Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Regular readers know that when I am at a conference, I usually blog one day behind -- On a particular day, I blog about the events of the previous day. As time has passed I'm spending more and more of my conference attendance time meeting with people as opposed to attending the sessions. So if you are reading for complete coverage of OSCON, I can tell you right now that you will be disappointed.
I'm also blogging less because I'm photographing more. I've been toting the Canon with me everywhere and photos are starting to go up on Flickr. I just hope that all the 8MP photos don't overflow my hard disk before I get home. (And no, I'm not shooting RAW, although I wish I could be. I'll save the rant on iPhoto + Digital Rebel XT RAW for another time).
There is a new keynote format at OSCON this year. Instead of big long keynotes, there are 15 minute keynotes. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be working well. Many of the keynotes were too product focused for my taste. In the past, OSCON has had some great long keynotes. I ended up in and out of most of the keynotes. The only one that I saw in its entirety was Jonathan Schwartz. His language around open source remains focused on cost, but was glad to see him emphasizing the competition is good for innovation, which I agree with. The other positive statement was that he thinks that most software patents are inapplicable.
I want the to the WebWork vs Spring MVC Smackdown because Kathy Sierra mentioned it the day before. The back and forth format and the boxing ring bell enhanced the content. There were lots of comparisons of details between the two frameworks. I'm not working in the space at the moment, but seeing the presentation makes me wonder if there isn't a simpler way.
O'Reilly graciously allowed r0ml to finish his presentation from last year. It appeared to me that the r0ml fan club is quite large, and includes many high profile individuals. I'm not even going to attempt to summarize here. Doug Kaye from IT Conversations was there, so folks will just have to wait for the audio to appear. (I hope that my iPod hasn't exploded from the backlog by then).
After that the OSAF festivities began, starting with my session on Chandler parcels. The session was lightly attended, which was disappointing, but the folks who did attend clearly understood what I was saying. There were a number of good questions about the content. I could hide behind "Quality, not quantity", but I'd rather have both.
The CalDAV panel followed my session, and I think that went pretty well except for a glitch on Dan Mosedale's demo. The conference wireless has been pretty unreliable, and Dan wasn't able to get a connection for the coup de grace. Sheila Mooney from OSAF demonstrated sharing (and updating) a calendar between two instances of Chandler. That was enough to make a fellow next to me go "Wow". I wonder what he would have said if he had seen the same thing happening between Chandler and Thunderbird.
The CalDAV panel ran over right into the CalDAF BOF (as planned). Unfortunately, the Chandler BOF wasn't so lucky. I'm not sure what happened, but I know that the BOF board entry for the Chandler BOF was confusing about the time of the BOF, and that we were up against the reception/party in the exhibit hall. Being far from downtown Portland increases the value of free food immensely. We had 2 or 3 people that ended up in Chandler conversations, but it wasn't really comparable to BOF's in previous years.
The folks from Portland are really going all out. A bunch of us from OSAF were standing around after the dust had settled, trying to figure out where to go for dinner (a neat trick when you don't know your way around the city). Kevin Altis had just finished giving us recommendations/directions when two guys came out of the exhibit hall. They were part of some kind of Portland evangelism group. The saw the map in my hand and proceeded to give an additional set of recommendations and directions. Ultimately, we were glad that they did. We went to andina in the Pearl district and had a fabulous meal. The last time I was in a restaurant like this was when Marc Canter to Julie, the girls, and I to Guu during Northern Voice. I've never been to a conference where people were evangelizing the hosting city the way that Portland folks are doing.
Being at the convention center is helping me to discover more about Portland. The free ride zone for the Max train is a thing of beauty. I had thought Seattle's bus free ride zone was good, but the Max train beats that all to pieces. Combine that with Portland's short city blocks, and wonderful downtown, and it's all very appealing. I've had lots of conversations (usually on the way to meals) about how nice Portland is.
First up today, Alex Russell's Learning AJAX tutorial. The tutorial has a ton of people in it. Alex has been given a tough assignment -- the topic is really hot at the moment, which means that the skill level of the audience varies widely, which makes it hard to do a talk that will capture everybody's interest for the entire time. I fell more on the advanced end of the spectrum, so the talk didn't get really interesting for me until he started showing the way that the various toolkits reduce the amount of work that you have to do. I was impressed with what I saw of Dojo, so between the tutorials and some long talks with Alex, I'll definitely be looking at it more closely. I was please to find out that Dojo and Bob Ippolito's MochiKit are complementary.
I went to Kathy Sierra's Creating Passionate Users tutorial. Kathy has a great blog, and I've been learning a bit more about the Head First book series from fellow Bainbridge Islanders Eric and Beth Freeman, so I was well primed for the session. The topics that Kathy covered are related not just to creating passionate users of products, but creating communities and to education. We spent a lot of time in hands on exercises designed to get us thinking about what makes people passionate. Along the way, we heard stories about specific instances of passionate users, lots about brain and learning theory, and a bit on video game design. The goal is to keep people advancing along an experience spiral because this impacts how people feel about themselves, which is the key to creating passion. Passion begets a number of desirable outcomes, including community. By the end of the presentation I was thinking, "I rule!" (in what dimension, you'll have to guess), which is how I'm supposed to feel as a passionate user. I found the material to be highly relevant to building community in open source projects, and to home schooling. If you get the chance, you should take Kathy's tutorial. I think that Kathy is working on a book -- but the experience will always be preferable to the book.
Tuesday night has the traditional evening extravaganza, which included a bunch of awards to various folks, and presentations by Larry Wall, Paul Graham, and Damien Conway. This is the first time that I saw the entire thing -- last year I just saw Paul Graham.
I knew but had forgotten that Larry Wall's kids are homeschooled, but I have yet to get up the courage to go and talk to him about that. The most interesting bit of information from Larry's talk is that the Pugs project appears to be the choice for the compiler for Perl 6. At least, I think that's what he said, because it was a little difficult to separate the information bits from the humor bits.
Nat Torkington said the Paul Graham's presentation this year was going to be controversial, but I didn't find it to be very controversial. Of course, I didn't find last year's presentation to be controversial either. I could try to summarize the key points, but it's sort of pointless to do so since you can go read it for yourself. My experiences with open source and blogger agree with his conclusions.
Damien Conway has a kind of demigod status here at OSCON, and you can understand why. His talk on dead languages was creative and incredibly funny. Even I had to laugh when he declared Lisp to be dead and then displayed the names of various languages in font sizes proportionate to their market share. The slide showed Lisp as a small dot, and you could see the D of Delphi (the next language up) looking just huge on the projector. I do have to say that I have to respect some that can contort Perl to obey Latin's nonpositional grammar rules. The humor that is prominently on display at OSCON seems to be a hallmark of the Perl community. You can tell that these people are passionate.