The Future is Open at OSCON
The O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland this year witnessed more than 2000 hackers, geeks and entrepreneurs. The vastness of the Portland Convention Center seemed to engulf the close-knit open source community and made the event seem both larger yet sparser than previous years. Nonetheless, the excitement at the conference continued to reflect the phenomenal growth of open source.
High quality tech-talks have always been a hallmark of OSCON. Excellent tutorials and talks at OSCON highlighted the most popular technologies — Ruby on Rails, Apache Harmony, AJAX, XUL and SWIK. There was something for everyone — topics ranged from newbie to advanced interests. Most presentations were informative and well done, but there were so many tracks — Linux, Apache, XML, Databases, PHP, Python, Perl, Java, Ruby, Security and Emerging topics — I felt like I had too much to do in too little time.
“Good ideas flow up from the bottom rather than flowing down from the top” said Paul Graham in his keynote. The entrepreneur turned writer noted that people work harder on things they like and that open source and blogging are examples of having fun in what people work on. Paul also lamented that businesses today are run more like communist states than free markets. David Heinemeier Hansson, in his keynote on Ruby on Rails, talked about what made his project a success. The elements of success for his project included supporting a minimal configuration, not having to recompile to reflect changes, and maximal integration within components from front-end (GUI) to back-end (databases).
A business track titled ‘Open Source Business Review’ for CIOs and managers, was new to the convention this year. Topics included enterprise barriers to OSS adoption, applications, licensing, large scale project collaboration, and risk management. A panel on European Software Patents by Harmut Pilch of FFII, Marten Mickos of MySQL and Michael Tiemann of Red Hat emphasized that despite the FOSS community’s success in being able to temporarily halt software patents in Europe, this win represented just one skirmish in what will be a long fight.
OSCON is great for catching up on the latest buzz in ‘hallway talks’ — discussing the new Mozilla Corporation, what’s happening on Harmony, hot startups in the Valley, Google’s ‘Summer of Code’, 10 years of PHP, new features in Apache 2.2 and Perl, and much more. Informal meetings and social networking are an essential part of everyone’s OSCON experience.
The birds-of-a-feather (BOF) meetings in the evenings were another integral component of OSCON. Usually based on popular topics, BOFs provide a forum for exciting and often productive community interaction.
On the last day of OSCON I participated in a panel about “Women in OSS“. It was intriguing to explore why there are less than 2 percent women in open source despite a greater participation of women in technology areas in general. Food for thought and action.