Tag Archives: oxford

Reflections on IBM

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the company I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life with – IBM. A few months ago I wrote about the company’s centennial. As an historian this has had me extremely engaged, excited, and interested.

In the last week I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences related to IBM.

First of all, I visited the Oxford University Careers in Computing Event.  I’d been up to Oxford in November for the wider University careers event, but I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with science students about what the company is all about. IBM helped to invent modern computing; to put man on the moon; it invented the PC, the floppy disk, various storage advances; it helped decode the human genome; it built the machines that defeated humans at chess and at Jeopardy; it is helping to build a Smarter Planet. It’s a great place to be.

Secondly, I helped to host some US colleagues in our UK lab at Hursley. I love Hursley and I’ve been enormously privileged to work there for the past few years. I remember my first experience of visiting IBM there as a customer in ~2000 – seeing the wonderful Wedgewood Room, the IBM consultant I was working with dropped the thought that one day I could work there into my head, and I’ve spent a long time wanting to work there, getting to work there, and then learning the history and showing it to others. Wonderful place.

I’m proud to have had the chance to work with an organisation that has helped to reshape and change the world. The quality of the people, the history of the organisation, and the amazing technology, has transformed my life.

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TransferSummit 2011

One of the benefits of having attended OggCamp a few weeks ago was that I became aware of another event. Steve Lee, one of the speakers at OggCamp, is also involved with TransferSummit, and he was good enough to point it out to me. I’m grateful that he did.

TransferSummit bills itself as

… a forum for business executives and members of the academic and research community to discuss requirements, challenges, and opportunities in the use, development, licensing, and future innovation in Open Source technology.

Unlike a *Camp event, this wasn’t a self-organising unconference, and was much more business-focused. The sense I had was that it was far more about “getting down to work” than the more fun Open Source-oriented events that I otherwise attend. There were a range of fantastic speakers, and with my good friend James Governor giving the opening keynote it really didn’t take me long to decide that it was something that I should get to.

Not only that, but the event was held at my alma mater Oxford, in the rather lovely surroundings of Keble College – which I don’t remember ever having visited whilst I was at university – it was red brick, comparatively far up Parks Road away from my college, in the “science area”, and as a History student I simply never had much occasion to go up there! Have to say that I was very impressed by the college, accommodation, and service from students and staff. Fantastic.

You can explore more of my TransferSummit 2011 photos on Picasa.

I really enjoyed a number of elements of TransferSummit. Firstly, whilst there were a few folks I knew from my other networks, it was largely a group of people I’d not come across before directly, so it was a great opportunity to meet some new people in this space. It wasn’t too much of an echo chamber, and as Ross Gardler said during his introduction, it wasn’t a crowd of folks who already “get it” in terms of Open Source usage and adoption – there were a fair few organisations on the edge of making choices and I felt that the talks were more about how to go about making sensible ones, putting the right governance practices in place, and learning from the successes and mistakes of others.

I couldn’t cover all three tracks of the agenda in detail, but I’ll highlight a few particularly interesting sessions I did listen to (again, there’s more complete coverage on Lanyrd):

Another nice element of the event was the “gadget playtime” Open Source (and not-so-open) Hardware area, where I spent a lot of time talking to the folks from OSHUG and other projects.

One of the things that was negatively commented on via Twitter and other discussions was that Microsoft was the Platinum sponsor of the event. I found that very interesting, particularly where the commenters weren’t present at TransferSummit itself. To reassure those who may have stayed away or otherwise expressed concerns, I’ll just say that there was very definitely no “Microsoft agenda” being pushed, that my friend Steve Lamb was there very much in “listen, learn and interact” mode, but that others who attended and who I greatly respect did express other views about some elements of their participation (and I imagine it’s not hard to track those opinions down via hashtags etc.). Either way, having been involved with various conferences now, I fully support the idea that having a wide range of sponsors willing to help fund a professional conference and make is successful is important, so I thank Microsoft, HP and all of the sponsors (and in particular to the folks from OpenDirective) for enabling it to happen.

Definitely a worthwhile way to spend a couple of days of time – a well-run, informative event with great experiences shared, and some good contacts that I look forward to maintaining. My tip: look out for similar events and make an effort to mingle with the business, academic and government communities on Open Source. You might just learn something.

Disclosure: I was (unexpectedly) generously comp’d a ticket enabling me to attend, thanks to the organisers. My employer had no involvement and I attended on my own time.