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Event report: ApacheCon North America, 2017, Miami

Event Report, ApacheCon North America 2017

May 15-19, 2017

(This is an abridged version of the report I sent to my manager.)

Last week I attended ApacheCon North America in Miami. I am the conference chair of ApacheCon, and have been for on and off for  about 15 years. Red Hat has been a sponsor of ApacheCon almost every single time since we started doing it 17 years ago. In addition to being deeply involved in specific projects, such as Tomcat, ActiveMQ, and Mesos, we are tangentially involved in many of the other projects at the Apache Software Foundation.

Presentations from ApacheCon may be found at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbzoR-pLrL6pLDCyPxByWQwYTL-JrF5Rp (Yes, that’s the Linux Foundation’s YouTube channel – this ApacheCon was produced by the LF events team.)

I’d like to draw specific attention to Alan Gates, at Hortonworks, who has developed a course to train people at the company in how to work with upstream projects. He did this because, as the company expanded from a small group of founders who deeply understood open source, to thousands of employees who kinda sorta got it, but not always.

Also of great interest was the keynote by Sandra Matz about what your social media profile tells the world about you. It’s worth watching all the way to the end, as she doesn’t just talk about the reasons to be terrified of the interwebs, but also about how this kind of analysis can actually be used for good rather than evil.

Why I love ApacheCon 

This is the lightning talk I gave this evening at ApacheCon: 

ApacheCon is a high point of my year, every year, going back to March of 2000.

In late 1999, Ken Coar told me I should submit a talk for ApacheCon. Astonishingly, my talks were all accepted, and I found myself in Orlando speaking in front of a few hundred people who thought I knew what I was talking about. I have since made a career out of that particular game.

This is the 28th ApacheCon since the creation of the Apache Software Foundation. 29 if you count the event in 1998 before there was a Foundation. I don’t count it, because I missed it. I also missed the ApacheCon in Sinsheim, Germany, in 2012, for which I will never forgive my boss at the time. But I *think* I have been to more ApacheCons than anyone else. 27 of them.

I love being on stage. With hundreds of people looking at me, hanging on my every word, believing I know what I’m talking about.

But there’s other reasons I love ApacheCon. It’s the place I go to see some of my oldest friends – many of whom I first met at ApacheCon, including some new ones this week.

I love ApacheCon because it shows me that I’m not alone. As C. S. Lewis said, we read to know that we’re not alone. Except that he didn’t say it. It’s actually just a quote from a movie about him.

I love ApacheCon because I love Apache. And Hawaiian shirts. Shane’s lightning talks are another high point of my year, because they are both entertaining and informational. Except I hear he’s not giving one this year.

I love ApacheCon because of the passion that I see in the people that attend. People that love Apache, and also love solving actual real world problems. The sessions here at ApacheCon range from the esoteric and philosophical to the deeply practical, but at the heart of each one is a desire to solve problems in the real world. To scratch your own itch, as the saying goes.

I love ApacheCon because of our sponsors. Talking to sponsors about why they are here at ApacheCon has the effect of re-centering us. Sure, open source is about having fun and tinkering, but it’s also about solving problems for real people that rely on us. People that depend on Apache because we have a reputation for vendor-neutral, high-quality software which is sustainable because of those esoteric philosophies that we cling to even in the face of practical realities.

I love ApacheCon because of the time I’ve put into it. I’ve worked on ApacheCon for 18 years now. I often refer to ApacheCon as my life’s work. I spend hundreds of hours on it, and so do many other people, including our amazing producers, our numerous volunteers, our tireless Infra contractors, our beloved Melissa, and our supportive board of directors. ApacheCon is my sweat and tears, literally and figuratively. It’s older than two of my kids, and the oldest kid grew up knowing that Dad loves ApacheCon. The wall in my office is covered with ApacheCon attendee badges – 27 of them. And ApacheCon has become a part of my identity.

So as we look forward to the next ApacheCon (details coming very, very soon, I hope) we need to figure out what *you* want ApacheCon to be, and make it that, rather than doing it just because it’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. ApacheCon is about building community, more than it’s about anything else, and that’s really why I love ApacheCon. I love seeing communities come together around a common goal, and believing that I was a catalyst in making that happen.

So, thank you so much for coming to ApacheCon, my friends. I hope you’ll come again, and I hope that you’ll come to love it as much as I do. But that might not be possible.