The New Zealand Open Source Awards: What a night!

I was very fortunate to score an invitation to attend the New Zealand Open Source Awards last night held in Wellington.
The Inaugural event aimed to be a celebration of achievements New Zealanders have made in the Open Source environment and from what I saw, it achieved just that.

The awards were created and driven by those wonderful OSS Innovators and supporters, Catalyst IT. They along with the other key sponsors Google and Red Hat along with the assistance of numerous 'Silver' sponsors (Including my own involvement via the New Zealand Open Source Society) turned the entire event into a success.

The evening started with a bit of a social drinks+snacks type event from around 5:30pm. I arrived a little after 6pm and was struck by the sheer number of people in attendance - this was a big event as these sorts of things go. Numerous luminaries from the IT community in NZ were present, including reps from a number of the big players in the area.

Eventually we filtered into the main event area and found ourselves at various circular tables infront of a stage with a number of trophies evident on the dais. I was seated at the NZOSS Table and was able to catch up with a few of the members that I don't see very often, along with some new faces.

Mike O'Connor - a Catalyst Director - was the MC for the night and went on to introduce the evening and the purpose for which we were all there. Don Christie - also a Catalyst director and also the President of the NZOSS also spoke. And then, straight into the awards.

The first award presented was for the category 'Open Source Ambassador'. The winner of this category was NZOSS's own Peter Harrison, a win well deserved (though all finalists were extremely qualified). Grateful to Peter for specifically mentioning a number of the NZOSS key players in terms of its foundation back in ~2000 (flattered to hear my name!).

I wasn't actively taking notes so whilst i'm sure the rest of the winners are on the NZOSA Website as of 11am this morning, there's a few key things that I noted of the night:

  • NZOSA did well with its selection of Judges, who doubled as Presenters. A good cross-section of business, personal and political OSS influences and all quite entertaining. A nod to people like Russell Brown (who I met briefly) and Colin Jackson (who i've had a little to do with at various events) who brought both value and entertainment.
  • Drupal was a big feature. I've no doubt that were it Kiwi-Grown, it'd have won its own category. Evidenced by the vast number of online OSS systems leveraging Drupal as a frontend. Heck even the NZOSA Site was built in Drupal, as was the NZOSSs.
  • The high standard of local entries was astounding. Long standing Kiwiborn tools like Koha or Ruby on Rails really stand out.
  • Genuinely nice people involved. Its a community that you'd really want to be involved with.
  • Late Edit: Credit to the Hon David Cunliffe, Minister for Information and Communication Technologies and to Hon Maurice Williamson, ICT Spokesperson for the National Party and the foundation Minister for ICT, who were both in attendance. David Cunliffe addressed the Awards and was well received (even if you don't register .com's through the NZSRS, eh! ;-) Noted the web copy of his speech does infact say .nz...)

I had a brief opportunity to chat with Pia Waugh of Waughpartners who was the International component of the judging panel. She seemed to me like one switched-on individual and her husband and business partner Jeff was there demonstrating some of the One Laptop Per Child ($100 Laptop) units which in themselves are a success story of the Open Source community.

I feel a little bit 'out of sorts' attending these events sometimes, as my own involvement in OSS is very much on the periphery (i'm not a code hack) - these sorts of events put me to shame and at the same time have me in awe of exactly what kind of calibre we're putting out onto the world OSS stage. Overall the night was a tremendous success and I must extend kudos to the key drivers involved, especially Don Christie, Chris Daish and well - the list goes on. Can't wait for the next one!