Windowsless in Seattle, part 6

The war (and MS Build) is over

Hacking the hours away during Ms bUILD

Sometimes the argument between two different ways of understanding the technology, pay-per-use vs. free to share, is told as a war, as in us vs. them or evil vs. motherhood and apple pie and the American way of life. There are never such clear cut lines between fields, but then that’s the case also for real war.

That is why, when people see Microsoft adopting open source, using Linux and even including it as part of its products, are eager to declare “War is over, and we won”.

That is a great thing to think, and you feel great and cuddly as you ride your laptop into the sunset. However, in technological war, as in real life, wars are never won by anyone. There are deaths and, after a lot of flag waving, well, it has been a bloody war.

Besides, framing this in terms of war begs to argue who has really won. I am still surrounded by proprietary software in places where it probably should not be. I still see scant support by the administrations to a way of developing not only software, but knowledge, that should be the default one in publicly funded projects or organisms. And I still find it difficult to acquire computers that have OEM free operating systems or that make as easy as peeling a scab to install it. If this is how wars are won, well, I don’t see it’s still the moment to turn our swords into ploughshares. Mainly because we have no idea what is a ploughshare. If it’s the Uber of crop harvesting, maybe it’s something we should be looking for venture capital to fund. But it does not seem to be, so still talking about wars and about winning them, or not, does not help anyone, or for that matter the technology.

It does help, however, to hold hackathons which is the way to go if you want to engage the community. During a hackathon today, I have been helped by the expert guidance of Adrien Blind to create a data container for environmental data in Andalucía. Several other projects were hurled to the small crowd gathered there, and Microsoft professionals along with assorted hackers were keying away in their laptops with all the right stickers in them. After lunch, the people in charge of the Technical Advisory Groups (to which, full disclosure, I belong) has emphasized the need to listen, coordinate and help. Is that winning a war? It looks more like nurturing and caring about a community created around open source projects whose main engineers work for a company.

Eventually, we devs like to meet each other, talk trash and trade, and learn new things. MS Build is completely different from FOSDEM except where it is exactly the same: people meeting around open source and sharing knowledge. FOSDEM is filled to the hilts with it, while MS Build has it only in a few rooms, in a few minutes during the keynotes, and in a few stands. Not perfect, but it looks like for some reason Microsoft has taken a bit of the love potion number nine and is kissing everyone in sight. Or just a few. Be that as it may, I think it is better to express what has happened with Microsoft and open source in terms of love, as in the penguin featured in the first article in this series, instead of war.

Because love always trumps war.

Check out the previous installment of this series, with links to all the others.