Saturday, August 6, 2005


I've already posted how I had an awesome week in Portland at OSCON, but I just have to post separately about a particular event that capped the trip off.

I don't fly that frequently, but it's been getting more frequent in recent months -- I've been on a plane each month for the last four months and five times so far this year. Usually the plane ride is a dreadfully boring experience that you wish would just end as quickly as possible. When I flew out to Portland, it was on a Sunday night, the plane was delayed almost three hours and I arrived in Portland at 2:30 AM Monday morning. That's the kind of flight that makes me wish flying was more enjoyable.

Well, what a gift I received on the way home yesterday. When was the last time you spent an entire 3-hour flight in an engaging conversation with your neighbor? If you're a connector, a maven or a salesman (in Malcolm Gladwell's terms) and you travel often, then probably it has. But for me, a quiet, introverted, introspective person who generally has difficulties making good connections with complete strangers, this is extremely rare -- in fact it has never happened to me. Until yesterday.

I was sitting in my window seat, emailing frantically on my blackberry before the closing of the doors would force me to turn it off. A slender, pretty brunette woman came and sat down next to me. This is nice, I thought. Usually I'm stuck sitting next to some sweaty, bad-breath-having man who is put off by my asking to get up during the flight. At least she smiled and seemed friendly as she sat down. I mumbled something about closing the shades to avoid the hot sun beating in, and she asked if I minded if she put down the armrest between us. Ok, time to settle in for the flight. I reach for my ipod, and then notice she's taken out a book to read, The Da Vinci Code. At this point, I would usually think, Oh, that's a coincidence, I've read that too (but not really a big one since the book was such a hot seller) and simply sit back, put my ipod on and relax. And if I had done that, maybe the entire flight would have been completely different. But for some reason I made mention of the book to her, and we began chatting about the book. And chatting about other things. And getting to know each other. Pretty soon, I'm thinking, wow, this is unusual, I really feel comfortable talking to this person. I hardly ever feel comfortable talking to anyone for a lengthy period of time.

The flight went by so quickly, and we talked the whole time. After landing, It was time to de-plane, and we said a brief goodbye, and I was thinking, Well, that was nice, too bad I'll probably never see her again. But once I got off the plane out into the gate area, she was there so we ended up walking back toward the main concourse and talking a little more. I offered to go get a beer while I wait for my ride (she had a layover), and she accepted.

So when was the last time you had a beer with the person you sat next to on the airplane? :)

Hey Kelly, if you're reading this drop me a note. It would be fun to connect again.


4:08:04 PM      comment []  trackback []
Goodbye OSCON

What a whirlwind week at OSCON! I'm still spinning and trying to catch up on sleep the day after getting back home from my first O'Reilly conference experience.

For me, the main themes this week were Java, Ruby, Ajax/Remote scripting and Subversion. I have some skeleton outline notes from several more talks that I'll put online shortly at my OPML blog. I'm still too overwhelmed to form these into fully coherent thoughts, and each could easily generate multiple blog postings.

Off the top of my head, here are a few random thoughts that were floating through my head this week:

  • If you want to meet the best hackers in the world, come to OSCON. Open source programmers are the most passionate of their kind, and where there's passion there's intelligence, community and great ideas.
  • If you want to hire the best hackers in the world, come to OSCON. The networking opportunities are absolutely incredible -- I was blown away. Now actually convincing a hacker to come work for you is a different story. It would help if your business had some kind of open source strategy, so that the hacker can continue to participate in the community and give back what he or she works on at your company. Non-open-sourcers will find it unreal, but it is possible to contribute to an open source community and still receive a lot of business ROI from the exchange. Paul Graham is quite possibly the most articulate speaker you could find on this subject. I was at his What Business Can Learn From Open Source keynote and it immediately struck me as great fodder for discussion at the cube farms back at work.
  • Damian Conway is an evil genius. And his arch nemesis may be Danny O'Brien.
  • As I mentioned it was my first time at OSCON, and I was really surprised to find the whole OSCON community extremely friendly and receptive. I never sensed any elitist attitudes (not that there probably aren't any here or there) and never felt like an outsider. To me, it's important that the community retain this sense of welcoming and open-ness so that we can further the cause and be better positioned to promote change for good in the world.
  • Ruby is a super cool language, but it's not a panacea. There is still lots of room for growth in the language. During Matz's talk he mentioned that he wants to implement a sealing feature of some kind so that some Ruby code could be locked down or scoped to a single file only (unlike the current implementation where you can change any class, anywhere, on the fly). Ruby still seems a year or two away from fuller adoption in the enterprise, although that's not going to stop me from trying to use it.
  • Likewise, Java's not dead either. The same players in the Java open source community are around and are still committed to the language. However, the politics can tend to get a bit more ugly.
  • Subversion is ready for primetime and I can't wait to roll it out at work.

Like I said, my head is still reeling and my blood still pumping after a high-octane week. I'm looking forward to stepping up my involvment in the open source community and I hope to maintain contact with all the folks I had the pleasure of meeting during the conference. Cheers!

3:27:27 PM      comment []  trackback []