OSCON Portland, 2015

Oh, my. My last OSCON trip report is only two posts back. It seems I’ve been rather a slacker on the blogging front. I’ll see what I can do to change that. In the meantime, here’s my OSCON Portland, 2015 trip report.

This was my first OSCON as a Portland resident, which was as lovely as it was exhausting (both: very). When you know as many people as I and live in the city hosting OSCON, your conference lasts multiple weeks as people arrive and depart town. Next year the conference moves to Austin, so I’m grateful I had at least one opportunity to experience a hometown OSCON.

I only had one talk at the conference this year, and that one not scheduled until the final slot of the final day of the conference. It was well-received and surprisingly well attended, considering the other amazing speakers also in that timeslot. This was a talk which my co-presenter and I have given before and which required only minimal edits, which you would think means that I’d have plenty of free time to attend sessions. Unfortunately, that was not the case. For me, this OSCON was filled with meetings and greetings and hobnobbing and discussions. All were with great people and were productive, but it did impinge upon my session attendance.

However, it wasn’t all meetings and I did get the opportunity to see many really great speakers:

  • Presentation Ninjitsu, presented (as wonderfully as you’d expect) by Damian Conway
  • Rolling dice alone: Board games with remote friends, presented by Tim Nugent. Not only was it incredibly entertaining, Tim also did a great job teaching the audience about the philosophy and psychology of games. It also made me wonder whether it’s possible to apply some of his ideas and research on remote gaming to managing remote teams. That could be an interesting talk.
  • How Do I Game Design? Design games, understand people!, presented by Paris Buttfield-Addison, Jon Manning, and Tim Nugent. This talk expanded upon some of the fascinating philosophy and psychology upon which Tim’s touched the day before. Unfortunately I was only able to see half of this session, so I’m very eager to finish watching it when the videos come out.
  • Test Driven Repair, presented by Chris Neugebauer. Chris did a great job debunking the myth that you can’t do TDD on legacy projects. His approach was as useful as it is logical, and his “even one test is better than no tests at all” makes the approach accessible as well. This is one video most every team should watch once it becomes available.
  • Open sourcing anti-harassment tools, presented by Randi Harper. A somewhat controversial session (more on that in a moment) about the tech required to help people avoid online harassment. Both the session and the questions were almost entirely about architecture and technology. It was inspiring to see what Randi has been able to do with a few lines of Perl code, despite the immense burdens inflicted by her own online harassers.
  • As well, I caught every keynote, the videos for which are already online.

And then there were the talks I sorely regret having to miss:

Overall the conference was amazing, yet there was a dark cloud over the final couple days of the event. Some people rich in opinions but poor in manners took umbrage at OSCON accepting Randi Harper as a speaker. These people flooded every O’Reilly Media inbox and phone line they could find with demands that Randi be dropped from the schedule. When that didn’t work, they stamped their collective little princess foot and spammed the #oscon Twitter hashtag with their complaints, making it entirely unusable. Many of us speakers were perturbed by being unable to use the hashtag, so we suggested to O’Reilly that it install Randi’s own project to help improve the signal-to-noise ratio. The organizers of the conference considered their options and found this one to be best, then asked Josh Simmons–the community manager for OSCON–to install the project but only for the duration of the conference. WE SPEAKERS suggested this, O’REILLY ORGANIZERS agreed to it, JOSH SIMMONS became the target for abuse and harassment. He handled it remarkably well, which is a testament not only to his strength but also to his devotion to the community he manages and which supported him in return both in his actions and in his need. I confess, I have largely ignored the movement which caused all of this mayhem and have largely remained agnostic as to their controversy of choice (they simply have not been worth my time). But now that I have seen their methods first-hand, I have formed an opinion and it is a strong one. Pro Tip, kids: If you want to win friends and influence people, don’t attack the innocent lest we all see you for the cruel bullies that you are.

Aside from that, though, this was by far my favorite OSCON I’ve yet attended. The subjects were engrossing, the speakers were world-class, the people were kind, inspiring, thoughtful, and hilarious (often all at the same time). Before this OSCON I was on the fence about whether to head to Austin next year. Afterward, I immediately booked my hotel for 2016. Hopefully I’ll see you there!