I read that 2018 was the final year of Open Source Bridge. Reading that I felt sadness, as well as gratitude the organizers were able to choose that. I spoke at the inaugural Open Source Bridge, and my memory of that is that it was such a refreshing vibe compared to the other conferences I was attending at the time (OSCON, Semantic World). There was space for self care (yoga), for weird ideas, and for community in a way I didn’t experience at other conferences. I started to write this as a status update, and realized that these feelings about Open Source Bridge are part of a larger wave of nostalgia for the late aughts I’ve been feeling lately.
The first Open Source Bridge took place in 2009. I had been living in San Francisco for two years and was working at Creative Commons. My role at CC had morphed from “figure out what we could build to engage people with the commons” to “figure out our technical strategy and how we fit with the You Tubes of the world”. I was a lot better at the former; at the very least I enjoyed it more. But there was still something there that I felt energized being part of. There was a community that I appreciated and valued. I’ve reflected in the past that identi.ca formed the core of this online community for me. It also lived on blogs and in the #cc IRC channels.
So I guess it’s appropriate that some of this nostalgia is undoubtedly triggered by all the awesome Indie* work being done. Just this week I learned about Indie Book Club and Indie Web Ring. And while both are simple, that’s sort of the point: I’m happy they both exist, because [I hypothesize] they help me connect with a larger community while being my whole self online. Being my whole self means that I “show up” in a solid, singular way: you come to my blog and get printmaking, scifi quotes, Python advice, sewing; you get me.
My talk at the inaugural Open Source Bridge was entitled “A Database Called the Web”. It was the second and last time I presented that talk, which was a shame because I don’t think I ever really got the kinks worked out. Creative Commons was founded with this technical layer under girding the licenses, and “A Database Called the Web” was my attempt to articulate that decentralized, federated vision in a way that didn’t start with RDF, XHTML, etc. And that’s why in addition to feeling some nostalgia I also feel some hope: it seems like with ~ 10 years of time (and a lot of heartache) people have moved on to building decentralized things that they want to see exist in the world. And that makes me happy.