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02. July 2024 - Felicity Brand

Reflections from Everything Open 2024

The Evolving Impact of FOSS on Society and Technology



We were thrilled when OSPea Felicity Brand was invited to represent Open Strategy Partners at Everything Open, Australia’s premier open source conference in April 2024. Here are her impressions of the event and the talk she gave.

Last year at Everything Open in Melbourne, I spoke about trust signals in open source projects. This year, I presented an advocacy talk about free and open source software that OSPeas Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire and Mathias Bolt Lesniak have been touring in the US and across Europe since late 2023: FOSS: From Building Websites to Changing Society.

Presentation stage at Everything Open event

Expanding horizons: open source in the regions

As the name implies, Everything Open covers a broad range of subjects over the course of a three-day, multitrack conference, including open source software, open hardware, open data, open government, and open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). The conference is run under the auspices of Linux Australia, and the organizers alternate locations between big cities and regional centers. This year, the event was held in Gladstone, Queensland — a seven-hour drive from the nearest capital city. The aim is to strike a balance between financial sustainability and making tech events accessible across Oceania.

The sobering reality of today’s internet

The conference was opened by a keynote from Australian internet pioneer Geoff Huston AM,  who spoke about the evolution of the internet from telegraphy to telephony. It was a sobering keynote. With the surprising statistic that more than 90% of the traffic delivered on the internet is now delivered locally, Geoff highlighted that there is no network neutrality. He likened the current age of the internet, a time when a handful of private companies own the global network, to the Roman Empire. According to Geoff, it’ll be a couple of hundred years before we’ll see the “fall” of this empire. 

The second keynote from Jana Dekanovska, Strategic Threat Advisor at CrowdStrike, brought us another warning about today’s internet. Jana talked about the use of generative AI in the current adversarial landscape and some of the ways it is currently being used in social engineering, phishing, and malware development. Adversaries are using AI to create highly sophisticated attacks, including fabricating videos and voices to craft convincing phishing campaigns that are increasingly difficult to detect. And worryingly, AI is much faster at analyzing massive datasets to find patterns or connections between people that could be exploited.

Another cautionary tale was the tale of Karen Sandler from the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC). Karen has a heart condition with an implanted pacemaker—but cannot access the code to her device. She is passionate about GPL enforcement, and the obligations of those using a copyleft license to share the source code with anyone who asks for it. Check out Karen’s fascinating story and then check out the Use the Source initiative from the SFC.


Felicity Brand presenting on stage at Everything Open 2024

FOSS: From building websites to changing society

I was happy to add some visionary and optimistic notes to the proceedings, particularly since I spoke on the final day of the conference. Many people appreciated having a non-technical talk about FOSS after so many detailed and granular tools-based presentations. My message resonated strongly with people in the audience. The idea of breaking out of the open source echo chamber and spreading the message was something that everyone could relate to. 

Many people are not yet able to see the value and appeal of open source. Businesses are constantly assessing technology, evaluating software, and making technology choices—and proprietary vendors continue to be the top choice.  Closed-source solutions win pitches where open source should be the obvious choice. So while it may seem like old news, we need to keep refreshing the message. We need the 2024 version of “what is open source?”

The talk included a refresher on the four freedoms of open source software, the value proposition, and the salutary lesson (for governments, especially) of owning your own bricks. I was pleased to be able to share the story of TYPO3 CMS’s work in Rwanda, and the open source standardization of their government websites. It’s an inspiring story of international aid that was locally-led, non-exploitative, and anti-colonial. And it shows how we can expand open source practices well beyond the scope of software into real, positive impact on the world.

Our ability to work together everywhere is the strength of FOSS beyond the code. We are diverse, cross-border, international communities of practice. We need to present a united front as an open source brand before we start competing with each other.  In 2024, we still have work to do in shifting the reigning perception that proprietary software is a better, safer choice for large, complex and global enterprises.

The Four Freedoms of FOSS ... refresher :-)

  • Use it: for anything, anywhere, forever
  • Study it: understand what you are using
  • Modify it: fix it, extend it, make it better
  • Share it: pass on, sell, share, give back
Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire

Open source is genuinely special, genuinely weird, and genuinely hard to explain to people who live in the world of economic scarcity.

– Jeffrey A. McGuire

Share your open source story

Thanks to OSP for sponsoring me to attend industry events like this. I love the opportunity to meet and mix with software developers and fellow open-source enthusiasts, especially because it gives me the chance to discover their daily challenges and hear about their big wins. 

The choice between open source and proprietary software has never been more crucial. With adversaries leveraging AI for sophisticated attacks and the internet becoming an increasingly controlled and opaque space, the stakes are high. Open source offers transparency, community-driven innovation, and the freedom to understand and control the technology we rely on daily.

Let’s continue to break out of our open source echo chambers and educate those who still opt for closed, proprietary solutions.

We want to hear your story!

Get in touch, and we’ll help you package your open source story into an awesome shareable asset (infographic, audio documentary, printed handout, you name it!) so you can be ready the next time someone asks, “What is open source?”

Tell us your story!


Felicity Brand tanding in front of a conference banner, "Opening the open source dialogue"

Watch other versions of this talk

You can catch recordings of jam and Mathias giving the OG version of this talk:

Download Felicity's slides

OSP Felicity Brand Everything Open 2024 slide deck

Image credits

Felicity Brand, Everything Open, and the robot picture makers

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