ITAP as Centre of Excellence in Boredom?

How is it that ITAP, the putative trade organization of the IT industry on PEI, can so effectively take an interesting idea like open source and make it sound completely dreadful?

I ask this only partly rhetorically: I really would like to know whether ITAP purposely sets out to forward a bunged up world view, or whether they’re trying really, really hard to be relevant and interesting but just can’t seem to manage to pull it together.

I mean, really, here’s a movement that has radical and interesting ideas at its core, and ITAP’s plan for open source evangelizing involves importing someone whose job title is “Manager, Enterprise Architecture IT Standards, Architecture and Security Sector, Telecommunications and Informatics Program, PWGSC.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the formal proceedings are followed by “an hour-long ‘visioning’ exercise that would begin to establish the industry objectives for an Open Systems Centre of Excellence.”

Yah, that sounds like fun.

I can’t for the life of me figure this out; it seems a lot like trying to capture butterflies in a bottle, and sucking all the freedom and beauty out in the process.


Al O'Neill's picture
Al O'Neill on December 1, 2003 - 03:12 Permalink

radical and interesting ideas” are scary, I’m afraid.

Dull and boring is businesslike, and professional-sounding. Changing the world by making something people don’t have to pay you for (a gross oversimplification, in reality, since one is only required to supply the source of your program to the people you supply the binary to under the GPL) doesn’t sound very good for business. So they need to obfuscate the scary bits into oblivion.

Cody Swanson's picture
Cody Swanson on December 1, 2003 - 04:17 Permalink

At least ITAP recognizing that open source is no longer just a buzzword used by Wired magazine but a real alternative for business computing. Too bad it’s only starting to catch on now.

I’ve been working with a company for 3 years that relies on open source software to do business and while a lot of our .com competition has dissapeared we remain profitable and in the black. Mostly due to open source software’s reliability, customizability, security and lower TCO. In short, we get more done for less money. Our top execs love open source software because it makes perfect business sense.

That’s not to say that open source is perfect for everything but it certainly has it’s place.

I dream of a day when I can earn a respectable salary from a company in PEI working on open source solutions. If ITAP can help business in PEI accept open source software then more power to them.

Alan's picture
Alan on December 1, 2003 - 14:50 Permalink

How would a Centre of Excellence for Open Source work? I can presume that I have not visioned enough if I have to ask that question but isn’t the whole point, in addition to the radical innovation you have noted, Peter, that these things are by necessity decentralized as Dave W. wrote of on Sunday? Where is the left field in a Centre?

Iain Galloway's picture
Iain Galloway on December 1, 2003 - 22:18 Permalink

Yes it does _sound_ boring, not written up in a particularly exciting way, and maybe a bit “bunged up”. Perhaps it’s best to read between the lines. ITAP is interested. Government is interested. They’re all starting to realize Open Source is important, and that we in PEI should be prepared so the majority of business doesn’t get “steamrolled” by it. But really everyone doesn’t quite understand it all yet.
That’s part of the reason for the meeting. What is exciting is that ***our government** through PWGSC is making changes internally that support open-source. (You have heard of the activity in governments in Munich etc?…) Peter I’d encourage you to come. I think a lot of good *could* come out of us all thinking and working together… not unlike the spirit of GPL.

Sandy Peardon's picture
Sandy Peardon on December 1, 2003 - 22:23 Permalink

Peter, catchy title! Cody and Al, I appreciated your reasoned and fair responses. Alan, good point.

Just to give you a bit of history on ITAP’s involvement on the Open Systems (OS) front. A year and a half ago, ITAP in partnership with ITAP member firm Engineering Technologies Canada developed a Letter of Intent for the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF)that would see a Centre of Excellence for OS training and R&D located here on the Island. Thus, the high fallutin’name and project that attempted to position Charlottetown at the CENTRE of Open Systems development in Atlantic Canada. After the “Letter of Intent” stage in the process, we were co-opted into another member’s AIF proposal which was unsuccessful as of this past summer.

