Monday, November 21, 2005

OSCON 2005 Recap

[Originally published in the September/October 2005 issue of Enterprise Open Source Journal (EOSJ) - page 32.]

OSCON 2005 Recap
by Raven Zachary

The 2005 O'Reilly Open Source Convention ("OSCON") was held the first week of August at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, USA. OSCON is the ‘main event' for the open source developer community, organized by O'Reilly Media, which is best known for its technology book publishing and open source advocacy. Although OSCON caters to the open source developer, only half of the attendees are classified as developers. The convention also attracts a considerable showing of IT operations staff, IT managers and executives, and academics. Bob Thomas, the publisher of EOSJ, and I were at OSCON 2005 this year, both as media sponsors and exhibitors.

This year's event was the largest OSCON to date, with over 2,400 attendees and a 61,000 square foot exhibition hall showcasing over 60 exhibitors. While these numbers are modest compared to other technology conventions, this year's OSCON was a testament to the rapid growth and broader interest of the open source movement. Prior years' conventions have taken place in hotel convention facilities, but this year with the increased attendance and vendor involvement, the convention was moved to the Oregon Convention Center, providing room for future growth.

The five-day open source convention included tutorials, technical track sessions, panel discussions, keynotes, special interest gatherings, testing labs, an exhibit hall, and a number of events, including vendor parties. Attendees had to make difficult scheduling decisions during the convention, with multiple sessions and events occurring simultaneously.

The main body of the convention sessions, the technical tracks, included 241 sessions organized into twelve categories: Apache, Databases, Emerging Topics, Java, Linux, Perl, PHP, Products & Services, Python, Ruby, Security, and XML. Although mostly technical in nature, sessions in the Emerging Topics and Products & Services included topics of general interest to non-developers. Over 40 half-day tutorial sessions were held during the first two days of OSCON, at an added cost to attendees.

Birds of a Feather sessions (BOFs), special interest gatherings, were scheduled after the main sessions. Over 30 BOFs were organized at OSCON. I was able to attend a few BOF sessions, and it was a great way to meet people with similar interests in a less formal setting.

OSCON keynote speakers included Jonathan Schwartz of Sun, Kim Polese of SpikeSource, Andrew Morton of OSDL, Mitchell Baker of Mozilla Foundation, and Larry Wall, creator of Perl. Andrew Morton held up a copy of the inaugural issue of EOSJ in front of the crowd during his keynote address and read excerpts from two of the articles. Every attendee of OSCON this year was given a copy of the inaugural issue of EOSJ in their convention backpacks, and many more copies were given away at our booth.

In support of the growing attendance of non-developers to OSCON, a new business track was added, called the Open Source Business Review (OSBR). This two-day premium addition to the convention was designed for IT managers and executives, and covered issues ranging from software evaluation, to managing risks, licensing, calculating ROI, and governance. The OSBR was co-chaired by Dan Woods, author of the recent O'Reilly book, Open Source for the Enterprise.

OSCON was also a place for open source companies to make announcements. More than ten announcements were made at the convention. One of the interesting announcements was that Carnegie Mellon West Center for Open Source Investigation, O'Reilly CodeZoo, SpikeSource and Intel have launched of the Business Readiness Rating (BRR), a proposed open standard to facilitate assessment and adoption of open source software.

Professional networking was a major aspect of the convention. OSCON provided a "Who's Who" list of attendees, to enable networking. Like many, I spent some time going through the list with a highlighter before the convention began, and set up meetings with a few of the attendees. The OSCON Message Board (also marked appropriately for job postings) was a primary gathering point during the convention, and many companies were in attendance this year to interview candidates for open source jobs. In a pre-convention email reminder from O'Reilly, attendees were encouraged to bring business cards and resumes. Half the people I met had already run out of business cards.

The main hallway in the convention center was an attraction itself. Loaded with blow-up air chairs and couches, wireless Internet, and plenty of power outlets for recharging laptops, this was a gathering point for conversation, people watching, and convention downtime. While sitting in a transparent green air couch checking my email, I saw everything from a wandering harmonica player to a Segway rider to someone dressed in a circus ringleader outfit. A diverse group of people was assembled at OSCON to share and learn about open source.

While OSCON is growing, and next year's convention will certainly surpass this year's, O'Reilly remains focused on keeping OSCON an intimate event. "We're always working to keep OSCON focused on the technology and content while providing opportunities to get up close and personal with the companies, community groups, and projects that are shaping open source," said program chair Nathan Torkington. "No matter what its size, OSCON will always be about quality conversations, meaningful interactions, and plenty of fun." I'm already planning to attend OSCON 2006, and I hope to see you there.

For more information on The 2005 O'Reilly Open Source Convention, including the presentations, photos, attendee Wiki, weblogs, and links to the audio recordings of the convention keynotes (provided by ITConversations), please visit the OSCON 2005 web site: http://conventions.oreillynet.com/os2005/. O'Reilly will announce the location and date of next year's OSCON, as well as the call for participation in November.

If you reside in Europe, The 2005 O'Reilly European Open Source Convention (Euro OSCON) will be held from October 17-20th, 2005, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Further information on Euro OSCON is available at conventions.oreillynet.com/eurooscon/.

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