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Final Comments on Practice Meeting

I had to leave the INFORMS Practice Meeting Tuesday morning since I had to get back to do some teaching (it wasn’t a successful class: I can’t drive for four hours then teach!). So just a few final comments:

  • Brady Hunsaker gave a nice introduction to Open Source for OR, and attracted a good crowd (85 people by my count). I attended since I am on the strategic board of COIN-OR, one of the main open source initiatives for OR, but I am a bit fuzzy at times on the concepts. I find the whole licensing issue for open source to be one of the most frustrating. With more than 60 “open source” licenses to choose from, it seems that the goals of the whole movement are being drowned in legal minutia. Right now, the strategic board of COIN-OR is in the midst of an extremely long, detailed discussion of the conflicts between GLP (Gnu General Public License) and CPL (Common Public License). It is important since it is stopping wider distribution of some of COIN’s work, but it does seem like a minor variance in the number of angels on the pin. Brady didn’t sort that out, but he did give a good overview of what open source means and what is out there for OR. I think there is demand for more though: how does a company get into open source, and what are the pitfalls.
  • I liked the Stockholm social services Edelman presentation. My Mom just went to a nursing home, so the issue of providing home care to improve the quality of life of the elderly, and save costs by keeping people at home, hits very close to me. Not surprisingly, Sweden has a very extensive care network, to the extent that 60% of city workers in Stockholm are involved in social services. The presenters did a good job of outlining what looks to be a very powerful, flexible system.
  • I had a very interesting luch conversation on Monday with my table. INFORMS assigns people to tables at lunch, and asks those who have been involved in INFORMS or the conference (like me) to moderate the conversation.  I had an interesting group, ranging in age from mid-twenties to sixties, with a wide breadth of experience.  We spend most of lunch complaining about things:  why isn’t OR better known?  Why is education system in the US so bad?  Who is going to learn mathematics in the future?  Why are our tools so misused?  Great fun!
  • I met Hari Balasubramanian, author of the Out of Kilter blog, albeit too briefly.  He promises to get back to his OR blog:  he has been concentrating on his history, literature, etc. blog.
  • I also chatted with Arnie Greenland from IBM, who told me about some of the wonderful things IBM is doing in text mining, particularly with the Social Security Administration (see this IBM page for a description of what they do).  Arnie and I have worked on projects with the Internal Revenue Service and with the US Postal Service together.
  • Finally, it was great to see all the INFORMS staff.  They aren’t always at the Practice Conference, but since Baltimore is the hometown for most of the staff, it was easy to get them all together.

I really like the Practice Conference:  the presenters take their talks seriously, and it is very well done.  And it gives great fodder for my MBA classes.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Aoleon | April 17, 2008 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Many large corporations are trying hard to “own” the open source technologies via lawsuits and licensing. The best open source apps are not owned by large corporations and are developed and distributed freely. I am a bit concerned by the recent acquisition of MySQL by SUN, although I think Sun is a good citizen and probably won’t destroy the wonderful MySQL open source community that exists – although I could be wrong.

  2. Daniel Craig | June 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    They may try, but ultimately they will fail. A very high percentage of the licenses (they have agreed to by using or modifying the source) are CPL,GPL,OSL or LGPL. The key point being they “Must Distribute Modified Source.” That is clearly laughable and would be the first major hurdle in any litigation efforts by a commercial.