Although strategically it may not have been the best idea to have a couple of “federallies” in for a session to kick off OS discussion, but I always saw this original session as an “info” session that would not scare anyone in the private and government sectors. Some members are quite comfortable with the evolution of OS, but it scares the hell out of others I’m sure. Also, ITAP couldn’t afford to bring a private person in ourselves (I know what you are thinking…why not one of our own?…did a luncheon for OS and noone showed…Islanders don’t come to listen to their own…generalization, but sooo true) .

Anyway, I apologize for making it sound so boring. Sometimes I concentrate so much on the facts that I forget that I have to sell it.

I do hope you will all take it in though. ITAP is looking a very small initiative to start the ball rolling towards building OS community and capabilities while promoting those OS capabilities here on the Island to the rest of the World.

That can’t be a bad thing now can it? I hope you will leave my comments up this time…thank you for the opportunity!

Iain Galloway's picture
Iain Galloway on December 1, 2003 - 22:24 Permalink

RE: open source centre… (The “excellence” part is overused.) Could you see a place where there are a variety of hardware and software platforms that you could test software on? Suse, Redhat, bluecat, embedix, uclinux — Servers, desktops, set-top box, embedded mobile wireless devices?
Maybe it’s reasonable to do this kind of lab here, maybe not.

Alan's picture
Alan on December 1, 2003 - 22:37 Permalink

Your lab need not even been “there” (as in anyone place) but more a hub of open discussion on the web. That might find a left field show up. That would be kinda interesting.

Ken's picture
Ken on December 2, 2003 - 04:16 Permalink

Centres are easy to build and promote and control.
Fringes are hard to define. What effect did Excellent Government Policy Lobby have in Helsinki when Linus made Linux?

Could ITAP convince the province to buy only open license from here on out? That would be impressive, showing leadership behind the scenes. But then I haven’t got a clue what percent of OS is open license on the provinces desktops and servers? I bet it’s mostly Microsoft.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 2, 2003 - 04:52 Permalink

The Province is 100% Linux on the webserver side (there’s a Windows NT box used for the MapGuide system, although it’s gradually being migrated to an open source MapServer system). Apache is the webserver, and PHP the development environment. Sybase (not open source) is used as the database back-end, mostly because of a large legacy investment in Microsoft SQL server.

The recent Provincial and Municipal elections were 100% open source on the web and back end sides: everything from confirmation forms to lists of electors to results management were developed with open source tools.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on December 2, 2003 - 23:36 Permalink

ITAP Rocks! *it do now anyway*

*When* we have 500 (or a thousand) or whatever number of skilled Linux professionals walking around the Island I will rest (or at least avid hobbiests. I don’t know what the number should be but there aren’t enough now.

Holland College has steadfastly refused to be involved in open source/ Linux/ Unix/ (anything other than Novell) over the past dozen years or so, UPEI is catching up rapidly, but there aren’t anywhere nearly enough people using and understanding Linux (or any ‘nix) and everything that brings about.

This is a rare departure for me in that I support a supply-side approach because of the overall benefit this learning would have on anyone in any profession, no matter their job or role. The janitor will be better able to work in the 21st C with an open source background; put it this way, if I saw it on a resume for cleaning staff it would be the difference if all else was equal. Unix is always an asset.

Have you any idea how long I’ve been out on my own on this one? Anyway, in the mean time, I don’t care how it sounds as long as they say “linux”. Years before I met anyone whom I now respect in this industry I was pushing this and it’s finally come far enough up the pipe to catch some attention at the top (wherever that is). (I wish I had saved the exchange from 15 years ago in which Derek MacEwen (VAC-DVA Derek) and I hashed this out with me saying “in the future all computer users will be using UNIX or a derivative”. Anyone who has ever used the Internet fits that description to a T.)

I’m willing to give ITAP (and PEI) some time on this — I won’t worry about the aesthetics but I am concerned about content and direction.

It should be well received by many of you that a recent attempt by ITAP to address overall HR issues which made no specific mention of Linux, open source, or UNIX; was essentially shot down at the board level for that reason. We’re moving along y’know.

Regardless, even without open source, the current ED has moved ITAP into a position very likely to produce results which benefit all IT firms (members or not).

