OSCON Day 3: Now the Fun Begins

Tim O'ReillyMy hat is certainly off to those for whom blogging is either a way of life or a profession. I feel as though I was dragged through the day yesterday, barely able to keep up with moving from one part of the day to the next and having things register, let alone finding the time to write about it. Part of that was the convention center: having one session in an “A” room, followed by another in a “J” room meant a walk of several minutes, usually to find that the second talk had already started, and you had to catch up. The other part was the traditional OSCON “problem” of the sheer volume of things going on simultaneously, and trying to figure out where to divert one’s attention, desperately hoping that you’re going to remember enough of everything you’ve seen to be able to look it up later. Cameras, browser bookmarks, wikis and other bits of technology help, but I definitely felt, more so than previous years, that the pace yesterday seemed to be the most frenetic I’ve encountered.

The day started with the traditional welcome and keynotes, which were given by good speakers, but speaker or group agendas seemed to be in the forefront. Tim O’Reilly, who I always like to hear speak, introduced “Open Source for America”, a group wanting to raise awareness of open source in the U.S. federal government, and Dirk Hohndel from Intel spoke about netbooks in the context of Moblin becoming the OS of choice. This was interesting to me, because I first heard of Moblin last year at OSCON, but haven’t seen much about it in the intervening year, but just have this gut feeling that when ChromeOS is released, it will be everywhere. Why is that?

The highlight of the keynotes was Michael Lopp opening a sealed box of Borland’s Paradox for Windows that he’s had for 15+ years as part of his “A Brief History of Software” talk. Fun Stuff.

The day’s sessions were punctuated with the Expo Hall, which is where the break was after the keynotes. Although it feels like there’s more here this year, things seemed very crowded and close-quartered, and after the completion of the “Passport Contest” (an annual event where you get stickers from all the major booths, completing a card that you hand in for a drawing for some good prizes – I won a secondary prize last year: a stack of 15 or so O’Reilly books – so worth doing!), you were left with the feeling that you hadn’t really seen much. I hope to make the rounds again and prove that wrong (oh, and don’t get me wrong, I talked to some people about some cool-sounding things I’m going to try out!).

The sessions I chose for the day included 2 on web design aspects (interesting, but hard to have absorbed everything – hopefully the speakers post the slides), 2 on the open source stats package “R”, and a couple on the future of storage and “The Genius Programmer Myth”, a fun talk given by a couple of Google guys on team programming and the mechanics of that.

Lunch, provided by Google, was a combination of an excellent selection of seafood and other things, and some light conversation with people we didn’t know, which can be interesting.

The day concluded with an Expo Hall reception (does all convention center catering offer the same menu? Good though!), and a couple of parties thrown by Sun and LinuxFund.

In all, the consensus seems to be that we miss Portland, the conference center, while adequate, seems spread out and a little run-down, and in the end, there doesn’t seem to be as many people here (perhaps a result of the economy), and a large group of those that are seem to be locals and first-timers. On the positive side, the people here are always interesting, there’s always gems of things you find, at random most of the time, in the speakers, the talks, the expo hall and overheard conversations, that make OSCON enjoyable and worth coming out for.


With a only a couple of tutorials and an evening intro thing, there wasn’t much going on to report. My morning tutorial was Damian Conway’s “7 Principles of Better API Design”, which was fantastic. While a little Perl-centric for me, there was still plenty to take away and apply to an up-coming project of mine (although it was interesting to note that he approaches APIs in a more general sense than I had been thinking: my project is more of an API to a data warehouse). As a side note, Damian is a fantastic presenter, and he makes everything interesting and more enjoyable, and this tutorial was no exception.

The conference proper kicked off in the evening with a couple of events: the “OSCON Ignite” quick-talks (each of the 10 speakers got 5 minutes with 20 slides that advanced “automatically” every 15 seconds), which was great fun, and the Google/O’Reilly Open Source Awards.

In all, the first two days of tutorials where very good this year, with some good speakers, and some good, applicable information. Now we can concentrate on the rest of the week, which is looking fantastic: from the sessions to the exhibit hall to the parties in the evenings, it’s looking like it’s going to be a great conference!


And so it begins! The move of the conference to San Jose this year was done under the reason of out-growing Portland, mostly the convention center (which was definitely the case). However, it wasn’t hard to guess that part of the reason for the new location was proximity to O’Reilly’s offices, part of a cost-cutting measure. And in the days leading up to the conference, there were little hints that more cost-cutting was going on, but in a way that hopefully wouldn’t impact the over-all impression of the conference, especially for first-time OSCONers. On day one, a few other changes were evident, the biggest being the lack of food available before the tutorial. They provided coffee, but there was only a conference center breakfast kiosk available, selling $3 muffins. Disappointing, but understandable. In the end, if these measures simply mean that O’Reilly can continue to provide the quality conference we’ve all come to appreciate, than I applaud their efforts. We’ll see as the week progresses.

My first tutorial of the day was “Simplifying Database Design” given by Josh Berkus of PostreSQL Experts, Inc. The talk was geared to people who worked with databases on a regular basis, but learned them on the job, which was the vast majority of the audience. In the end, the information was good and well-presented, but stuff I mostly already knew, or was doing – largely because I’d done it wrong before and finally learned. Still, it was well worth it to know I wasn’t missing anything obvious.

The lunch turned out to be a very nice mix of salads and build-you-own sandwiches, with a selection of cakes for dessert. Everything was good, and I got a chance to talk to a few people. A good start in that department, and it made up a little for the lack of breakfast.

The second/afternoon tutorial for me was “Scaling a Web Application” by Duleepa “Dups” Wijayawardhana. This is a topic area I’m mostly just interested in, rather than needing (things I build tend not to have many users), but I was looking forward to learning things I could do early in a project that wouldn’t take much effort, but would ensure that if things needed to scale, I would at least be partly ready. I took away some useful pointers, with some things I can look at implementing right away, and some other things to play with, including program and query profilers.

All in all, a great start to the week! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s tutorials, especially the one on API design, and then the rest of the week with the conference proper.

Heading to OSCON 2009!

I leave tomorrow for California, spending a few days in the Berkeley/SF area before heading to San Jose to attend OSCON 2009. Each year I say I’m going to blog the conference, and each year I do a little better, with last year looking pretty good with just a slight fade-out at the end. This year should be better than ever, with Twitter along for the ride to augment my memory (look for the tweets in the side bar of this blog, or follow me!).

This year should be better than ever, conference-wise too, with a new, larger venue, and more going on. Stay tuned!