The tribes of open source gather at OSCON

If every show is a trial, users are the jury. You make your decisions signing support contracts, ordering online, in stores, in what you tell your friends. Without you there's no show.

Jay Freeman of Saurik
While next month's LinuxWorld show will be business on parade, this week's OSCON in Portland is more like a gathering of the tribes.

Anyone who covers open source recognizes the tribes on sight:

Visioneers who really believe that miracles can occur using the open source process. Here's an example, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington seeking help to build a $200 Linux tablet.

Most visioneers stay on the sidelines. Those who get in the game, like Nicholas Negroponte, often find that it takes a lot more than a Clue to succeed.

OSCON is visioneer HQ. Once a market becomes real visioneers go somewhere else. The lucky ones get jobs, like Linus Torvalds, where they can express themselves in code and let others take the bows.

Because OSCON is a visioneer show this week is going to all be about mobile. Lots of talk, no kit. Just what visioneers love.

Geeks love to take things apart and put them together in new ways so they can stick it to "the man." Geeks like some jailbreaking, finding ways to grab control of their own iPhones and run true open source on it.

Jay Freeman of Saurik is an example. His Cydia Repository article is fascinating reading. Want your iPhone to run Debian Linux? Want to turn it into a doorstop? Take the challenge.

Suits mainly wait for Linuxworld. Suits have jobs -- at IBM, at Sun, even at Alfresco and Mulesource. When suits aren't in suits you will find them in matching button-down shirts or mock turtlenecks -- whatever the boss calls the uniform of the day.

Some suits like to pretend they're geeks, and some once were. Just like Emeril La Gasse was once a line cook. When you're in business, no matter what you once did, you're in business. You hire others to do what you most love.

Wannabes are the aspirational market, the people who would use Linux if they could, who believe in open source but not enough in themselves to even try and become geeks.

I freely admit to being a wannabe. As a reporter for 30 years I brag about "protecting my stupidity." I can break anything. I represent the mass market. I cover the game but don't play it. My aspirations are more of the Damon Runyon or Mike Malone variety.

But here's the thing. If I can make sense of it you've hit the mass market. I'm the entry point. The geeks and visioneers are all looking to create something people like me can understand.

Users are part-geek, part-wannabe, part-visioneer and all-important. I'm looking at you now.

You are who all the rest of us are really serving. You determine which vision succeeds, which suits make it to the top.

Users are a big part of every show, attendee badges shining, filling the shuttle buses, the auditoriums, grabbing a bite at the snack stands on the side.

If every show is a trial, users are the jury. You make your decisions signing support contracts, ordering online, in stores, in what you tell your friends. Without you there's no show.

Have a good show.

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