OSCON 2017 Austin – An Attendance Guide and Review

Another OSCON. I think this makes 6 years I’ve attended OSCON. Each having it’s own unique characteristics while maintaining what makes OSCON, OSCON. But before even diving in I’ll add a few specific observations I’ve made at the Austin OSCON 2017:

  • OSCON is still one of the largest, if not the largest open source conference in the world. It still appears to have some seriously concrete influence in the industry.
  • Even with its size, OSCON seems to be missing a few key elements to bridge connections within the open source world, which I’ll add detail to in a moment.
  • OSCON is a great conference to attend for a deluge of great presentations and related material to advance your knowledge on a wide range of topics.
  • The Expo Pass, albeit it’s sold for X amount sometimes, is generally worth a solid $0-$50 bucks in my opinion. One can easily get $50 bucks worth out of the Expo Pass even if its just to attend one session (I believe that’s included) and to get into the conference area to mingle and discuss topics of interest with fellow conference goers.

One thing I’ve always noticed, considering words spoke many years ago by the leadership of Microsoft, is how involved they are now in OSCON. I don’t mean in the sense of a predatory, desire to destroy open source or any competitors those words from many years ago would dictate, but instead they’ve actually involved in the open source community and the projects of the community. Sure, some of the projects are effectively just Microsoft projects that paid Microsoft employees work on. But many others are projects you’d still not really expect Microsoft to be working on, such as the Linux Kernel or others.

Microsoft did release and interesting new feature to augment their Bash on Windows. Instead of just one Bash on Windows subsystem contraption, you can now (or soon, never really sure when a thing is actually released at Microsoft) multiple distros of Bash on Windows.

WTF? Bash on Windows?

Ok, I’ll admit I shifted away from Windows back in 2011 and haven’t had a single issue come up. I dropped all of that trash fire like the oddball hack it was back then. One of the big reasons I dropped it was because I wanted to have systems that more closely resembled the systems I was generally working with, or wanted to work with. Those, 99.9% of the time, were some * nix variant and Windows was definitely not anything remotely close to that. This makes me scratch my head in curiosity of what the long game is, still not entirely sold on switching back or even using Windows as another system within my stable of systems.

Here’s an article by @richturn_ms“New distro’s coming to Bash/WSL via Windows Store” for more details on this whole release of distros on Windows.

OSCON Bridging Gaps, A Suggestion

One of the main benefits of OSCON, to me personally, is expanding my network and speaking personally with individuals working on the technology that I use everyday. If it is Kubernetes or Ubuntu or something else, it’s always beneficial to catch up with other members of the community. This year in Austin was no exception. I was able to catch up with a number of coders, media people, and others pushing the industry forward.

One thing I did notice, and I realize this is the “Open Source Conference” and not the “Hardware Hackers” or “Makers Conference” or “Open Source Hardware Makers Conference” but that doesn’t matter. I’d like to see more of a bridge for OSCON to other parts of the community. I’d like to see Ubuntu, Elementary, and other projects present in the expo hall. I’d like to see System 76 and other hardware makers specifically invited and attending to show off their hardware alongside the software. I’m not sure how or what OSCON would need to do to make this happen, but it definitely seems like something that is really missing from the overall picture.

Linux Hardware

There was some hardware at the conference. There were open source versions of robots and related creations, and some individuals from System 76. With that I did see some hardware from Dell, System 76, and other manufacturers. However it was by no means a concerted effort, it was merely happenstance that I fumbled into some scenarios that I got to check out this hardware and it’s respective software working together.

Hopefully in coming years OSCON can bridge this gap and we’ll see more hardware combined with software, intertwined with the community members that are building these technologies together.

Getting Your ROI from OSCON

If you’ve looked at the pricing for OSCON, it can seem daunting at first without a direct infusion or full coverage of the conference by one’s employer. There are however a number of other ways to attend in some way and gain a solid return on your investment in time and money.

Full Price ROI Attendance Guide

If you’ve paid full price you’ve contributed the greatest amount to a great OSCON. In this case my suggestion, my strong suggestion, is to follow this attendance guide:

  • Attend and take notes with paperNOT a laptop, in your selection of presentations throughout the days where presentations occur. There are solid paths of study that can be taken and a vast amount of knowledge, experience, and use case story that you can learn from. But without solid note taking, it will be extremely overwhelming.
  • Attend as many of the after hours events and parties as possible. Introduce yourself and speak to as many people as you can that meet one of several criteria:
    1. If someone is interested in or studying a similar topic range of interests as what you’re looking into, befriend them and discuss that topic. Hang out with them, exchange contact info, and expand your network beyond that one person to others at the conference.
    2. If someone is knowledgeable about a topic, but maybe not exactly aligned with the topics you’re aiming to learn about, it still may behoove you to discuss that topic and expand on your topic range a bit.
    3. If someone is a key person in an industry domain that you’d like to be involved with, introduce yourself and strike up some conversation about their work in said industry domain.
  • Attend the Expo Hall and give a quick walk through of the space. If there are any companies that you may want to interact with then go up and discuss the technology, but also ask about who’s working on what, the structure of the company, and how it interoperates internally. This can provide insight into how the products or services are built. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll let them scan your badge so they can badger you later. But I’ll leave that as an open ended somewhat nefarious suggestion.

Full Price + Training ROI Attendance Guide

This one is easy, you attend the training and you follow the Full Price ROI Attendance Guide.

Expo Hall ROI Attendance Guide

Depending on how much you’ve paid the activities and such to get an ROI can vary. If you’ve paid nothing, of course you really don’t need to do much of anything.

The Expo Hall pass, as far as I understand it, enables; attendance of after parties, one presentation, checking out the expo hall itself, and hanging out and around the general conference spaces and conference study spaces. Merely attending the after parties, a presentation, or meeting people in the conference area easily makes the Expo Hall Pass worth a reasonable prices (let’s say $25-50 bucks). If you’ve paid more (maybe $50+ bucks) then I’d definitely suggest making a point at using the pass to its maximum. Hit up the parties and meet as many people as possible.


Well, another OSCON done, and looking forward to the next in Portland! Regardless of the pass you’ve bought, there’s a way to get a solid ROI from OSCON. In the future, I hope to see a great bridge between hardware, software, and the connection and presence of these industry elements. Even in light of this absence, another great OSCON Conference.