Open Web Vancouver opens with a Pirate Party and a look at Women in Open Source

I must confess, I wasn’t expecting much from the Open Web Vancouver conference. I read the schedule, and perhaps the strong emphasis on Drupal turned me off, but I didn’t find myself salivating like I do when I go to An Event Apart’s website. And as the saying goes, you pay for what you get; so how good can a $150 conference be? Yesterday’s day one proved me wrong.

The morning’s session was opened by two keynote speakers and left me inspired and eager to learn more about the Open Source community.

The first keynote was given by Rick Falkvinge on one of Sweden’s political party, the Pirate Party, whose platform is to reform laws regarding copyrights and patents and other civil liberties issues. The Pirate Party succeeded in gaining popularity and attention simply by using the Internet and very little money. In fact their campaign budget during the last election consisted of only $50K. As a result of the communication tools and methods they’ve used, they are now the political party with the largest percentage of voters 30 years old and younger. This of course as alarmed other politicians who have never been able to reach out to this age group.

Now that the Pirate Party has secured a seat in the European Parliament, it will be interesting to see if other political parties start discussing issues such as privacy and file sharing. Just like Al Gore has put Global Warming on everyone’s mind, Rick Falvinge is spreading the word about what needs to be done to create a better online world for all of us and he deserved the standing ovation which followed his presentation.

Following this great keynote, came Angie Byron who spoke about Women in Open Source or rather lack of. I was a bit surprised that this topic was chosen and discussed. I’ve been working as a so called “geek” for a over a decade and never experienced any sexism at work or conference and Angie admitted herself that until she started researching the numbers, didn’t think there was a problem either. Turns out the percentage of women in Open Source is staggeringly low. The reasons and solutions that were discussed were obvious and applicable to all minorities, not just women. At least they felt obvious to me, but a few hours later, I read about the incident at Flashbelt’s conference just a few days ago. It seems like a lot of boys think that the saying boys will be boys still stands and should simply be accepted.

Angie provided great advice on how to create a safe and inviting community and how to stop tolerating bullshit. The gem, for me, were her views on contribution to Open Source. Having worked with Open Source during all of my coding years, I’ve realised that I’ve used the stuff, but never really contributed. Providing contribution whether it be marketing, documenting, designing and of course coding, is a great way to empower yourself and feel like you are part of the team.

Looking forward to another great day at Open Web Vancouver today.