Ten years of open source with OW2

[This is the transcript of my talk given on June 26th, 2017 at the OW2con’17. It includes link to videos. The recorded video is available on the conference website.]

Let me apologize in advance, since I’m not giving a purely celebrative speech. I’ll rather try to give you some suggestions on the role of open source and OW2 in the next years.  What I have learnt over these ten years is that acting in the open source communities means looking to the future, not looking at the past.

But let’s start now celebrating.


I still remember when, in 2006, we met in Paris, Brussels and in Rome to prepare the launch of OW2. First events and meetings. An exciting start, a lot of enthusiasm and expectations.


Main reasons to be a member of OW2:

  • to learn how the open source community operates (from the inside)
  • to enter a wide network of contacts
  • to act in a multivariate and international context
  • to be an actor in the open-source ecosystem and grow one’s reputation.


Do you remember? Many activities, initiatives, first projects, balancing the European and the Chinese communities, the launch of Ecosystem Local Chapters… Some have been successful, some failed … Step by step our self-awareness as a team and external reputation have grown. A community with fundamental European roots.


During this journey I met people with diverse attitudes: optimists, pessimists, realists, opportunists, some Napoleons and also naïve, passionate people.


After ten years, we have many new friends. Some of them are happy to celebrate OW2 now.

Video: Greetings by OW2 friends from OSCON 2017


On the other hand,  after ten years, what have we achieved?

OW2 is a mature and lively community with a clear vision of the future, that leads projects to reach  market awareness, thus preserving the spirit of open-source and, above all, OW2 is a community of friends.

What’s in it for Engineering, and probably for the other members as well? The achievement of full open-source awareness, competence and leadership, as well as the achievement of world-wide reputation for its open source projects.


Some lessons learned. First of all:  open source is a path, not a destination. It reinvents relationships and business dynamics, it gives access to a wide network of contacts. As a consequence, you mustn’t skip to the end of the path, but walk the path. This means: take the leadership, introduce actionable activities, be agile, give (and justify) tangible results, be a driver for change.

You may expect resistance to this cultural change, nonetheless commit people to making things happen and always remember that  collective benefits (what’s in it for us) are more valuable than personal benefits (what’s in it for me).


Let’s have a look at the future now. The new challenge is facing the digital transformation era.


It’s causing the technological disruption in workplaces. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Her, a very nice movie where the main actor interacts with an operating system falling in love with “her” (yes, it’s a sexed operating system).   You can see many possible technological improvements in the near future, and something is happening right now. Novel capabilities such as self-repairing code, voice-enabled everything, autonomous cars are offering new opportunities, but they are reducing the need for people in workplaces and also IT professionals.


Let’s see an example. Something that you can see in Italy (and now in France) An algorithm generates custom packaging, replacing work of creatives and designers.

Video: Algorithm designs sever million different jars of Nutella


Digitalization is unstoppable , it provides new opportunities, but also causes uncertainty and loss of confidence


Some thoughts about the near future.

About INFRASTRUCTURES: IT users look for fully integrated and simple-to-use products.  Open source is a key ingredient, but  usability and integration are more important to many customers. We don’t need more  open source projects that do the same thing, just slightly better. We need to start by defining the layers and components in the new stack, followed by APIs and protocols. Or  very brand new projects! If we fail, we’ll be enslaved by the cloud

About DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: it asks for a change of mindset, to enter the data-driven culture

About CONNECTED PEOPLE & OBJECTS: there is a need for standards, security, privacy, …

DIGITAL  BUSINESS demands  opportunity-oriented initiatives, bottom-up experimentation, data discovery, agile development and immediate use, hackatons, sandboxes and  fablabs instead of traditional events and conferences, exploration and innovation, tactical/responsive approaches


Let’s see now some new problems

Intellectual property refers to copyright and copyleft. Open source is about software (IP) sharing. To open or to close, i.e. to share or to protect, this is the software release dilemma. Analytics are based on algorithms and the latter include both the analytical model and the code. That’s why data analysts and providers are not keen on sharing. A lot to learn from open source and a lot to do again.

