Recently I have been very negative about the Open Source Community in China and the half hearted efforts by foreign communities to help develop an Open Source Culture in China. A friend of mine, Anne Stevenson-Yang, working at Blue Bamboo in Beijing recently wrote me to announce a conference she had been working on, International Software Innovation Forum 2007 Exhibition of Innovative Technologies and Open-Source Software, to be held in Beijing January 30.
The conference is the first gathering ever of China’s biggest native OSS development groups, XOOPS. XOOPS is a highly sophisticated content-management system created and supported by the Open Source CMS XOOPS Project (http://www.xoops.org.cn), in which some 10,000 Chinese software users and developers participate.
The sponsoring institution is the China Co-Create League, an organization under the dual governance of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Information Industry. Co-Create was established by the Chinese central government in order to support research and development of core open source software systems that will drive diverse industrial and commercial applications. The Chinese government places an extraordinarily high priority on open source and is justly proud of the XOOPS China group, which produces some of the most innovative software in the world. The conference is certain to receive heavy press coverage.
I was given a first hand glance at the agenda and was quite impressed by the list of speakers and sponsoring organizations. This conference is really speaks to the Chinese Open Source Community and has very little Western Involvement. It does promise to be a step in the right direction as the discussion topics hit on all the key areas where China seems to miss the point of an Open Source Community.
I do have my reservations however. The conference appears to be trying to tackle every issue facing OSS in China and with such a grand list of participants it would seem an almost impossible undertaking to be able to find any consensus or provide any meaningful and clear directives for moving forward, especially in such a small span of time. Undoubtedly many ideas will be shared and a lot will be put on the table for participants to take home and dwell on, but I can’t imagine being the organizing community and trying to collate all the discussions into action points for moving forward. Secondly, following up on an event of this size can only occur in two ways, either annually or by breaking the conference down into working seminars with specific areas of interest. I would be hesitant to go the annual route as that is how many of these conferences have soon faded away and become more of tool for profit than for debate and exhibition; i.e. Linux World China.