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October 16, 2005

O'Reilly rides into town

On Monday O'Reilly's European Open Source Convention (OSCON) is kicked off in Amsterdam. Not counting the EuroFoo gathering in Enschede (likewise Holland) last year, this is O'Reilly's first European conference and program chair Nat Torkington is sharing his notes on the novelty so far.

Bar Nat's amusing blunder of confusing Flemish with Dutch (well, admittedly they're close even though the Flemish like not to think so), he brings up an interesting discussion of the (apparent) differences between running conferences in Europe and in the US.

The lead-up to OSCON in Amsterdam has been different than the lead-up to OSCON in Portland. With the US OSCON, we have a long history and our marketing could take advantage of that. With OSCON in Amsterdam, we've had to begin building the trust that we now have in the US.

The challenge for any conference going abroad is what remains once the campsite has been leveled and the show moved on. That is what creates value for the individual participant and earns the organizer trust.

In my mind there are two ways to claim success for OSCON Amsterdam (which I btw much prefer to EuroOSCON): One is to bring Americans and Europeans closer, seeding European projects and people to the Americans and vice-versa. As Nat also notes, open source is at two very different stages in Europe (I say faith and ethics) and the US (Nat says business, TCO and ROI), and surely one can learn from the other. It should come as little surprise to anyone that while Linux (from Helsinki -> San Jose), MySQL (Uppsala -> Cupertino), PHP (Greenland -> Sunnyvale), JBoss (Paris -> Atlanta), Rails (Copenhagen -> Chicago) and many more all hail from Europe, the US traditionally has, and, quite likely, will continuesly capitalize on these, as other, technologies.
The other option, which in my mind is of far greater importantance for O'Reilly's long-term success in Europe, is to foster community within European open source constituencies (be that loosely coupled organizations or tight-knit companies), helping neutralize some of the barriers that Nat points out. At this year's reboot, Thomas elegantly coined our call to action as "European practical visionaries unite!". I think O'Reilly can make good claim to doing just that in the US, and we can only hope that, despite the obvious differences each country inbetween, they will also succeed in Europe.

The future of being European, and thus of anyone trying to capitalize on anything European, reboot and O'Reilly included, is to nurture and grow the European community -- be that a spritual, ethical, or economic community. Individually, we're way too small.

Posted by Nikolaj Nyholm at October 16, 2005 12:30 AM

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