What I learned at OSCON

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to attend the 13th annual O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland, OR.

Portland has a special “yes I know I am a caricature of myself, but I’m proud of who I am because what I stand for is genuinely good” sort of vibe. You feel it the moment you get off the plane, buy your Max ticket, and hop on the light rail where locals volunteer themselves as guides, telling you about the real side of the city (“be sure to check out South East and not just Hawthorne”) while chopping away at sushi and sipping iced coffee.

As Portland is to the rest of the country (unabashedly special), OSCON is to the rest of tech conferences. The second you walk into the Oregon Convention Center you can feel enthusiasm radiating from 3,000 open source developers, hackers, etc. If you are like me and have never been before, it might seem a little off putting at first. You could easily mistake this collective spirit as being a closed-door ‘holier than thou’ club. Just as, at first take, you might feel the same way about Portland. Especially if you are coming from a meat and potatoes kind of city like Chicago.

But once you get beyond the Google Glass, sink your teeth into your martian create-your-own polenta (served in a martini glass), and start chatting with people at the opening party, you will find that OSCON veterans are a welcoming, appropriately open minded group of folks who will gladly let you into their club. All it takes is a touch of humility and an ethos around Open Source. Remember, this is a tech conference – not everyone is super extroverted. Don’t be afraid to step up and chat with strangers. They will most likely let you in.

Once the ball got rolling, I learned a lot. Other than the air conditioning in my room at the Red Lion – which both sounded and smelled like a tractor engine – the event was a success.

A couple of take away highlights:

Jono Bacon, author of The Art of Community, was kind enough to chat with me about how the Zurmo community can continue to grow in a positive way. He lead a great talk on dealing with conflict and burnout in Open Source communities.

Tony Santos lead a talk on Human Centered Design.We had a conversation about the Zurmo user experience. He gave us some tangible tips that we are going to implement over the course of the next few releases. Thanks to Tony’s advice, we are going to make Zurmo even more intuitive for end users by implementing a usability testing methodology that he recommended.

I attended an office hour and talk lead by Amye Scavarda and Leslie Hawthorn on the unique work culture of Open Source organizations. It was fun and informative. I like these two. They know a lot about how different kinds of humans interact with one another and gave the audience sound advice on how to manage and harmonize communities.

In the end, I’m quite grateful to have attended and to have met the awesome people who were there. Thanks to the peeps above for taking the time to chat with a newbie and offer up their valuable advice.

OSCON photo

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