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Why you should attend the State of Open Conference 2024 in London this week

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This week it’s The State of Open Conference 2024 at The Brewery, London. It was great last year. I heartily recommend you attend. As I said on twitter at the time:

The UK now has its own OSCON. the event will happen again and will go from strength to strength.

Attendees and speakers were a who’s who of open source, open hardware and open culture people generally. The open data track was particularly lively. There were so many of my friends there, it really felt like my people had all congregated in London for the day. The event also felt very inclusive, in terms of both speakers, but also attendees. It reflected London’s rich diversity.

The speaker list is extremely impressive again this year.

But the real reason I think SOOCon24 is so important is the focus on policy, governance and open source sustainability. Open source is under a great deal of pressure right now. VCs are encouraging their portfolio companies to adopt “business source” licenses, which are not actually open source. Why does this matter? As my colleague Stephen O’Grady argues:

A world in which non-compete licensing grows at the expense of open source is problematic enough. A world in which vendors blur the definition of open source such that regular users can no longer differentiate between the two is much, much worse.

Pedantic as it may seem, then, the question of whether something is actually open source really does matter, as those who would redefine the term will find out if they get their way.

This movement has also bled into the current AI explosion. What is “Open” AI? That’s something we need to work out – and major market players are casually calling things open source, which frankly aren’t. Another area of governance and policy under scrutiny is regulation of AI – we can’t just leave this as the era of “You Only Live Once.” Controls will be necessary, and governments are scrambling to put them in place. At SOOCon24 the organisation behind the conference Open UK will be capturing opinions and data to feed back the UK government about regulation going forward. I believe we’re going to see AI Bill of Materials requirements regulated at national level.

It’s a pivotal time, and these discussions are vitally important – that’s why they need a home. We’re literally talking about the economic foundations of the digital economy, the means of production which have served us pretty well these past couple of decades, and the opportunities for making and learning which have made tech such a transformative success. Authors and creators need stable foundations to work on. Copyright and licensing matters. Back to Stephen:

Instead of the embarrassment of riches of open source projects we have today that developers may take up and use for whatever they choose without reference or restriction, we’d have a world dominated by projects carrying varying, conflicting usage restrictions that would render the licenses incompatible with one another and not usable by some.

I am glad Amanda Brock and team are pulling this event together, for all of the reasons outlined above, and I look forward to seeing you there. I believe there are a few tickets available.

If you’re interested in AI and prompt engineering, and all of the craft, sustainability and social angles, you should also check out my conference Monki Gras 2024: Prompting Craft. March 14th and 15th, Shoreditch London. Tix here.

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