2015/07/27 Leave a comment
I was at OSCON 2015 ( http://www.oscon.com/open-source-2015 , https://www.flickr.com/photos/oreillyconf/sets/72157656114202005/with/19228077253/) in Portland, OR, USA. This was my third and maybe last time. I came there mostly because I wanted to staff the Perl-booth in the Expo Hall ( http://www.oscon.com/open-source-2015/public/content/sponsors ), but very soon, I was disgusted by the commercial approach to the conference. I had a nasty feeling beforehand, when I inspected the schedule and the list of sponsors of the conference, and these feelings became solid while I was there.
At the end of the conference, attendees are asked to fill in an online survey. I will illustrate my unhappiness with OSCON by showing you my answers to the questions.
Overall, the content at this conference was (excellent / very good / good / fair / poor)
Were you satisfied by the technical level of the conference? (no, not technical enough / yes, the technical level was good enough / no, too technical)
no, not technical enough
The mind-blowing parts of the conference program were:
Damian Conway – Perl 6: Transparadigm Programming 101
Vicky M. Brasseur – Internet Archive
Expo Hall – DiagonAlley aka the little alley with all the community booths
Next time, the conference program should include:
Perl track / language track
Operating System track
Did you visit the Expo Hall? (yes / no)
Was the Expo Hall worthwhile (if applicable)? (yes / no / not applicable)
Did you learn anything in the Expo Hall related to the conference content (if applicable)? (yes / no)
The Expo Hall would have been better with companies like:
(not applicable: I want companies out that don’t belong there, that bought there way in, like HP and Microsoft)
What is the likelihood that you will come to a future Conference? (definitely / very likely / moderately likely / possible but not very likely / unlikely)
possible but not very likely
The networking opportunities at the conference were (excellent / very good / good / fair / poor)
Do you have any thoughts on the networking opportunities?
No thoughts, they are fine, maybe even getting too much space and money.
Do you have any thoughts about the customer service, food, signage, logistics, etc.?
* Access control is too strict, more parts of the conference should be open to all.
* This is an extremely expensive conference for attendees, that obviously costs tremendously much to make, while it is very much visible that the hard workers (for instance the expo builders) are underpaid and overworked and unhappy.
* If you want to visit just a small amount of talks, you still have to pay a lot.
Do you have any additional feedback to share about your experience at the conference?
* The community booths were so small, they were tremendously crowded. The alley with the community booths was well hidded and the people there felt belittled.
* Word is, that you will discontinue the community booths, just like OSCON Europe will have no community booths. I will visit OSCON Europe because I already bought silver passes for me and my partner, but only one day. If next year’s OSCON USA will have no community booths, we will not come and visit.
* OSCON has become too commercial, the big corporations have gotten too much influence. The keynote of Wardley at the end was not even about open source, but had a clear message: the Expo Hall had a little DiagonAlley where the wizards are, the rest of the Hall is filled with Muggles. Huawei, HP, Paypal, Microsoft, Samsung, SAP, Walmart: they don’t belong in an open source expo, and they and many other big companies got way too much influence in the open source conference, with so many sponsored talks. I walked out of several talks because of the obvious sponsored contents, filled with buzzwords and technobabble. It is obvious, not just to me, that the enemies of open source are taking over and trying to make open source into a meaningless pit of unintelligable wordsalad. At least, at this conference.
* You spent a lot of money making people feel ‘happy’, with interesting stories, but they were so empty: you forgot about the content. There was no language track, no network track, no database track, no operating track, no Larry Wall, no ‘State of the Onion’. What the hell, just 3 talks about Perl, and one of them is about going from Perl to Go? And this used to be “The Perl Conference”! Do you do this on purpose, to scare future visitors away that come from the tech side, the real wizards?
* Next year OSCON is in Austin, because obviously the Conference Center became too expensive. You make it sound like ‘well, we are going to spread the word of open source to other places’. Who are you kidding?
If you had the Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze conference pass, have you found the 3-month subscription to Safari that was included with your pass to be a valuable service? (I’ve used it and it’s valuable to me / I’ve tried it but have not found it valuable / I have not used it / I did not know about it / Not Applicable)
I’ve tried it but have not found it valuable
Optional – If you had a great experience, please leave a public testimonial for future marketing purposes. Please include your name and an affiliation as you’d like it to appear with the public testimonial.
So, that’s what I’ve sent them. I am a poor programmer, but I felt a wizard among all those muggles. I do a little bit of marketing for Perl, with my silly buttons and stickers and tuits and Perl 6-pens and Perl 6-ribbons and trying to sell books and camels at a conference where an access pass costs over $1000 and the attendees expect all your stuff for free. I am blown away by the marketing efforts of the big companies, they are grander every year, and when you walk around when their booths are built (and later, broken down), you feel pity at the hard workers.
OSCON is mostly about networking with your peers, and the Hallway-track is used a lot. It is lovely to see so many people just sitting in the hallways, hacking with others.
OSCON is also about the buzzwords taking over. And the decision to not have clearly defined tracks in the many rooms is a bad one. Open source is primarily about operating systems, networks, databases and programming languages. If neither of those have their own tracks, but are hidden away in a tossed salad of talks with titles that have no meaning, it looks like open source means nothing special anymore. Just the big projects that will be mostly gone in a couple of years. The wizards no longer have a place there, the muggles have taken over, and they know little about how things are built.
I had a nice time at OSCON, because I have seen old friends, made some new friends, saw wizards that blew my mind, I did see a couple of nice talks, and I saw beautiful Portland again, and I ate great food and drank great spirits.