oscon wrapup

I am back in the land of the living.

When Nat Torkington was designing the schedule for the last day of OSCON, he wanted to put up some really exciting talks that would keep people there until the end.  I think he succeeded as the talks I attended were just fantastic (with one exception).

The "lightning keynotes" were mostly good, in particular two.  First,  Danny O’Brien On Evil , where he reminded us that evil occurs when good men do nothing, and that his empirical investigation into this - Project Do-Nothing - was going well.   I also greatly enjoyed the presentation on Howtoons.    These guys do cartoons (and parties) teaching kids to build really cool stuff, such as bottle rockets and "hoovercraft" (a hovercraft built with a vacuum cleaner).  They are looking for syndication and I really hope they get it.  Go to their website and watch the videos.  Amazing. 

There is a DIY trend going on at the moment with the advent of Make magazine, from O’Reilly.    Luke and I bought all three issues that have come out so far and then subscribed because it’s so cool.  I went to a presentation on the last day of OSCON by one of the editors,  Phillip Torrone, who showed us how to blow up balloons with lasers, build a rotary dial bakelite cell phone, make bad things with old ipods, and hack your PSP.

On a slightly negative note, one of the last day keynotes was a very negative vendor keynote which just pushed the vendor’s own product.  Not the done thing, old chap.

Over the last few nights I had the chance to catch up with many old friends, to make new ones, and to get to know some people a little better and that was also fantastic.  Hopefully I convinced some of them to submit talks for OSDC, an Open Source conference located in Melbourne in December. 

Overall it was a great conference.  My fifth OSCON and probably the equal best one I have been to.  (The first one was equally good but had the advantage of dot-com euphoria.)

Best things:
- The talks,  of a very high standard this year.
- The new venue, large and nice.
- The usual networking and socializing.
- Giant exhibit hall.
- Hearing about new and exciting technologies

Not so good things:
- Vendor keynotes.
- Exhibit hall reception - with live band - was incredibly loud.
- No central area for people to congregate in.

Buzz for this year was around:
- Hacking Firefox and Mozilla, learning XUL.
- AJAX and related technologies.
- Digital identity (a good one for me from a research perspective).
- DIY hardware hacking.
- Security.

Note that the first two items both involve programming in JavaScript, a technology that was becoming vestigial and is now important again.

Tim O’Reilly did say that "SQL is the new buzz technology" (which made me laugh), based on number of mentions in job advertisements.

Final tangent:
One thing I haven’t mentioned anywhere yet is the talk/musical presentation given by why the lucky stiff, author of the Poignant Guide to Ruby.    Definitely the weirdest conference presentation ever.  On the DIY theme, read his article, "The Little Coder’s Predicament", on the barriers to entry for kids who want to learn to program these days.

Let me know your thoughts  for next year as it appears I will be involved in the organization again.

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