I was in Portland, Oregon, attending OSCON 2013, this past week. For the many who are unfamiliar with OSCON, I will save you from clicking that link; it is the O’Reilly Open Source Convention. And that is O’Reilly the media and publishing company located near San Francisco in Sebastopol, California, and not the automotive parts company based in Springfield, Missouri. And if that description of what I was at still not clarifying things for you, it’s a gathering of nerds who write software and then provide that software to the world free of charge.
It was also a gathering of companies who need software nerds and the skills they possess.
I have been to OSCON before – in 2003 and 2004. The convention is usually pretty interesting; and Portland is generally a nice city, albeit, a bit on the crunch-granola-people-side. At the convention, I attended tutorials on erlang, and clojure, there were talks on go and people discussing rust. I listened to a talk, that among other things, discussed the idea of giving your code beliefs and goal. This is a nod to a paper written by Stanford professor, John McCarthy, in 1979, titled “Ascribing Mental Qualities to Machines.” It is a fantastic idea and when kept simple and with certain bounds, it is a really a mind bending concept for a software engineer. In McCarthy’s paper, the example goes something like this: thermostats have only three beliefs, “the room is too hot”, “the room is too cold” and “the room is ok”. And you ascribe the thermostat a goal, “the room is ok”. Keep it simple, and the idea will not fall apart. Read the paper, it is interesting.
Companies like Microsoft, Rackspace, and General Motors all had booths in the expo hall. We also had an extremely long conversation with an engineer from Twitter; 140 characters would certainly have made for a quicker conversation. There were also sales pitches for various things “tech du jour” – the most prevalent being the cloud.
There were many tracks with many sessions; my direct boss, Pete Clark and our IT director, Fran Fabrizio, had a great talk called Rebooting the Team: Lessons Learned in an Introspective Year. I say great in a meaningful way; I am not just brown nosing.
There is obviously more – I spent an entire week in Portland; five days of which was conference/convention related.
I may or may not share my trip to Cannon Beach, or the photos and video of the Pacific Ocean sunset, or my visiting relatives or visiting my friend Sue and her daughter, or the quick trip to Portland’s rose garden. I will have to see; I did take nearly 500 photos on the trip, there should be more to tell… if you are sharp and know where I post photos, there a few more photos from this trip there.
And with that, I leave you with the following for you to make sense of…