Sustainability of Open Source

June 10th, 2008

or: Open Source is great! But how do you make a project last?

Thursday, June 12th, 2008 19:30

@ GarageGeeks

40th Hapeled st. Holon



A panel discussion, featuring:

Gilad Ben Yosef: Open source entrepreneur, founder of Hamakor non-profit-org (
Oren Goldschmidt: Developer and information systems manager. Involved in localization of open source based organizational systems to the Arab market. (
Mushon Zer-Aviv: Designer, educator and a media activist. (
Nir Simionovich: A veteran of the Israeli open source community, and the father of the Israeli Asterisk users community. (
Meir Kriheli: Long time community member, the spirit behind Lahak, What’s -Up and Zulo (



Event summary by Mushon Zer-Aviv

Hebrew version at

It started when Zvika Netter and I were discussing the option of me presenting my work at the Garage. Pretty soon we realized what we were more interested in was hearing what others are doing and creating a context in which we can discuss the sustainability issues of open source software. I made my research and came up with a very interesting group of people to join me in the panel.



On the day of the event we decided to be adventurous and hold the event outside - in the back yard, which proved itself quite well. We had roughly more than a hundred people show up and when the sun cleared the way for the projector we started the event. We each gave a short presentation and then opened the discussion to the audience.

Gilad Ben Yoseph, a man of many virtues and a veteran of the local (and global) open source community went first. He described the maturation process of a project: from Seed (”I want this to happen”) through Start-Up (”This is cool”) to Mature (”This is useful”).  He went on to discuss monetization options and briefly mentioned that what his firm does in the field of OS training. He is definitely a guy there’s a lot more to learn from and he gave a great context for all of us.




I (Mushon Zer-Aviv) went next and discussed three projects. My first open source project, Atlas Gloves, a DIY hand gesture interface for Google Earth, where I found out there’s a lot to open source beyond making your source code available. The second, and definitely my main project, ShiftSpace a social platform for applications and interfaces that work on top of websites, through which a user can create annotations and interventions and to ’shift’ the web. I discussed the development of the API and the many considerations around software and community development. Lastly I discussed Kriegspiel, a tribute to a forgotten board game by French Philosopher Guy Debord in the form of a 3D computer game where the decision to release as open source might become a way to discuss and challenge the rules of the game.

Third went Nir Simionovich the man behind Asterisk in Israel. Asterisk is an open source Voip (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephony system. He shared his experience with a successful business built around an open source software and how issues of competition change and work differently In these cases. Nir was also moved by the occasion and dove into some memories of Linux parties in the Technion in the early days in the far nineties. We definitely justified the GEEKdom in the garage.



Meir Krichli from What’sUp and Zulo presented a new CMS (Content Management System) he is working on called Lahak which is still in very early stages. Meir claims that while the open source idiom of “Build it and they will come” is true, he also believes that “If you don’t build it they won’t come” meaning, he’d rather put his fingers where his mouth is at and code something people would want to hack on before making big promises. He defined the reasons he decided to build yet another CMS from scratch, mainly focusing on Bidi from the getgo, tying in more language features, expanding the wiki model to every aspect of the system and building it all in Django - the new hip Python framework in town.




Meir’s focus on localization transitioned into Oren Goldschmidt’s presentation. Oren is involved with a company providing open source solutions for organizations in the Arab market. He started by talking about Dos and Don’ts in making OS projects relevant to big markets, with respect to focusing on markets and licensing. On the second part of his short presentation he proposed an adjustment to the theme of the event: Sustainability Through Open Source. By that he meant our (Israel’s) sustainability in the Middle East and the ME’s itself’s sustainability as a market in a globalized world. Oren (and I) believes the open source process is a strong channel through which cultures can bypass political and cultural tensions and work towards mutual goals.




The event went on to questions from the audience and a fascinating discussion revolving the place of OS in education, the problem of interface design in OS, the somewhat problematic loyalty of Israel to Microsoft technologies, and many more which we unfortunately couldn’t continue as it has started getting late… As we were wrapping up and getting the chairs back into the garage, people were still pationately arguing about the topics raised that night. I had a great time and would like to thank the Garage people for the opportunity and to the panelists who invested a their time to developing the panel (in a very open source manner), and of course to the audience and to my mom.


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