Clumsy or not, ITAP is on this one (better LATE than never). I sure hope everyone gives this process their best (and if that means they stay away because they can’t stand it — I suppose that’s a good reason).

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 3, 2003 - 02:05 Permalink

Let’s call open source “playing on the beach” and closed source “being in prison.”

ITAP’s solution to noticing that many in its community are in prison is to organize a prison-like meeting wherein the imprisoned will be preached to about (or “visioneered with about”) the value of playing on the beach.

The thing is by bringing open source into the stale confines of the ITAP technocracy, all of its beauty and elegance will be immediately and effectively rendered invisible, much as having the prison wardens trying to educate the inmates about how to frolic would be a failed endeavour.

Open source simply is: it doesn’t need sales jobs, pep rallies, meetings, visioning sessions, or centres for excellence, all of which are trappings of the closed-source world where profit and obfuscation are the goals.

There is a reason that there are no training courses for anarchists.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on December 3, 2003 - 03:12 Permalink

While in Toronto a while back, I “did lunch” with a friend who was, in fact, going to Anarchist training.

As for the beach analogy; I don’t buy it, but I’ll gladly take it a step further. Once the prisoners DO get out of prison, it will be helpful for them to know to have put sunblock on; otherwise they will get burned. Burned bad.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on December 3, 2003 - 03:25 Permalink

My taking your analogy further was meant to be as playful as your creating it in the first place. Time to go home I guess ;)

BUT, is open source really just “is”… Open Source doesn’t just mean running Apache instead of IIS, or using PHP as a script interpreter. It’s a little more scary than that for most businesses and governments. A lot of work goes in to helping OSS move into new areas.

I think there are people who feel a passion for OSS and just want to promote it, there are those who feel a need for it to be prominent (there are local companies who can’t hire people who know *nix systems fast enough), and there are people who just want to use it if it makes sense. There is no problem acknowledging that you are in one group, but there are others out there.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 3, 2003 - 04:22 Permalink

Jevon says It’s a little more scary than that for most businesses and governments. A lot of work goes in to helping OSS move into new areas.

My experience suggests that is absolutely and completely not the case: for at least the past five years, open source has been an easy sell for both my government and corporate clients. It hasn’t even been a sell, it has just been the logical route to take.

If open source software can run the provincial election — where everything absolutely, positively has to work — there’s not much it can’t do.

I suppose I’ve no real problem with a bunch of folks getting together to talk about open source, even if it does sound kind of contorted and dorky. I just think it might be more fun to, say, host a rock concert instead.

Alan's picture
Alan on December 3, 2003 - 13:57 Permalink

Is your point, Peter, that because the biggies in the market have already bought, this is too many years behind? You are probably right if selling core systems to government is your market. It would seem to me that an opportunity to discuss other markets and ways to work together is not a waste of time, which is what most small PEI vendors and developers would have to do given the marketplace. But you are right on the money that it is absolutely nothing new and there is nothing leading edge about it. I wouldn’t worried about the contorted dork thing, either, as that pretty much covers anyone in the general area including blog posters.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on December 3, 2003 - 15:08 Permalink

Contorted and dorky,.. hard to argue with that.

Rock for source 2004”? — I’ll be there!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 3, 2003 - 16:20 Permalink

Jevon, the site you link to prompts me to fully realize the folly of the ITAP initiative: open source software is not a product, it’s a process. As such, to understand it, you need to participate in it.

The ITAP seminar seems akin to holding a seminar for prospective parents about the value of having children: no matter how hard you try, you are never going to accurately (or even partially accurately) be able to capture the experience.

In other words, if you want to understand open source, just do it.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on December 3, 2003 - 16:56 Permalink

I think I am missing a part of your argument. Because something is not a product, it does necessarily follow that to understand it you must immediately participate in it.

I am with you for the most part, and don’t really feel like taking this further. Whatever ITAP does for its members that has to do with Open Source and Open Standards will have a life all on its own because it is the members who are pushing it forward.

