Increasing Linux Participation in China: Our Symposium

amcpherson's picture

One of the core mission’s of the Linux Foundation is to increase participation and adoption of Linux throughout the world, especially in areas not well integrated into the Linux ecosystem. We focus on developers first, because we feel local development leads to local adoption, especially as countries realize that Linux and the GPL allows them to build local software economies instead of shipping jobs and money to some other location (like Redmond, for instance.)

We regularly hold Linux Foundation Symposiums in Japan where key Linux developers meet with local developers to increase participation and encourage collaboration. These events have been very successful. Andrew Morton, for instance, has been quoted as saying he’s seen an increase in successful patches to the kernel from Japan by about 20% percent. While you can’t trace everything back to our regional outreach efforts, I do think it has a direct effect.

Building on that, we have targeted China as a fertile ground for developer collaboration. Last month we gathered some of the brightest minds in Linux development together in Beijing and held the first annual Linux Foundation China Developer Symposium. Co-hosted by the Chinese Open Source Promotion Union, this event gathered over 300 Chinese developers together with Linux luminaries Andrew Morton, Jon Corbet, Matt Mackall, Dave Neary, Coly Li, Bill Weinberg, Paul McKenney, Harish Pillay and Jim Zemlin. Attendees included developers from the university, government and community sectors, as well as from Chinese IT and multi-national IT companies including Google, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Novell, Oracle and Red Hat.

The event included plenary sessions, roundtable discussions, and BOF sessions, which proved to be very popular as many attendees seemed more comfortable asking questions of the speakers in smaller group settings. Speaker’s presentations ranged from embedded system development to the future of the Linux kernel and market. Major topics of conversation focused on a lack of Linux developers in China and the problem of much of the driver work being done within the country never making into the mainline.

Of the former, Andrew Morton pointed out that “rather than complaining about difficulties in hiring, these companies would be better off encouraging community participation and skills development within their existing staff. That would be more productive than chasing the same small set of developers that everybody else is trying to hire.”

Of the latter, Jon Corbet said in his excellent piece on the trip that “this sort of activity fails to give back to the community which provided Linux in the first place. But it also hurts the developers involved. They do not become part of the community, do not get recognition for their work, and miss the opportunity to learn from others.”

The event also featured collaboration and social mixing with the local Beijing Linux Users Group, and generated a lot of local press, furthering the profile of Linux in China. All in all, the event benefited both the local developers in attendance as well as the visiting speakers – the symposium raised many questions, provided some great answers and opportunities, and most of all, opened a dialogue that will continue to build and improve in the years to come.