs v2.5 License and upload it to the Internet so that it can be discovered and read globally. This increased the circulation of my research and part of the result was quoted in the Jolt Productivity Award-winning book “Producing Open Source Software” by Karl Fogel (1st Edition). This was my first encounter with Creative Commons.

While in hindsight the research area I ended up in was good, Free/Open Source Software was not mainstream and my expertise was not in high demand. Nevertheless, when there was an opening, I was the expert around. When Creative Commons Hong Kong was launched in 2008, I was employed as the project manager for 1 year. Unfortunately funds ran out and there was no paid staff for Creative Commons Hong Kong until today.

As Hong Kong is a business hub in Asia, and so a number of members in the Creative Commons Hong Kong community cared about business models such as Pindar Wong and Ben Cheng. Some friends such as Henry Law and I tried to promote Software Freedom Day for 2019 by producing 4 episodes of PodCast (online radio programme) in Cantonese. We ended up doing 37 episodes covering FOSS and related topics. I was responsible for the 26th episode on May 11, 2010 featuring Open Business Models. We covered models suggested in the GNU Manifesto by Richard Stallman in 1985 to something I only learnt recently at that time — alternative compensation model — I attended the very first Creative Commons APAC conference and Taiwan with Prof. William W. Fisher was the keynote and explained this concept clearly with a mind map.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and 2017, I presented at the Free/Open Source Software at the Hong Kong Open Source Conference in two consecutive years. Again I tried use business as a starting point to introduce FOSS to the audience. The presentation 2016 was titled Be Innovative with Copyright — Introduction to Open Source Business Models and 2017 was titled Better than Free Giveaways — Case Studies of Open Source Business Models (with video) .

The last Creative Commons Global Summit I attended was held in 2015 at Seoul. I am actually quite lazy when it comes to travelling. Lisbon in Portugal is quite far. As I took up the position of Public Lead of Creative Commons Hong Kong, I should be better connected with the global community. So I decided to go. I checked the programme of the last summit and there were not many sessions on businesses, even a new book on Open Business Model, “Made with Creative Commons”, was not published long ago. To increase the chance of getting a conference scholarship, I submitted a talk on Open Business Model that I am confident to present (actually, I could quickly filled up the Google forms and submitted). I was in as a lightning talk speaker and my travel and hotel would be sponsored. Great!

Then I received an email about a chance to review my talk and coaching. I was teaching part-time in a tertiary institute but did not get much feedback. This would be a good chance for self-improvement. Having a schedule could also prevent myself to be lazy. Then I found out that rather than having big names to be keynote speakers for the summit, we were going to have keynote speakers from the community. I only found out after I was selected. Very soon, I was on stage.

So how was it like to be a keynote? I will talk about this in the next article.

The slide of the keynote presentation can be found here. The video recording is coming.

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This is not about the ill-fated grocery chain. I am a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) contributor in Hong Kong, rambling about life.

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This is not about the ill-fated grocery chain. I am a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) contributor in Hong Kong, rambling about life.