Happy 15th, OSCon

15 years ago, I attended the first OSCon, in Santa Clara, I think. I was there for the Perl content, and managed to pay my way by giving a full day tutorial on the Apache web server. Amazingly, they kept asking me to come back and do it again, and I gave one talk or another every OSCon until 2006, after which I skipped a few years. Last year I made it back to OSCon again, and I'll be going this year too.

This will be my first OSCon when I have no speaking responsibilities at all, although last year I only had a BOF, not an actual session.

This year, I'll be working the Red Hat booth, and the OpenStack pavilion, as well as, hopefully, a little bit at the Apache Software foundation booth. Between that, and various evening events, and various meetings, I expect this to be another OSCon where I don't actually sleep. I can't quite manage that like I used to in 1998. But I'm really looking forward to the conference this year, and seeing the folks that I only see at OSCon.

Will I see you there?

OSCon 2007

OSCon starts on Monday. This is the first one that I've missed since 1996, but I really hadn't thought about it until I saw something on someone's blog about going. I have more important things to do. This is a bit of a revelation to me, since there was a time when I couldn't imagine anything more important than OSCon. Life is good.

Photos from OSCon, ApacheCon

The last two cons that I've attended - ApacheCon and OSCon - I've hardly taken any photos. I've relied on the photographers more talented than I, or at least more shutter-happy than I, for my photographic memories. That seems to have worked out pretty well, but there's something just more satisfying to having one's own photos, even when they aren't very good.

So I'll try to take more photos this time around.

Perl lightning talks

The Perl lightning talks have been a staple of the Perl Conference, and, later, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, for as long as I've been attending it. And YAPC, too, although I haven't been to YAPC in many moons. They were somewhat different this year. Not hugely, but subtly.

MJD observed that, when he started them, the purpose was to get folks who would otherwise not give talks to give brief presentations in a low-stress environment. 5 minutes is enough to get a taste of public presenting, but not long enough to get too terribly intimidated.

Over the years, it became a bit of a sideshow, with elaborate presentations, complete with slides and sound effects. And of course MJD as the MC, complete with funny hat and gong. And so folks who wanted to give a five minute "here's what I'm working on" or "here's my cool idea" talk were overshadowed by the brilliant presentations by Audrey Tang and Andy Lester and the like. Also, talks lean towards the comic routine rather than the technical talk. Indeed, technical lightning talks tend to get heckled on IRC, and yawned through, waiting for the *real* lightning talks.

We started doing Lightning Talks at ApacheCon a few years back, and they have become part of our conference culture. We, too, tend to favor the entertainment talks rather than the technical talks. That's fine, in that it draws a crowd, and folks hear interesting ideas, and it's a great community event. But we need to remember what the initial purpose of lightning talks really is - to give folks a shot at the mic, if only for a few minutes.

Of course, I don't run the lightning talks, so feel free to ignore me. :-)


Perhaps the best talk of the entire conference was Kathy Sierra giving her talk about passion. It was about marketing. It was about documentation. It was about getting people interested in our open source work, not for the sake of the project itself, but for the sake of what they can do with it.

She talked about the Nikon website, which shows you the amazingly cool pictures you can take with their camera, and how you can do that. Then she contrasted this with the documentation that comes with the camera which is all about the camera itself, and doesn't at all speak to the passion of the person.

Passion is something that you spend your time, money, emotions and energy on. And it's something that frequently looks completely irrational to anyone that doesn't share your passion.

She asked us each to turn to our neighbor and tell that person what we are passionate about, but we weren't allowed to mention anything to do with programming, computers, or Open Source development. Unsurprisingly, a number of people had a really hard time coming up with anything at first, given these restrictions. But after a moment, most people (it seemed) thought of something that they indeed spend a lot of time and energy on, that might not be considered rational by the rest of us.

It's important to step back and consider why we do the things we do. Why they're important to us. Whether they really matter in the grand scheme of things.

I find that an enormous amount of my identity is tied up in Apache-related things, and I sometimes wonder if what I do with Apache really makes any difference in the world, or if it's just something that I do in order that people will know who I am. While Hubris is one of the Three Virtues, it's not particularly sustainable in the long haul. But passion, on the other hand, is sustainable, even if it's not particularly rational, at least from the external view.

I have a passion for teaching beginners how to use stuff. I'm not entirely sure why, since they are only infrequently grateful. But the few folks that seem genuinely grateful make it all worth it. I think it also has a lot to do with how folks helped me when I was beginning, and the time that they invested in me.

So, once again, a big thank you to the folks who helped me figure stuff out when this was all so new to me. I imagine that most of you don't even remember helping me. But you never know what impact your actions are going to have.


Some people are heroes. And some people jot down notes. Sometimes, they're the same person. (The Truth. Terry Pratchett)