Open Silicon Harbor to Celebrate Charleston’s Open Source Software Community


Charleston’s first Open Silicon Harbor, or OpenCon, event kicks off September 16th with a charity golf tournament at Patriots Point, with all proceeds going to K9 for Veterans, and continues the following day with a community-funded, free conference celebrating Charleston’s open source software community at the Footlight Theater in downtown Charleston. The day will end with an hour of Ignite Talks, where industry professionals are given 5 minutes—on the clock—to share their knowledge with their peers.

Modeled after the Military Open Source Software (Mil-OSS) training summit held in Charleston the past two years, OpenCon organizer, Becky Howard aims to bridge the gap between military and commercial open source communities. An open source software license, as opposed to a proprietary license, gives any organization or individual the right to reuse, repurpose and recycle source code. It is as much an economic model, as it is a collaborative effort, saving employers and the government alike time and money while accelerating development.

“Open source forces collaboration. And if we use the open techniques in software, culture and community, we will encourage Charleston not only to collaborate, but also highlight some of the brightest local talent, and keep costs down,” Howard said.

SPAWAR, which provides the Navy with hardware and software that connects war fighters at sea, on land and in the air, is as close-knit a community as Silicon Harbor’s commercial startups. While both realms are operating in the same space of leveraging open source technologies to build innovative software while drawing from the same talent pool, they often operate as separate industries. Howard thinks there might be some intimidation around approaching the government to do business. It’s important that Charleston’s commercial software shops know that “you don’t have to be a government contracting organization to do business with the government. We want the commercial industry to see that it’s not as scary as it seems to be. It’s not as bureaucratic as it seems, and they can hopefully at least start the conversation with the government,” Howard said.

Howard has become devoted to bringing innovative technologies to national defense—both on the battlefield, and in cyber defense. “There are people in the government who are super passionate about a way forward with technology and using it for the good of this nation,” Howard said. Equally a proponent of uplifting Silicon Harbor, Howard believes that the community at large will be greatly benefited by uniting two powerful and promising realms of the software industry.

While SPAWAR has more talent in its backyard than it knows about, Silicon Harbor’s smaller development companies similarly have a potentially giant client they’re not pursuing. OpenCon is outing the groups on either side of the train tracks for the growth and promotion of Silicon Harbor. With an emphasis on sharing ideas and culture as well as software, this event will provide the chance for each sector to understand another side of the software industry, and how technologies or technological needs relate.

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