Attending open source conferences like the three coming up this spring can be an effective way to both expand your skills and make contacts with people from outside your organization.
With Open Source 101, a single day, entry level conference, almost sold-out for its inaugural run at NC State University on Saturday, I thought now would be as good a time as any to take a look at some of the open source conferences coming up this spring.
For tech workers, whether in the trenches or in the front office, these conferences offer a unique opportunity that's not always found at other tech events. While many tech conferences focus on a single product or vendor, open source conferences offer a wide smorgasbord of subjects, with sessions on subjects that range from highly technical to strictly business. In addition, they're great for networking.
There are three major conferences scheduled in the U.S. for this spring:
SCALE (March 2-5): The Southern California Linux Expo is the largest community run open source conference in the country. It's also traditionally been the first major conference of the year. For the last several years, the event has taken place at the Pasadena Convention Center.
Being a "community" conference, SCALE tries to strike a balance and offer sessions both for home enthusiasts and the enterprise. Like most open source conferences, however, in recent years the focus has shifted more to the enterprise, as that's where the action -- and money -- is in open source these days.
On tap for this year's four day event are nearly 200 speakers (the number is likely to grow as opening day gets closer), including such names as Percona's CEO, Peter Zaitsev (talking databases, of course); HPE's Stephen Walli; Oracle's MySQL community manager, David Stokes; Google's Kostya Serebryany (covering security issues); Bob Reselman; and Microsoft's Caskey Dickson (he'll be giving a talk on cross platform tool development in Go).
LFNW (May 6-7): LinuxFest NorthWest is another community conference. It's much smaller than the other two conferences on this list, but it's popular because of its relaxed atmosphere and scenic bayside setting in Bellingham, Washington, and the same reasons that make it popular help it attract high quality speakers. There are more talks centered on open source community issues than at the others, but there are still plenty of presentations for tech professionals looking to improve their skills.
This year's schedule hasn't been announced yet, but will include the tracks Security, Infrastructure, Humans, Code and General Interest. If this could fit your schedule, I'd keep an eye on the conference website to see if the schedule includes some sessions that interest you. A trip to the upper Northwest could help clear the brain -- then you can fill it from sessions at the conference.
The price for this one is really cheap -- it's free. You'll have to buy your own lunch, however.
OSCON (May 10-11) Although OSCON is technically a four day event, beginning this year on May 8, the first two days are dedicated to training and tutorials, with the last two days, beginning on May 10, being a traditional conference. Presented by the publisher O'Reilly, this is the Big Kahuna of open source conferences. It's also almost entirely focused on the enterprise, although there have been efforts in recent years to expand its scope. This year's event will be held in Texas, within the Austin city limits, having made the move from Portland, Oregon last year to be more accessible to residents of the U.S. East Coast and Midwest.
Even at this early stage, there are already about 190 speakers on tap. A quick look at those on board to give keynote addresses offers some idea of what to expect: Kelsey Hightower with Google Cloud Platform, Dianne Marsh with Netflix's Cloud Tools, and Alvand Salehi who leads the development of the nation’s federal source code policy.
You'll definitely want to see if you can get the boss to pay your way if you want to go, however, as this one is expensive. The Bronze Pass, which is the least expensive pass listed on the event's site, gets you access to all keynotes and sessions on May 10-11 for $1,545 -- and that's if you register before March 16 to take advantage of the early bird special. Luckily, there's a "convince your manager" page to help you prepare to make your case.
There are numerous relatively small regional open source events around the country as well, and most of these offer admission that is free, or nearly so. Although these events are smaller than the big tent conferences, the quality of speakers is on par and includes some of the same people who speak at the high dollar events. These events also tend to be more relaxed, making them more conducive to networking. If there's a regional event in your neck of the woods, you might want to consider taking a day off to check it out.