I spoke at the 2015 OSCON (Open Source Conference) in Portland, Oregon, the week of July 20 – 24. I’d estimate there were about 4000 people at OSCON (attendees, speakers, exhibitors). I gave a talk titled, “Solve Optimization Problems using Swarm Intelligence” where I described some clever algorithms based on biological systems such as flocks of birds and colonies of honeybees. About 100 people attended my session. I demoed the algorithms using the Python language.
My biggest impression of OSCON was that it had a ton of energy. The talk topics were wildly diverse which makes sense because open source is in programming languages, data, IT, and everything else. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the conference Expo too. I’d guess there were at least 100 booths and tables featuring everything from the largest companies (Microsoft, HP, IBM, etc.) down to tiny user groups.
Another impression from OSCON was that, as I expected, I saw many stereotypical open source people. By that I mean there were far more tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, strange clothing choices, and so on, than I normally see in my day to day working world. But there were a lot of people like me at OSCON too — boring khaki pants and a button-down collared shirt from Sears.
Sometimes I wonder about the motivation for people who clearly go out of their way to dress in a non-conformal mode. In the end, I decided that any generalization would be useless. But I love to people watch and believe me, OSCON was a people watchers gold mine.
I talked to quite a few attendees and other speakers and everyone I talked to was enjoying themselves and felt the event was a good use of time. I haven’t spoken at OSCON for several years. At this 2015 edition of the conference, the event seemed a bit more mainstream — and I mean that in a good way. Not many angry hippy anarchists. I liked the bulletin boards where people posted job listings and announcements, and I liked the self-organizing birds of a feather feature where attendees set up their own discussions in the evenings.
I was somewhat surprised at how many non-technical talks there were. I’m not a fan of listening to things like “Build Your Open Source Resume” and “Selling Open Source 101”, but I’ll bet many attendees do like such topics and they served to increase the wild range of talk topics at OSCON.
The bottom line is that I highly recommend OSCON. If you’re in the open source community, OSCON is almost a must-attend event. But even if you’re not an active user of open source software, I can recommend OSCON because it’s wildly interesting and you’ll likely learn something you can apply anywhere.