Open Source Divertimento K. 2007

I was asked to give a brief presentation on open-source to a group of Austrian officials from the government and public sector on Monday, October 22, 2007. I learned that while the officials were guests of IBM, their trip was funded by an organization in Austria, and also that there would be software vendors present.

I thus made only limited mention of IBM’s business activities around open-source, and briefly described two proposals that I had handled that I thought were memorable.

The first was to honor a request by Prof. Scott Fahlman of Carnegie-Mellon University that he be given permission to take back to CMU work he had done while visiting IBM Research. This request was honored by releasing the code to him under an open-source license. Prof. Fahlman has gained some deserved recognition as the inventor of the smiley, for he was the first to use a colon followed by a right parenthesis in an email to indicate an emotion.

The second was to honor a request made by an IBM employee in the Netherlands. Knowing he had a a terminal illness, he asked on his last day at IBM that IBM release some code he had written as open-source, and IBM honored this request. (I described this incident in a post I wrote last year, Kaddish. )

Otherwise I based my presentation on my volunteer activities.

By way of introduction, I made mention that I had visited Austria in the summer of 2005, visting Vienna, where I stayed in a hotel that was in a building in which Mozart had once resided, as well as a visit to Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace. So I began by putting up a video clip that shows some students at the University of Texas performing “Ecco La Marcia” from Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro, K492.

Open Source Divertimento K. 2007

Introduction / Summary



I’m Dave Shields. I joined IBM Research in 1987. Philippe Charles and I wrote a Java compiler called Jikes. It was released in late 1998 as IBM’s first open-project. I ran the Jikes project throughout 1999. I left Research in early 2003 to join the team that manages IBM’s day-to-day activities in open-source. See BIO for more
details, and also the video interview Me Tube


Some things are so important they should be completely open. No company should seek commmercial advantage here. No member of the community should take advantage of another.


  • Humanitarian assistance: Sahana
  • Public and other government records. For example, I have ancestors who were born in Massachusetts around 1650. How will my descendants access my birth certificate, etc.? Microsoft Word V2240?
  • Improving the environment
  • Pandemic response. IBM Research working on this
  • Developing economies of underdeveloped countries: Ubuntu,
  • Fighting terrorism
  • Honoring Fallen Soldiers


IBM’s Commitment to be a Responsible Corporate Citizen

IBM has a commitment to be a responsible corporate citizen going back to shortly after the company was founded. Current work on this is supervised by IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs (CCCA).

Corporate Citizenship: Sahana

CCCA approached me in late 2005 seeking help in encouraging IBMers with coding skills to support Sahana, a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system.

LTC Colleague Rob Eggers joined the team in March, 2006.

Rob was called while on vacation this past August, and asked to fly to Peru to help IBM Peru deal with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. He spent a week there, during which he met with the Prime Minister of Peru. This is an example of the ways in which volunteer efforts can bring unexpected and valuable opportunities.

Corporate Citizenship: Reinventing Education

Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner commits IBM to improving education over a decade ago;
current CEO Sam Palmisano honors that commitment.

I started blogging in early 2006. My first post is about
. This is part of my volunteer work, done on my own time and my own dime.

I have published more than 400+ posts to date. Most are about open-source and/or education.


Other Volunteer efforts:


Thank You!


Afterword: I had an hour-long discussion with Isabel Wang last Friday, as one of her recent blog posts helped inspire me to start the The Women In Technology Project. She said, after I had spent a few minutes describing some of IBM’s philanthropic activities, that learning about them had changed her opinion of IBM, and she now helder IBM in much higher esteem.


1. Mozart was a prolific composed, though the world lost an unknown amount of wonderful music due to his death before the age of forty. His manuscripts were ordered in the form of the Köchel catalogue, a monumental piece of scholarship, and his works have ever since been identified by their “Kochel number,” usually abbreviate with the letter “K”. For example, the The Marriage of Figaro is K. 492.

I used K. 2007 in the title of the presentation as it was first given in 2007. I used “Divertimento” as my wife’s favorite piece of music is Mozart’s Divertimento, K 364.

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