Open Source Bridge Conference Report

Jun 20

Written by: Stephen Walli
6/20/2013 11:23 AM  RssIcon

I have a new favourite conference.  I’ve spent the past two days at Open Source Bridge in Portland OR.  It’s a fascinating event.  I joked at first that it was “very Portland”, but what does that really mean.  

Like the city itself, it’s just the right size.  There are about 300 attendees, and another 100 speakers and volunteers.  So one isn’t overwhelmed with calendar conflicts and too much choice, and one can actually enjoy the conference.  The conference is volunteer run.  Yes, this keeps costs down, but more importantly there’s a strong sense of community and community building that permeates the conference.  That sense of community is also interesting because there’s definitely a strong local contingent of Portland natives, a reasonable number of West Coast open source folks that come up from the Bay Area, but also just enough people flying in from further afield to keep a good mix.  The venue is equally interesting and “just the right size” and the main hacker lounge is full of comfortable chairs and tables and people gathering meeting and hacking.  

I’ve seen a number of the presenters before at other conferences, and the Open Source Bridge organizers are a strong enough group to pull in excellent speakers.  The schedule is broken out into five streams: Business, Chemistry, Cooking, Culture, and Hacks.  It’s an excellent mix that ranges from the nuts-and-bolts of a great “A-ha” hack to why and how we hack as people, because ultimately software is a human endeavour.   And maybe again this is a reflection on the pervading sense of community at the conference.  

Three noteworthy talks for me were:

  • Ward Cunningham talked about the work he’s been doing inverting the sense of wikis (central server) with federated content management — the best way I can describe it is finding a managed middle ground between historical wikis and pure websites referencing other websites via URLs.
  • Duke Leto talked about how he organized PDXGit, the Portland Git User Group, and how you can clone his structure (of course).  Best funny moment of the conference for me was discovering Duke’s tagline of “Put a bird on your DAG.”
  • Vicky Brasseur talked about the results of a survey of open source project participants she did in a talk perfectly named: “No, I Won't Contribute to Your Open Source Project
  • I cannot finish this discussion without raving about the food.  The food is the best food I have ever seen at a conference.  It may be vegetarian but it is awesome, and reflects the fantastic Portland food experience.  One is not being jammed full of hotel or conference centre food normally associated with events.  It was all fantastic, including the healthy snacks at coffee breaks.  

    The conference website is well organized and captures the talks (including past years).  I would encourage you take a wander through the site, and mark your calendars for next year in June. 

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