FUDCon Zurich, Day 0

This morning I arrived in Zurich for the FUDCon conference here, which starts bright and early tomorrow morning.  Getting here was a bit on the interesting side… On my flight from Richmond to Atlanta yesterday, one of the plane’s engines started overheating, so we cut the flight short and landed in Greensboro, NC instead. (Rumor on the plane was that Air Force One was also landing there about the same time, and they had to wait for us — I’m not really sure I believe any of that story.)  After a couple of hours of waiting, they put us on another plane and got us to Atlanta.  Luckily, I had time to catch my connection in Atlanta for Zurich.  The flight was uneventful, and I spent the time typing on my laptop and sleeping for a few hours.

I arrived here in Zurich about 8:00am this morning, and quickly caught the hotel shuttle to the hotel.  The hotel didn’t have my room ready yet, so I hung out in the lobby for a few hours and worked on some presentation slides I’ve been meaning to touch up.  By noon Jesse Keating had arrived, and Tom and Mo showed up soon after that as well.  After a shower, I felt human again.

A bit later this afternoon, the four of us met up with Adam Williamson (who was already here) and went out for lunch.  Sandro had recommended we try a traditional Swiss restaurant called “Swiss Chuchi” which is right outside the Hotel Adler fairly close to the central train station.  We took the S7 train from right next to the hotel (in the direction of Rapperswil) to the main train station (Zurich HB or “Central”), then caught a tram from there to area of the restaurant.  It took us a few minutes to find the right street from there, but soon we were eating.  Several of us tried different flavors of fondue.  It was delicious.  While there, we ran into Bert from Belgium.

After finishing lunch, we caught a tram towards the ETH Zurich campus to check in with Sandro and Marcus and see if we could help get things setup.  I read the map wrong and took us several blocks out of the way, and then we had a hard time finding the right building.  In the end, we found where we were supposed to be, and helped setup power and network for the conference.  (For the record, we’re in the CHB building, on floor D.) From there, we took the #10 tram back to the central station and the S7 train (in the direction of Winterthur) back to the hotel.

I’ve now caught up on a few more emails, made a quick call home to my wife, typed this blog post. Now I’m ready to call it a night.  The conference begins at 9:00 in the morning, so I’d better get some sleep.

Good, Better, Best

I’m a firm believer in the open source development model.  That’s not to say it’s perfect, and I certainly don’t want to imply that it’s the most efficient was of building software.  In fact, from an outsider’s view, it probably looks quite chaotic, and maybe even counter-productive at times.  During my FUDCon Santiago presentation in July, I shared part of the speech that US President John F. Kennedy gave at the Berlin Wall in 1963, which I think helps illustrate the point.  President Kennedy said:

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.

I’d go so far as to say that free software has many difficulties and open source development is not perfect.  Thankfully, we don’t have to put up walls to keep our users in.  (I’d love to talk about the difference between a “walled garden” and a “friendly prison” another day, but that’s not the point of today’s blog post.)

It’s understandable that people get animated about the technical decisions that go in inside of open source communities.  What’s unfortunate, though, is that the conversations often turn ugly, and the communication shifts from arguing about “what is right” to “who is right”, and then goes downhill from there.  My wife recently reminded me (as she was discussing politics with some friends) that most decisions we argue about these days aren’t yes/no, good/bad, right/left types of decisions, but are instead decisions that lie somewhere on the continuum between good, better, and best.

So, next time a mailing list troll baits you by telling you that you’re wrong and he or she is right, please take a moment to reflect on whether it’s really a question of good vs. bad, or whether both opinions find themselves between “good” and “best”.  Seeing things from another perspective might just help smooth over some of the rough edges in open source development.