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All Things Open 2018

I say this every time I go, but All Things Open is one of my favorite conferences. The organizers are some of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with, their speaker line-up and attendees are some of the most diverse I’ve seen at an open source conference, and the quality of talks is always top notch. This year was no exception.

The evening before the conference I met up with a friend for a lovely dinner nearby. In addition to personal catch up, I got to swap ops stories with her and and we shared our thoughts on the healthiest ways we’ve seen teams we’ve worked in supported, a topic that’s been in on my mind a lot lately. I called it an early night, as I’d had a busy day of travel and had to be up the next morning for an appointment at the conference center at 9AM. The appointment conflicted with the Monday keynotes, but it couldn’t be avoided. I’ll be happy when I can share the details of what transpired, it’s exciting!

Both of my talks where on Monday, the first of which was the first slot post-keynotes, at 10:30. It was a talk on Continuous Delivery with Containers, which is a largely generic topic, but I had to rewrite some for this conference now that I no longer have an employer affiliation. The key concepts and flow stayed the same, but I had re-write the slides and instead of doing a live demo, I switched to a screenshot-driven walkthrough demonstrating the entire pipeline CI/CD on GitLab with Auto DevOps instead of using a mix of Jenkins and GitLab. My containers for this demo also changed, as I switched to using the Google Kubernetes Engine. The talk was in the DevOps ballroom, which was one of the largest rooms of the conference and had an audience to match, so I was somewhat glad I went with the walkthrough instead of the added stress of a live demo. The talk went well and led to great conversations with folks throughout the rest of the conference. Slides from the talk are up in PDF form here.

Thanks again to Jim Salter for taking this great photo during my talk, I’m actually smiling! (source)

The middle of my day, as with much of the rest of the conference, was spent meeting up with folks at the conference. My free-agent status does mean that I’m looking for my next potential opportunity, and All Things Open was the perfect conference for me to be attending with that in mind. At 3:15 in the afternoon I gave my second, and final, talk of the conference on Challenges to the Open Source Model Today. I’d say the technical talk of the morning is the one that pays the bills and I enjoyed it, but the one in the afternoon is really where my passion is. Without my passion for open source at the core, everything else I work on is less meaningful and I might as well just be doing a product pitch. The talk takes a quick stroll through the past 20 years of open source, discussing how the influx of money and the proclaimed success of open source software has changed the ecosystem. I conclude by sharing ways that we can remain engaged, including by joining small projects, doing open source work for a local organization, and mentoring new contributors. After my talk I was reminded about the trend of civic open source work, so I’ll definitely add a bit about that the next time I give a version of this talk. Your government is a local organization for sure, but that specific form of service can be particularly compelling for some people. A PDF version of those slides can be found here.

Thanks to Nathan Handler for taking the time to take this photo, and one of my other talk too! (source)

Monday night I split my time between an opensource.com gathering of friends, where they made me a wonderful passion fruit and ginger ale mocktail, and the speakers’ dinner back at the Sheraton where I was staying. I had wonderful company at both events, but by the time 9:30PM rolled around I was more than ready to retire for the evening. It had been quite the day!

Tuesday I actually was able to attend some talks! And with both my talks behind me, I could also relax a lot more. I had a few more meetings with folks, but largely just enjoyed the conference. I enjoyed they keynotes from Nina Zakharenko, who took us on a whirlwind tour of interesting Python projects, and Henry Zhu, who cast a bright light on the role of maintainers in the open source world, and the tremendous amount of work, responsibility and pressure that role entails. If I’m honest, I could have skipped their blockchain speaker, even though I know the conference organizers were excited about his participation. I simply don’t buy into the technology or the anarchist rhetoric that goes along with it, and this talk was pretty much the stereotypical pitch.

After the keynotes I headed down to a talk by Remy DeCausemaker where he talked about the internship programs at Twitter and how they use open source in the program. What I particularly liked about the approach is they offer several different types of short projects for students to work on, and let them decide which projects to tackle throughout the internship. He also talked about how open source offers a more real-world like approach, where collaboration and “copying” (building upon the code/modules of others) is not cheating, in fact, re-inventing the wheel is a waste of time.

The last talk I attended was from Stephanie Morillo who shared her procedure around evaluating and improving documentation by walking through several key steps:

  1. Conduct a content audit
  2. Host docs on an external site (not just a GitHub README)
  3. Check in with users
  4. Create and make use of templates
  5. Write good contributor/content guidelines
  6. Seek advice and tips from other open source projects

But you don’t need to take my word for it, she wrote a whole article on the topic which gives a wonderful introduction to the space, and expands upon each of the points in her talk: How Content Strategy Can Help OSS Maintainers Improve Their Docs

My evening wound down by dropping by the very crowded conference after party and playing a round of pinball with my friend Stephen before we departed to grab a nearby BBQ dinner.

And with that, the conference was over! It’s always sad to leave because of how many people I know who attend regularly and it’s a really great crowd. Big thanks to the organizers who put so much work into putting on such a fantastic show every year.