Back from FOSDEM 2007 : great conference, for sure

Some notes on the (professionally) most interesting things I’ve seen at the FOSDEM 2007 last week-end (see this post for less professionally-related report)

I’ve spent much time in the research room where there was mainly presentations made by the numerous projects which are funded by the European Commission under the FP6, and are conducting R&D around FLOSS.

Most presentations were very interesting, and the panel and Q&A were quite interesting. It’s been great to see again previous partners of the Calibre project (Jesus, Gregorio, Juanjo, Israel, Martin, etc. forgive me those I forgot to list ;), and discuss issues like best ways to interact between the academic communities and libre software developers/hackers communities.

One of my suggestion during the panel at the end was that maybe it would be a good idea to not have a research room next year at FOSDEM, since that would maximise the chance for us to go and present in other rooms were there would be higher chances to meet hackers… but of course that’s not so easy, and having a dedicated academic “workshop” helps convince of the importance of a participation to the FOSDEM, which in itself has not the casual academic conference profile… so I don’t know, but everybody more or less agrees that chances for collaboration must be maximized.

Also, I’ve stressed the need for some RSS aggregation (and of course publication) of most relevant publications, announcements, calls, which would possibly help disseminate and pass the word to target communities… and in this respect I’d like to see the Planet FLOSS Research (or similar service) become more known, used, and reknowned as a source of information on academic+FLOSS activities. Maybe we need to go a step further as some have suggested with a reference portal… but let’s keep it in the Web 2.0 decentralized way, maybe ? What do you think ?

Also, I think there were interesting comments and discussions about the many projects funded in the same programmes and working more or less on the same issues, and potential duplication of efforts, and the lack of easy path for reusable elements like state of the art, etc.
There’s the idea of some European effort to try and gather/consolidate some of these elements for better reuse… something in the academic community, on the European side that would be much like the opensource.mit.edu ? … some Coordination action to propose for FP7 ? … probably something comparable to the OSOR project setup by IDABC ? Time will tell. Comments welcome, of course 😉

Just some more elements on the great presentations…

I’ve been very interested by the presentations made respectively by Lucas Nussbaum and Radu Pop, on Use of Grid Computing for Debian Quality Assurance, and Snapshot on the EDOS distribution system. Both presented their experiments on using Grid 5000 to, respectively, build Debian distribution’s packages, and then test their installation/deinstallation to enhance Debian’s quality on CPU intensive processes, that a Grid can help complete faster, and on testing a P2P infrastructure for distributing packages of a distribution. Maybe both projects could join forces to use the same grid for both tests. Anyway, this research room made it possible to let such projects and people to talk to each other : great 🙂

Well, there’s probably lots I forget, but will blog later if it pops to the surface. Stay tuned.

Structuring french R&D activity on libre software in France, and recent governmental policy changes ?

The french minister of industry, Thierry breton has recently received an official report (for abstract in english, and full version in french) on innovation policy and intengible goods, which gives hints of a new understanding of the challenges of value created in new regimes of IP. Among them, libre software (aka open source) is clearly identified as one of the strategic elements towards which the innovation and R&D policy should be targetted.

That’s a very promising evolution of public policy, if it becomes implemented in concrete actions. But I’m a bit doubtful, personnaly that a complete and coherent policy change can just occur now : France is now in presidential pre-campaign state and I think nobody expects much serious action until a new president is elected in May ’07, sadly ;), but it’s still worth noticing.

Anyway, the minister made a declaration which, among other elements, mentions his interest in seeing a coming “pole de comptitivit” on libre software, which means the establishment of a consortium of industrials and academics clustering on a focus point, in the jargon of the french R&D support agency.

And indeed, a lot of actors actively promoting libre software in France have been working for several month in initiatives targeting the creation of such a cluster. It seems one of the such initiatives managed to attract the biggest momentum, and is now responding officially to the expectations of the minister (see press coverage in english here).

I wish this initiative a good success, hoping that it will, among other european initiatives like Morfeo in Spain, be a new way to help promote actors engaged in R&D around libre software.

Update 2006/12/18 : the project now has a name (“Ouverture”) and a website : http://www.ouverture-paris-region.org/.