OKCon 2011 in Berlin was really a great conference and I'm really happy that I were there. Knowing what organizing conferences like this means I'd like to say a big thank you to the organizers.

I don't have exact numbers but would think that about 200 people attended the conference.

The conference was rather big in terms of program. For two days there were five parallel tracks from 10:00-20:00. A regular slot for a presentation was only 30 minutes unfortunately so beyond some superficial questions there was no room to discuss the things presented. Also there were no time in the schedule between the sessions so it was always a hurry to change rooms. As a result everyone was in a constant hurry which made it difficult to talk to each other.

Well, critique aside. As I said the conference was really great. The program did not contain only OKFN core topics but for instance had many presentations about Open Hardware. I attended some of them and for me they were the most exciting ones.

Since this conference I'm convinced that the Open Hardware stuff will be the next big thing in peer production. I'm watching peer production since twelve years now and this branch of peer production is gaining more and more momentum during the last years. There seem to be really a lot of hackers out there who really want to hack that mechanical stuff.

When I compare the current state of what I see in Open Hardware movement with the history of Free Software then I'd say we are somewhere around 1987. I.e. the Linux kernel has not yet been invented and it's still twelve years until the general breakthrough of this stuff. I'm really curious what will happen here.

What really strikes me is that very similar to Free Software the Open Hardware movement starts with building the basic tools from which more Open Hardware can be built. Remember that very early GNU software was Emacs (an editor - well at least it can also be used as an editor ;-) ) and the GCC (a C compiler - a very basic tool to compile C programs into machine language) with the accompanying toolset. These are both very complex programs which are needed to write software - proprietary and Free alike. For both tools it took time since they matured.

Another interesting parallel which I learned about is this. Remember GNU/Linux 15 years ago. It existed and you could install it but it still was better you understood what you are doing. This is no longer the case for many years now - nowadays every idiot can install say Ubuntu on a normal computer and ends up with a running system. I always argued that such a dynamic is possible because in software you can automate things and this way obsolete special user abilities. I think this type of dynamic is a very important feature to make a family of peer products successful. However, I thought that this is a special feature of software.

Today I learned that similar things are possible with mechanics. In his presentation Lieven Standaert briefly compared the RepRap with the MakerBot. Although it is possible to build a RepRap it takes weeks to build and to fine-tune it so it gets close to some precision without which the whole thing makes no sense. The parts of the MakerBot on the other hand are created by a laser cutter which has itself a very high precision. This high precision is "inherited" to the parts so it's easy to quickly build a pretty precise machine even for a laymen. This quite closely resembles the dynamic I described above for software: you can design things in a way that obsoletes special user abilities. Being not an engineer I wonder whether this type of dynamic is applicable more generally or whether this is possible only in rare instances like this.

I didn't take notes during the presentations but the slides from most presentations were pretty good so you may check them out when they are online (which I guess will happen at some point).

Here are the presentation and talks I attended and I found remarkable with some short comments:

Oekonux/Research/ReportOKCon2011 (last edited 2011-07-19 06:30:05 by StefanMerten)

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