Sunday, July 28, 2013

My last OSCON as program chair

In 2008, I took over from the inimitable Nat Torkington as a program chair of OSCON, O'Reilly's Open Source Convention. As is wise when replacing someone who is a noted personality, I determined to bring my own style to OSCON. It only took four years for people to stop asking where Nat went!

Six years later, I've just finished hosting my last OSCON as a chair. Over the years I've shared that honor with Allison Randall and Sarah Novotny, and this year with new hosts Matthew McCullough and Simon St.Laurent.

OSCON has become something much larger than the sum of its parts. Though O'Reilly started it, after fifteen years it is very much its own creature. I'm proud to say 2013's conference was the biggest, and most definitely one of the best.

Pre-show meeting. Photo: Matthew McCullough.


What did I bring to OSCON? Most of all, I think I've helped in steering it through open source's transition from disruptive notion to the new default way that many in the software industry collaborate and build. One of the biggest challenges is that what used to be the core of OSCON—language oriented tracks such as Python, Perl—now have their own grassroots homes in many excellent conferences. Neither are we fighting a war for open source any more, but in the post-victory learning stage.

OSCON is a place where the new polyglot stack of technologies finds its home. I've aimed not only to serve the audience with what they need and expect, but to inject new ideas, challenges and technologies that they might not have considered before: from hardware hacking to improv skills and involving kids with technology. OSCON's a conference for the whole geek. And, though we've a long way to go, it's getting more diverse and inclusive every year.

It's been consistently humbling and always thrilling to lead the parade of 3,500 people pioneering open source, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity.

I'll end this post with a couple of extracts from write-ups of OSCON that I saw. More than anything, these articles please me, because they tell me that I've achieved the thing I set out to do.
Open source continues to permeate every day life and while OSCON has long ago solidified it’s place on the tech conference circuit, it’s importance has amplified over time.  Next year’s 16th annual gathering promises to be a must attend event for anybody who codes on a regular basis.  As we saw with this edition, though, that base is broadening to include more than just the folks who play around with compilers and interpreters and feature a wider variety of participants. — Pete Johnson
OSCON (Open Source Convention) was inspiring this year, as it was last... a great way to get motivated and step back and see and talk and listen to others on how they do things. … These days modern computer systems are more assemblages of discrete components than integrated pieces of software, and OSCON is one place where I can get a feel for new trends that are emerging and discover new ways of doing and thinking about things. — Dan Marmot
The mantle for OSCON at O'Reilly will pass to respected editor, and my long-time friend, Simon St.Laurent. I couldn't be happier that he's taking over. There's still so much to do. There are two things in particular I'd like to see, and regret not having yet achieved. Firstly, I know that OSCON can be much more involved in tying together and helping other open source communities. Secondly, for those in the broader world consuming open source, we don't make it easy enough yet. We've created an "open platform" for software developers that's just not as accessible as it could be, and OSCON can play a part in ensuring that open source hasn't just won the right to exist, but permeates as far as it can.

As for me, my days in open source are far from done. I'm looking forward to the new ways I will contribute, and hope to be presenting at OSCON 2014!