Essential Takeaways From OSCON: See Why Open Source Still Rules
Guest post by Bill Weir, Senior Product Development Engineer for AT&T
The O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in July held in Portland, Oregon was bigger and better than ever. For those who don’t know, the OSCON is a thriving, annual convention focused on free and open source technology. OSCON grew out of the Perl Conference, expanding to encompass “the entire range of open source technologies.” It is an open source love-fest, offering passionate discussions, keynotes, a large expo hall, community meetings, and up to 16 separate, simultaneous breakout sessions daily on a wide range of technical subjects:
- Full stack open source solutions
- Programming languages
- Cloud technology
- Internet of Things
The OSCON Expo Hall: More Booths and a Non-Profit Pavilion
Two years ago, AT&T had a booth at OSCON to promote our open source mobile app diagnostic software ARO (Application Resource Optimizer); the open source version of ARO is available on Github. This year the Expo expanded quite a bit in size. There was still a fun side to the Expo with some attendees wandering around dressed as superheroes, wizards ,and furries. There were more booths and people than ever before.
There is an activist side to OSCON Expo, with many booths promoting a variety of causes in the Non-Profit Pavilion on the Expo floor: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had a booth and The Perl Foundation always has a presence. Other organizations represented at the ExpoThe Free Software Foundation, Free Geek, the Mozilla Foundation, USENIX Association, Internet Archive, Linuxfest Northwest, Drupal, ChickTech and The Apache Software Foundation were all also represented in the pavilion.
Keynotes: Another OSCON Draw
George Dyson presented a great keynote on the last day of the convention, which covered a brief early history of computing. He argued that the way forward will involve looking back. You watch is compelling presentation “From Analog to Digital and Back” below and on YouTube.
Facebook launches several open source projects every month, and has hundreds of engineers supporting those projects. The person leading open source at Facebook, James Pearce , gave an interesting keynote explaining why open-source is important to Facebook. Here’s one of the takeaways:
“By sharing our code and our stack, and in some cases even our hardware designs, we think that other companies and individuals are just able to move faster. And far from this being a competitive threat, we actually find that the value of this accrues back to us.”
You can watch his keynote, How Facebook Open Sources at Scale, below and on YouTube.
Breakout Sessions: Not Just About Open Source
There were many great breakout sessions at OSCON. One session I really enjoyed was about an open source approach to computer vision, the science and technology of machines that see. The talk, titled “Practical mobile computer vision: How card.io works” covered his efforts to use the camera on a mobile device to capture an image of a credit card, run it through dozens of algorithms, and turn it into data the device could use.
Another enjoyable talk entitled “Fear of Failing Fast: How to Avoid Sabotaging Your Success” was given by Amye Scavarda and Leslie Hawthorn. The gist of their talk was related to a quote by Albert Einstein -“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
One hot subject that continued from last year was software containers. There were a dozen breakout sessions that involved Docker, an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers.
Many of the breakout presentations are available for viewing online.
OSCON Will Be Moving Next Year
OSCON has traditionally been held each summer in the United States. For 12 of the last 13 years, OSCON has been held in Portland, Oregon. But OSCON 2016 will be moving to Austin, Texas next May.
And it is expanding. A second European version of OSCON will be held in Amsterdam this fall (October 26-28, 2015).