Henne Vogelsang talks open source ass kicking

The second openSuSE Developer Conference kicked off in Nürnberg with a rabble-rousing speech from community founder Henne Vogelsang, project manager of the openSuSE Boosters Team.

To the surprise of many, Vogelsang's keynote concentrated on the subject of failure - headed, as it was, with footage of a variety of skateboarders injuring themselves in ever more painful ways. As Vogelsang would go on to explain, however, it was all in the cause of encouraging the community to do, rather than talk.

Orating to a crowd of more than 260 open-source enthusiasts from around the world - an increase in attendance from last year's inaugural conference - his hopes for the openSuSE community, Vogelsang enthused: "you need to kick ass, you need to stick your neck out, and you need to take responsibility - you need to strive for your goal.

"Sadly," Vogelsang continued, "you'll sometimes fail with it - and that's okay. Sometimes you need to fail. You need to land on your ass sometimes, and then you pick yourself up."

Vogelsang explained to the audience that openSuSE has a unique perspective in the Linux marketplace. Based on an 18-year-old project, SuSE Linux, the distribution was for many years a close-guarded thing - and one which predates the 16-year-old Fedora and 17-year-old Debian distributions. It wasn't until the foundation of openSuSE and the start of active engagement of the open source community five years ago that the distribution took off.

That's openSuSE's biggest advantage, Vogelsang explained: "No-one's really watching us. There's no big dark Overlord in the background who will fix things if we fail, or who will tell us what to do. Novell won't. The openSuSE board won't."

While the thought of no safety net might be scary for some, Vogelsang believes that it gives the project the freedom it needs to innovate. As an example, he explained that Andrew Wafaa "stepped up and made an openSuSE version of Meego [Smeegol]," off his own back, and that "you don't need to wait for consensus to do something."

Vogelsang warned the community that "fear of duplication," where more than one group is working on a particular aspect of the distribution, shouldn't be a reason to hold back: "We have to shut up and let other people do things. If they run in some direction, let them run. If you want to help, help. If you don't want to do something in that direction, shut up."

Encouraging conference attendees to "take your early ideas, put them out there, and play with them," Vogelsang ended his keynote and officially opened the conference with the message: "Have a lot of fun - but don't forget to do stuff. The last conference was all about talking. This conference needs to be about doing something - sit together in a room and do stuff."