Chris Hawley - Leslie Hawthorn Talk

Chris Hawley - Leslie Hawthorn Talk

I took my wife, the philosophy major, to Leslie Hawthorn’s talk. Before hearing Ms. Hawthorn, my wife had heard of open source software knew what it is. But, I think she associated it with the largest open source projects like Firefox and Open Office. Ms. Hawthorn’s talk, specifically the bit on Summer of Code, highlighted the breadth of the open source movement. There are a whole lot of small, yet socially significant open source projects out there… and that is really cool.

That was the most influential part of Ms. Hawthorn’s presentation: demonstrating how cool and important open source software is to people who might not know the full depth of open source. This is why software freedom week is important. It is worthwhile to spread the word about free and/or open source software because I would imagine that a majority of people at the very least think open source software is a pretty neat idea.

At its most basic level, open source software is cool. Now, you could go a step further and ask “Is there room in the software market for open source software?” That might have been a hotly debated issue 10 years ago, but for the most part that question has been answered. You could take it still a step further and ask “Is there room in the software market for proprietary software?” This question has not been answered definitively yet and if posed debate-style to Bill Gates and Richard Stallman would certainly illicit a passionate response from both gentlemen.

If Leslie Hawthorn’s goal was to expand the visibility of open source software and to welcome newcomers into the fold, then I think she was certainly successful. She did an excellent job of simplifying the daunting open source community and answering seemingly complex software issues by taking a refreshingly wholesome approach. So, the list of things to take away from Ms. Hawthorn’s talk: don’t be dumb about posting personal information on the internet, but don’t be paranoid either, Richard Stallman hates printer jams, open source software is an important and approachable venture, get involved.

RAM Comments: Well, I'm sorry I missed the chance to meet your wife. It would have been interesting to hear her thoughts on the philosophical underpinnings of the movement. I'm guessing she found LH an accessible speaker. Is she -- a fellow humanities major -- now harboring thoughts of applying to Google?

Actually, I'm not sure a "majority" even know what FOSS is. That was not a representative audience -- hence LH's surprise at how many hands went up in answer to her questions. So it's up to people like us to spread consciousness of it, especially, in my opinion, of the philosophical principles (freedom, collaboration, humanitarianism, choice) upon which it was founded.