Donnie Berkholz's Story of Data

OSCON wrap-up

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On my whirlwind tour of the country last week (Minneapolis-Portland-Chicago-Minneapolis-Portland-Minneapolis), I spent a day and a half at OSCON, O’Reilly’s big open-source show.

In many ways, OSCON is like a reunion to me. I think the last time I was there was 2008 or so, shortly before I moved out of Oregon. But the open-source world knows no geographical boundaries, so it’s not as if I fell completely out of touch. While the world around it has changed, OSCON has stayed mostly the same. The key differences I’ve noticed since 4 years ago were the addition of a healthcare track and a major focus on the cloud.

Others have said it before, but the hallway track is king at a conference like this, and O’Reilly’s setup at Oregon Convention Center favors this — there’s a fairly central hub where everyone tends to congregate. I literally spent 45 minutes trying to make it 200 feet down the hall, either because I stopped to talk to someone I knew, or someone else ran into me. That defines the nature of OSCON.

In fact, besides my own BoF and talk, I only made it to one session, on organizational manipulation (my write-up and their video), during the entire time I was at the conference. The remainder of the time was spent talking to people.

FOSS metrics

On Wednesday evening, I co-hosted a BoF/hackathon on FOSS metrics with Rich Sands of Black Duck, who runs Ohloh. Despite a surprising end just 1 hour into what we’d thought was a 2-hour hackathon, a core of us successfully migrated to a nearby table. There, we continued talking over ideas of what we could do and learn from metrics. And Dave Neary, now at Red Hat, managed to hack the Blue Bird web frontend for sentiment analysis (originally commissioned by RedMonk) to work on IRC logs.

My talk on abusive community members

I was very excited to give a talk with Leslie Hawthorn (who I met when she ran the Google Summer of Code; now at Red Hat) titled “Assholes are killing your project” on the dramatically outsized negative impact that a few abusive people have on open communities. She had a series of wonderful examples to contribute that would’ve added a ton of value to transform my data into more human stories. To my great regret, she got very ill at the last minute and was unable to make it. But we both survived, and the talk had a packed house and went over great (4.2/5 average rating).

The hallway

The value of face time is incalculable in our distributed tech culture. It was great to catch up with people including Keith Packard, Sara Dornsife, Mike Milinkovich, Barton George, Steve Holden, a number of folks from the Apache foundation and the Open Source Lab, and many, many more.

OSCON’s value continues to be in the people and the relationships I’m able to build and strengthen every time I’m there. I hope to make it back next year; it may involve a deathmatch with Stephen.

Disclosure: Black Duck and Red Hat are clients. Google is not.


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