Today I’m witnessing the collision of my former self and who I have become. Today I’m at the Software Development Best Practices Conference and Exposition. When I was a software development manager for many years this was the one conference I was never able to attend (yes, I am bitter but that’s a whole other story). So I’m very excited and happy that I’m finally attending, even better I also get to share the SNAP Development Center story.
Leading up to the conference, I started to perceive that the Software Development community (as defined by this conference)and the Open Source community were separate. I observed that there didn’t seem to be many open source related sessions nor open source related exhibitors. Now that I’ve been to a few sessions, I have confirmed that these communities are fairly apart from each other. This really surprises me. On the one hand, as I led an open source project for nearly the last two years, it is easy to believe that everyone sees the benefits and value of open source software. On the other hand, most of the sponsors and many of their participants here earn their living from proprietary software. So it should be no surprise why these communities are not converging. There is some overlap between them, but I just some how expected more of it.
Two anecdotes from this morning illustrate how far apart these communities seem to be. First, one of the presenters was speaking on user interface design issues and habits when he excitedly shared that our browser was going to be coming with a tabbed interface. I was like, but, but, but, I’ve been using tabbed browsing for more than two years now. It then hit me (it took me a moment to switch my community viewpoint). He was speaking about Internet Explorer. I was completely shocked. Everyone I know uses Mozilla Firefox, so for me I implicitly thought that everyone did. It’s amazing how completely I have switched communities, and how that switch has changed my perception of what is normal.
This has made me think something I never contemplated before. I wonder how many Internet users have never heard of Firefox? If they have heard of it, I wonder if they have tried to download and install it? Finally, if they did try Firefox, do they still continue to use Internet Explorer? These questions are really tough to even conceive of, if one is locked into the open source world view. As a software developer and Internet user, it is almost trivial to find, install and switch to Firefox. So why aren’t more people using Firefox?
The second anecdote involves a discussion I had with a developer of a niche scientific software solutions. We were talking about C#, and he said he loved the language. However, he said that he would love it even more, but that he worried about people decompiling the intermediate language and gaining access to his source logic. I didn’t know what to say about that, except to mentally note that this was a great example of how far these two communities are apart from each other. Somehow, I believe that his perspective is now so foreign to me that I can no longer find a way to reconcile it with my new point of view. I also feel that perspective lock-in (from either community) is a risky situation, and that we should work together to minimize the adverse affects of the decisions we might make when stuck in either point of view.
Can these two world views live in peace?