Digital ethics is becoming an emerging topic. We can define it as a system of values and moral principles to conduct digital interactions among people, business and things.


Referring to digital ethics, let’s have a deeper insight into algorithms. Here are  a couple of examples.

Generally speaking, algorithms replicate people bias, but  cannot be biased. They embed traditional (and new) evils of social discrimination. In literature we have many examples about this. “A computer program for initial screening of job applicants used information from applicants’ forms, which contained no reference to ethnicity. The program was found to unfairly discriminate against female applicants and ethnic minorities, less likely to be selected for interviews. Something similar happens with credit score for mortgage payments. And algorithms are generally black-boxes. They are closed. We don’t know how they work.

Deep learning, the new emerging analytical technique, and artificial intelligence, are creating computer systems that we don’t fully understand.

A responsible answer is to design for fairness, diversity, transparency and neutrality. We need transparency and public control. A lot to learn from open source!


Second example is named the tragedy of commons. It’s an ethical and social dilemma. The autonomy given to machine intelligence  can result in situations where it has to make autonomous choices involving humans.

Video: Moral Machine – Human Perspectives on Machine Ethics

For instance,  self-driving cars , when the brakes fail,  may keep going and hit the pedestrians (and save passengers inside the car) or, on the other hand, crash to  a barrier affecting all passengers. It’s a moral decision made by an algorithm.

Morale Machine is a platform for  building a crowd-sourced picture of human opinion on how machines should make decisions when facing moral dilemmas. We don’t have “the answer”, but we got more than 5 million responses given by more than 1 million people. Discussion is open and we need time to get this far-reaching solution.


During a Gartner briefing, an analyst of this firm (and you know how much Gartner is close to open source) said that data-driven culture means a change of mindset and behaviors. I totally agree!

But listen to his words. He said that  the traditional items should be replaced as follows. Stewardship over ownership. Facilitation over control. Sharing over securing. Curation over governance. Ethics over legalities. Do you, open source guys, come up with something new?


The key word for digital transformation is  trust. We cannot have  progress without trust. Data and artifacts increase their value when shared, and sharing is based on trust. Steady business relationships are based on trust. Networks are based on trust. There is no sharing without trust.

The first question that we’ll have to answer in the future is not whether we must trust someone or something, but: what’s the trustworthy threshold we can accept?


When we don’t have choices? See the Moral machine example. An ethical dilemma has been transformed into a social dilemma. Now the question is: What’s the trade-off?


Here the role of open source comes. We can use some old Greek language meaningful terms. First one is ethos. Ethos refers to how you live, how you act. It leads to reputation: a key value in open source.

Second one is pathos: hearts are more important than minds!

Ethos and pathos embraced by transparency. A lot to do and spread for open source communities again!


In 2010 I wrote a paper entitled “Which open source software for the current decade? Five questions for the future”. It’s now time to answer its final question: “Which approaches and real opportunities do we need to adopt in order to lead the business and technological innovation towards a new knowledge-intensive way of producing and living?”


First answer is: give people a vision. They ask for a vision, they need a vision. Give them a vision.


Second answer. We are entering a new era in which technical acumen must be balanced with creative insights. That flows from the study of the humanities. This skillset empowers IT professionals to climb the value chain to become a software architect, a systems designer, a data scientist or a creator of content. Here a great role is in school education and cultural roots.

Encourage people to trust other people, to be free (of charge), be empathetic, embrace love.

Remember that humans, not algorithms or software, have ethical abilities.

Let me say now that OW2 has a great potential for this as the open source community with European roots.


Now I’m approaching the conclusion. What’s my personal approach to digital transformation? I apologize with my French friends that are going to see something that is not new for them. But I’m for Emma.

Video: Le papier a un grand avenir

That’s why it’s time for me to make room for colleagues younger than me. I’ve recently left my role as the representative of Engineering Group in OW2. This is my last talk here as a manager of  Engineering.


You can imagine what’s my legacy to Engineering. That’s why Engineering is  happy to celebrate OW2’s tenth anniversary now!

Video: Engineering celebrates OW2’s 10th anniversary


Thank you all!