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O’Reilly OSCON 2014: FOSS Nerd Field Report

OSCON_LOGOThe O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) took place at last week at Portland, OR. Portland is a fun city, with great restaurants and bars, and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.
If you’re a FOSS nerd or even just getting started with Open Source, you’ll love OSCON. Kaltura has been a proud sponsor of OSCON for the 7th year.
Community Leadership Summit.
The weekend before OSCON, we’ve attended the Community Leadership Summit, or in short CLS. CLS is a 2-day UN-Conference. The goal is to share best practices and discuss the art and science of community building and nurturing.
If you haven’t been to an un-conference before, the idea is for the attendees to come up with the agenda the morning of the event. Making a collaborative, inclusive and creative gathering. Most impressing was how quickly attendees suggested sessions, creating a packed agenda within 20 minutes.


CLS was full of great sessions and I’d like to share a couple with you –

  • The first was lead by Russ Pavlicek from Xen: “Birthing a new community within an exising community”. Community managers shared their experiences expanding their communities to new groups. For example growing a developer community out of your user community. Or fostering discussion oriented communities out of a hard-core developer group. We even discussed growing adoption and participation within a religious community with local chapters.
  • Another notable session was: ‘How to keep your marketing team happy’. The discussions made me reflect on memories of conflict I had with marketing teams of previous companies I worked at. I said I am proud to be working at Kaltura where we foster an open collaboration between the Community and Marketing teams.

Check out the videos section and the forums at the CLS website to learn more and get in touch with other community leaders.
FLOSS Community Metrics Meeting.
Then we attended the first FLOSS Community Metrics Meeting. A meeting of community managers from known FOSS groups including Puppet Labs, Debian, Red Hat and others to discuss analytics and ROI of community and participation. Zohar Babin, Kaltura’s Sr. Director of Community & Ecosystem Partnerships presented the opening talk on communicating the value of participation and community work within commercial organizations, and how to avoid getting side-tracked with the data and instead, focusing on success stories and well defined project goals.


OSCON – O’Reilly Open Source Convention.
I knew OSCON was blessed by the FOSS goddess when the projector immediately connected to my laptop! See, I work with Linux exclusively, and frequently face the “battle of the projector” before presentations.
The OSCON workshop I lead was: “Debugging LAMP Apps on Linux/UNIX Using Open Source Tools“. I’ve completely broken a Linux installation, and then spent 3 hours live debugging and fixing the environment with the attendees – That was FUN! Nothing teaches you more than breaking things.
I got to exchange a lot of Production disaster recovery experiences with my fellow attendees and discuss solutions and means to avoid the fiascos in advance.
If you’d like, check out my slides:
[slideshare id=37503028&doc=osconpresentation-140730104458-phpapp01]
Tweet at @jess_port01 or @kaltura and leave a comment below if you’d like to talk about the slides.
There were a lot of interesting sessions, technical and otherwise. I strongly suggest you review the session materials on http://www.oscon.com. O’reilly also recorded the sessions, so stay tuned for the VOD soon.
One special talk I’d like to highlight was by Chris Launey of Disney. Chris spoke about the challenges of DevOps where everything is always “needed yesterday”. He discussed how people often hear about “this new cool tool” and want to deploy it right away, without expressing a clear need for it. Or whether the current system can already provide the same capabilities.
Chris also gave an example of how people say “Lets install Ubuntu!” and when asked what will it enable that their current RedHat install doesn’t – there’s no concrete answer. See his session details for more.
Michael Dale, Kaltura’s Product Director of Playback and Core delivered a session titled “HTML5 Video Part Deux; New Opportunities and New Challenges”. Michael discussed the recent developments in the HTML5 standard. And explored new video experiences the new features will enable. Review his session details for more, browse the sessions slides online and tweet at @michael_dale or @kaltura for questions and followup.


As with any conference, the ‘water cooler’ conversations are equally interesting and informative. I met many fellow hard core techies. Had conversations on GCC optimizations, low level kernel changes and many other interesting topics. That was lots of fun, long live us CS nerds!
Interesting to observe was that the FOSS ecosystem had significantly grown from the “die-hard hobbyists club” to including the average user and more new business models. Nowadays, for-profit commercial projects and non-profit community driven projects co-exist in the FOSS ecosystem. And more so than ever, feed each other and promotes growth and success. Kaltura is such an example. An open source project used by many. Built and maintained by a commercial company. And in turn both the project and company benefit in more features, faster innovation, support and advocacy.
At the Kaltura booth in the exhibit hall, I came across many interesting developers and projects. Two that I think deserve an honourable mention were:

  • Aaron Wolf’s project Snowdrift.coop. A new fundraising platform in the spirit of Free, Libre and Open.
  • The other was Jim Cupples’s Ballot Path. Jim defines himself as a “social sciences nerd”. Ballot Path is allows Oregonians to learn about their elected representatives. And shows the steps one would need to take to run for office.

Both of these projects involve open source technologies, and licensed as such. Yet both are not technical projects. FOSS is not just for techies anymore. Everyone benefits from the values and practices open source presents.
I recommend reading ‘In the Beginning was the Command Line’ by Neal Stephenson. Where Stephenson discusses the contributions of the open source principles and culture to society.
To conclude, OSCON was an informative and fun conference. And I look forward to meeting you there next year!

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