Kevin is right about ITAP changing. I didn’t know the organization in it’s heyday of being disliked, but I do know that it is a hardworking organization that actually does help its members. Some of those members are getting curious about Open Source and other members are getting serious about helping them out. Peer to peer, blah blah blah,. not top-down.

Selling open source to clients for 5 years? We’ve all been doing that, and you are right; it was never even a sales job, it is just the way it is. No seminar needed. However, there are many companies out there for who OSS doesn’t just mean running apache, it means either building OS applications, or using them day to day. This means they need support, custom development, a detailed transition plan, and all that jazz.

At the end of the day, it’s just a different audience. They have different needs than a Peter Rukavina or Jevon MacDonald. You may not see the beauty in their curiosity, but I do. We’ve been thinking about OSS for a long time now, and a lot of people are just noticing it for the first time.

Sandy Peardon's picture
Sandy Peardon on December 5, 2003 - 22:53 Permalink

I was cc’d on a message that came from Joseph Potvin, the main presenter at yesterday’s ITAP OS session (that had close to 30 enthusiastic participants, btw)to Mr. Peter Rukavina, the recipient. In the e-mail, Mr. Potvin writes that he is going to mention Peter’s PEI election work in a conference call today with a group in a South American country (not to be mentioned), and that the SA’s may want to do some work with Peter.

ITAP’s work for the week is done here…have a great weekend everyone!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 5, 2003 - 23:38 Permalink

Yes, thanks Sandy for posting about confidential business correspondence on my public weblog.

Sandy Peardon's picture
Sandy Peardon on December 6, 2003 - 18:05 Permalink

Which part is confidential? That you did PEI election work in OS (known by everyone on the Island) or that you MAY get some business in a UNDISCLOSED country with an UNDISCLOSED group because of the “ITAP as Centre of Excellence in Boredom” set up by ITAP.

Nothing to see here folks!

P.S. I know deep down you want to thank us, so I’ll save you the bother…Your welcome!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 6, 2003 - 19:17 Permalink

Sandy, I consider all email to be confidential. Most people, I think, feel the same way.

I would hope especially that the director of a trade organization, one who needs to be concerned with both being and appearing to be discrete and neutral, would take extra pains to not reveal details of private email to anyone.

If you take personal umbrage at my public criticisms of the organization, please don’t: I’m engaged in rhetoric here, not ad hominem attacks.

Your assumptions that because you obscure the details of the email, it’s okay to discuss in public, to say nothing of your assumptions that I want new business, that I want you to help secure me new business, or, indeed, that I’m actually in a business that falls under your area of interest are equally distasteful.

If I want your help, I will ask for it. If you want to discuss private correspondence between me any anyone else in public, I would hope that, in future, you would extend me the courtesy of asking my permission.

Sandy Peardon's picture
Sandy Peardon on December 8, 2003 - 16:10 Permalink

Peter, you spout negative things about people and orgs everyday without so much as a clue to the background of which you write…but when someone writes a nebulous but factual account of something that is not even negative about you, you say it is confidential because it serves your purpose.

Weblog citizens, the emperor wears no clothes…

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 8, 2003 - 17:02 Permalink

And yet strangely, Sandy, you keep on reading…

Kevin's picture
Kevin on December 8, 2003 - 23:09 Permalink

Passing on the most recent exchange, Peter you wrote:

Open source simply is: it doesn’t need sales jobs, pep rallies, meetings, visioning sessions, or centres for excellence, all of which are trappings of the closed-source world where profit and obfuscation are the goals.

There is a reason that there are no training courses for anarchists.”

Open source ought to be ringing from every school bell and town hall in the country. I’ve been trying to drag some decision makers closer to this for years

Will's picture
Will on December 8, 2003 - 23:36 Permalink

An ITAP director that says uses the phrase “pin striped wankers” is a step in the right direction, in my books.

