OSCON 2018 Recap


Hot on the heels of FreeBSD’s 25th anniversary, the O’Reilly Open Source Conference returned to its long-term home of Portland, Oregon to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The Open Source Initiative also used the opportunity to celebrate its 20th anniversary and hammer home the point that Open Source is an integral part of every industry. Three Portland locals, FreeBSD co-founder Rod Grimes, Adam Strohl of A-Team Systems, and myself joined Deb Goodkin and Ed Maste at the FreeBSD Foundation table to answer questions and spread the word about FreeBSD. OSCON had taken a two year break from Portland and every organizer and attendee I talked to was delighted to be back in the City of Roses.

Continuing a tradition that started back in 2009, the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) unconference hosted by Jono Bacon took place the weekend before OSCON. Similar to BSDCan, it had a perfect amount of overlap to allow for badge pickup and lots of reunions. I could only catch the tail end of the CLS but the sessions I attended offered insightful information about Open Source project governance, continuity, and outreach. The CLS is free-of-charge and attracted an impressive spectrum of community leaders.

For the main conference, I spent the majority of my time in the Expo Hall with excursions to talks and the OSI 20th Anniversary track. OSCON is unique in that it offers a full spectrum of paid and free-of-charge events, similar to O’Reilly books. I asked how a dead tree publisher stays competitive in the digital era, and it turns out that in addition to events, they have made huge inroads into companies, organizations, and governments with group access to their online learning media. Tech books obviously play a key role in this strategy but I had no idea that the State of Oregon gives its employees access to O’Reilly electronic media. It makes sense that with every company becoming a high-tech company in some way, online educational resources are essential to both short-term problem solving and long-term employee education and growth.

OSCON attendee parties come in all shapes and sizes and this year’s may have achieved perfection. Microsoft rented the entire Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), including the exhibits and submarine tour. The party was excellent and quite timely as a milestone in Microsoft’s journey from being a 100% proprietary software vendor to an increasingly meaningful participant in the Open Source community. The notion of Microsoft participating in OSCON twenty years ago would have been laughable, but even they could not ignore the global institutionalization of Open Source. Just as O’Reilly and Microsoft are evolving, OSCON will continue to evolve too. I look forward to OSCON 2019 next July!

Michael Dexter, Senior Analyst

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