I had the pleasure of being invited to a panel discussion on Open Source contribution at Infosys Bangalore, conducted last month as part of their inaugaral internal Open Source event called OSSmosis. This event intends to be a point of confluence for like-minded thinkers within Infosys and Kushal, Ratnadeep and I were invited primarily to share our experiences as Open Source contributors and our motivation for contributing to Free and Open Source Software.
I was crunched for time, so I had to fly into Bangalore in the morning and fly back in the evening. The result was that I missed the keynote by Alan Kay, which I was told was quite amazing. I did however get to attend an interesting talk by Pankaj Gupta on how Twitter uses and contributes to Free and Open Source Software and also how an organization could identify portions of its IP to keep confidential and open source the rest. Most importantly, he said the one thing that matters most: write your code as if the whole world can see it. This is something every open source hacker knows and understands and it was good to see it spelled out verbatim.
We had a very good discussion at lunch about how Docker, Rocket and Openshift were playing out in the market. We also discussed briefly about how Infosys could make it easier for its associates to become contributors. In my opinion, the biggest question a lot of employees at outsourcing companies face is that of code ownership. This was acknowledged as one of the more difficult obstacles.
Lunch was followed by a couple of case studies within Infosys on open source usage and contribution. The contribution bit is still being worked out but it was good to see willingness to tackle the problem. Our panel discussion was one of the last events. I got to relive my antidialer and ayttm days; funnily, I forgot to mention my contribution to glibc, maybe because I felt I ran out of time and wanted others, more importantly Kushal, who I feel has more entertaining stories than I do, more time to talk. We had a couple of interesting questions, including one about whether Open Source would ever make its mark in the applications space, i.e. in the space of ERPs and other business-specific domains. My opinion of that was that it won’t happen until there is a concerted effort in that direction. Business-specific domains are not problems engineers are capable of working on by themselves and they require significant amounts of input from non-technical sources. Besides, the major driving force for such applications is businesses and unless businesses invest their resources in making such a project happen, open source applications will never be a major threat to the proprietary world. That said, there already are some open source applications out there like SugarCRM and OpenERP.
I had to end my involvement in a hurry after that since I had to return to the airport in time for my return flight. As it turned out, Spicejet decided it was in no hurry and delayed by flight by over an hour; I guess I am lucky that it did not get cancelled. However, despite that, it felt worthwhile to attend the event and see a serious effort by one of the major driving forces in IT in India to encourage adoption of Open Source technologies and more importantly to encourage contribution to Open Source within its organization.