Open Source Summit Europe in Retrospect
The following article has been contributed by Tanja Roth, Technical Writer at the SUSE Documentation Team.
The Open Source Summit (formerly LinuxCon) is a series of annual conferences and trade shows in North America, Asia, and Europe. Organized by the Linux Foundation, those conventions are among the most popular events in the open source community and the business around it. This year’s Open Source Summit Europe (which was co-located with the Embedded Linux Conference) took place in Prague from Oct 23-26, 2017. The event featured many different tracks, such as CloudOpen, ContainerCon, Kernel Summit, LinuxCon, Diversity Summit, and Open Community Conference.
I attended for the first time. Being a speaker with a talk in the Open Community conference track added to my excitement.
Monday, Oct 23
When I arrived on Monday, the Hilton hotel was already buzzing. All in all, there were 2,187 registered attendees from 65 countries.
After picking up my conference pass and badge, I set off to explore the different floor levels on which the conference took place, so I would be able to find my way around the conference later. During the lunch break, I attended the ‘Women in Technology’ lunch. It was interesting to get to know other female attendees of the conference and to learn about their experiences in the still mostly male-dominated work environment of our industry. Some of them had come as long as from Sri Lanka to attend the event in Prague. Compared to the overall number of conference attendees, we were a small group.
After lunch, I joined my colleagues at the SUSE booth on the ground floor, next to the Congress Hall where the keynotes were held. At the booth, we had two model excavators and a 3D printer, all of which attracted a lot of attention. The excavators had been built from numerous Lego bricks and pieces by our colleagues from the Prague office.
Raspberry Pis mounted on the excavators translated commands from a Web interface into excavator movements. In addition, the excavators were connected to a high availability cluster, consisting of two additional Raspberry Pis running SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension. This allowed us to demonstrate fail-over of services between the excavators. So at the booth, I could move from *documenting* to actually *demonstrating* our software solutions 😃. Using the 3D printer we created different objects, such as jewel cases, toy animals, or cases for Raspberry Pis. We offered some of them as give-away to the people visiting the booth.
In the evening, I was invited to the partner reception at a lovely restaurant close to Charles Bridge and the river banks of the Vltava. I had the chance to talk to other conference attendees, some of whom I had already met during the ‘Women in Technology’ lunch. For example, I got to know that Judy Gichoya, medical doctor from Kenya and project maintainer of LibreHealth, is working on open source health systems to improve patient care. This makes a difference in countries like Malawi, where a very small number of radiologists have to take care of a population of over 16 million people.
Tuesday, Oct 24
After helping at the SUSE booth and attending some talks, I went to the speakers’ room to go through my talk again. I was quite surprised to find that the number of participants who had signed up for the workshop had doubled since the last time I had checked.
My workshop ‘Technical Writing for an International Audience‘ was scheduled for the last slot of day, but the participants who showed up were very engaged and even finished the practical exercise a little early. Then, we headed to the onsite attendee reception and sponsor-showcase event.
Wednesday, Oct 25
On Wednesday morning, I finally had time to attend the keynotes, which were really exciting.
Starting with 15-year-old Keila Banks (programmer and Web designer who grew up in a ‘tech family’), moving on to Mitchell Hashimoto (founder of HashiCorp, Vagrant project) who emphasized that workflows are far more important than technologies. As he put it, technologies may change, but the overall goals do not. Next up on stage was Jan Kiszka (Siemens) who talked about how and where Siemens uses and contributes to open source projects.
Meanwhile, the large conference hall had filled up even more and everyone was waiting for Linus Torvalds and Dirk Hohndel to enter the stage. The next 30 minutes spun away quickly: It was great to see the man who started Linux more than 25 years ago, and to follow the relaxed yet insightful conversation between him and Dirk Hohndel.
Although Linus stressed once more that he is not keen on direct interactions with other human beings (he prefers interaction via mail), we could spot him talking to some conferences attendees later in the afternoon and even being available for selfies – surprise, surprise!
In the evening, I attended the all-conference attendees reception at the municipal house in the old town – a beautiful building in Art Nouveau style. Normally, many of the rooms in the building are closed to the public and open only for guided tours. But during the evening event, we could explore a lot of them. A jazz band was playing in the main hall, but the other rooms were quieter and thus better suited to having conversations with fellow attendees, which was very enjoyable.
Thursday, Oct 26
On the last day of the conference, I focused mainly on the ‘Diversity Empowerment Summit‘ track, and it featured a lot of insightful talks. In my opinion the most fascinating one was by Keerthana Krishnan, a young woman and GSoC participant from India. Her energy was amazing! She talked about how Linux changed her life and what she now does in return, reaching out to the community, helping and mentoring other people. She argued in favor of the ‘fail early, fail often’ approach and shared how this approach had helped her to grow in whatever area she felt that she was not yet skillful enough.
Another highlight was the talk about ‘Everyday Opportunities for Inclusion and Collaboration‘. I think at SUSE we already provide and use a lot of them. Nevertheless I left with some fresh ideas to pass on and try out. In between and after the sessions, there was time to say good-bye to the many attendees that I got to know during these four days.
Overall, participating in the Open Source Summit was a positive experience: A very well organized conference with lots of informative content and input, many different topics and definitely worth visiting! It provided lots of opportunities to meet people from all over the world who work on interesting projects, and to exchange and discuss ideas. It was also great to see how the open-source community has grown, with a lot of young people joining, but also many of the senior engineers still around.