Alan's picture
Alan on December 9, 2003 - 00:22 Permalink

I find it very difficult to imagine wankers who are not into non-threatening loving…

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on December 9, 2003 - 18:20 Permalink

Bloodlust is a great motivator for activism and change, and so I’m sorry to be a stick in them mud, but I’d like to raise the possibility that people who don’t share your wisdom and/or ideology and/or taste in clothes might primarily be misguided, and not necessarily wankers.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on December 10, 2003 - 02:32 Permalink

People who flooded into the Internet “market”, replete with billions of ill-begotten .com money, who couldn’t care less who’z lives they fucd with while they went about ruining hundreds and thousands of honest to goodness businesses, who picked our pockets clean by coopting our government, and who humiliated us by reducing our share holdings (and I mean the taxpayer, not me) to zilch all the while creating paper jobs and fooling everyone except the people — those guys are wankers and I don’t care what they wear or what it looks like.

Oliver, life will teach you lessons.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on December 10, 2003 - 02:46 Permalink

I’m sorry, when I wrote that I hadn’t considered that the previous author might be more than a teenager who was tweaking my nose. Now that I have considered the other possibility I wish to retract and accept the point made as having validity worth consideration though I fail on the bloodlust bit.

Joseph Potvin's picture
Joseph Potvin on December 10, 2003 - 16:38 Permalink

I would like to hear from Peter whether he thinks my part of the ITAP session, entitled “Free/Libre Open Source Supply and Demand Rationale” lived up to his billing that some imported federal swivel servant would make free/libre open source sound completely dreadful. He might be right! I confess, I’m an economist.

Here are three URLs to keep up to date on our boring GOSLING and GOOSE activities (Getting Open Source Login INto Governments, which is informal)&(Government Official Open Source Engagement, which, as suggested, is official stuff): (Here we are in the news, last year… ) There’s an email list anyone can join.

As to Sandy’s mentioning my email to this blog, I agree it would have been better etiquette to request permission from both Peter and I, but I consider it a trivial detail in the scheme of things. Besides, there were over 150 people in the conference room in Argentina who know that I want to connect their open-source-friendly project on eGovernment, funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank into contact with the smart folks in PEI who ran provincial election coverage during a hurricane. This is a connection possibility that I’ve generated, and at this level, did not intend what I said to be confidential. Like I said, more an etiquette think. What you do with it, Peter, will of course, be your business. I’m just happy to share a connection with you, and it didn’t cost the Canadian or PEI taxpayer a cent. Hope you and/or others in PEI get some business out of it. I’m trying to get more specific info about that Argentina-IDB project. Given the awful economic situation in Argentina, getting better-faster-cheaper with FLOSS is looking especially attractive.

Joseph Potvin
Boring Title
Organization with a Boring Name
Non-descript Street Address

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 10, 2003 - 16:39 Permalink

Joseph, thank you for your sense of humour. You made my day.

Russell McOrmond's picture
Russell McOrmond on December 10, 2003 - 17:45 Permalink

Joseph copied a message about this site to the Ottawa chapter mailing list <http:”” forum.shtml=”“>, so I took a look. I agree with some of the other submissions that reminds people that “open source” is a process, not a product. It really is not as simple as what choice of software product you procure, but what software projects you will participate in as a peer. It is understandable when public servants get nervous about this level of a transition, but there is a considerable amount of help available.

For a longer article with my thoughts, see: “CompTIA at WSIS: Another look at Software Choice”…

I have tried to go further than just talking about Open Source to suggest that what we are speaking of are methodologies that do not just apply to software. I read a paper “Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm” by Yochai Benkler which introduced me to the “commons-based peer production” terminology. Where I am talking about just software I try to use the phrase FLOSS <http:”” floss.shtml=”“> to be inclusive, but now use the phrase “peer production” when talking about the methodologies generally.

I am excited about the concept of peer production public policy. While we have the GOSLING Community <http:”“> for talking about Open Source Logic(methodologies) with government, I am trying to start something that will try to focus on elections and elected representatives. I have allocated a domain name for the site at and hope to have a campaign tools ready for the upcoming federal election.

umaima's picture
umaima on July 20, 2004 - 15:40 Permalink

pls i want to know which software ‘am i to use in promoting a campus-wide specific discussion group on linux machine.Here is my e-mail addy

ghimlybab's picture
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