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Lindsey Kuper

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OSCON 2008: Part the First [Feb. 11th, 2009|03:43 am]
Lindsey Kuper

Two months ago, eminent Australian open-source advocate Paul Fenwick wrote about his experience on the last day of OSCON 2008, the annual open-source software conference held in Portland, Oregon. I had been eagerly awaiting Paul's post, because I wanted to see what he'd say about the OMG WTF BBQ I held on the last day of OSCON, at which he achieved his lifetime goal of playing Rock Band on a big screen, which, it must be noted, had just become his new lifetime goal, because he had achieved his previous lifetime goal -- namely, giving an OSCON keynote talk -- earlier that same day.

Rock Band at Happy House on the last day of OSCON 2008

Of the OMG WTF BBQ, Paul writes, "When I arrive, the host of the party, Lindsey, is actively reciting part of my talk." It's true: I was eagerly recounting parts of his "Illustrated History of Failure" talk to Jeff freyley. As if that wasn't mortifying enough, at another point in the evening I started quoting Paul quoting Adam Kennedy, which would have been okay except that I was at that moment actually speaking to Adam Kennedy.

Truly, this is the danger of OSCON socializing. Everyone there just looks like a regular person, and you only find out later that those guys you made change for at the bus stop were Jim Blandy and Karl Fogel, for cryin' out loud.

But anyway, I figure that if Paul Fenwick can take six months to get around to writing about OSCON, then I can't be faulted too much for taking eight months to post my OSCON writeup, which follows. Before I get on with it, though, let me give you fair warning.


Some people can go to software conferences, take excellent notes, and post end-of-day summaries in concise bullet-point format. I am fundamentally Not One of Those People. My conference writeups tend to consist of (a) intensely personal tales of hallway encounters and restroom-stall revelations, and (b) long lists of completely decontextualized quotations which are probably far too you-had-to-be-there for anyone's good. Since either on its own can get tiresome, I will do my best to use both!

On with it, then!


Tuesday was my first day at OSCON. I wasn't even really supposed to be at the conference yet, because I had only paid to attend starting on Wednesday, but my friend Michael xwrn Schwern had said that he'd be able to get Alex oniugnip and me into the "People for Geeks" tutorial at which he'd be speaking that day. I was nervous about this whole sneak-us-in plan, but it turned out to be no problem -- either we looked like we were supposed to be there, or they weren't watching the door very closely.

Aside from Schwern, "People for Geeks" featured several awesome speakers: Andy petdance Lester on "How to Speak Manager"; Kirrily Robert on "Etiquette for Geeks"; my friend Selena mimeograph Deckelmann on "Leading Without Being In Charge"; and finally Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, whose presentation was called "Everything The Other Speakers Said Was Wrong". Unfortunately, I didn't absorb much from any of these great talks, because I spent the whole time making slides and cramming for the talk that I had agreed to do at Code n' Splode that night, which was supposed to be about my experience in the 2008 ICFP Programming Contest.

By the end of the afternoon, my slides were done, but I was all a-jangle from coffee and pre-talk nerves. It was hard to say which was scarier: the idea that a bunch of Important OSCON People might end up at Code n' Splode that night, hear my not-exactly-of-OSCON-caliber talk, and be underwhelmed; or the idea that nobody would end up at Code n' Splode that night because OSCON, just down the street, was too much of a distraction. On top of it all, I was intensely aware of the fact that Alex was here in Portland for the last time in a while, and I really wanted him to have a good time and enjoy being around my friends, and I wanted my friends to like him, and I wanted everyone to enjoy frosty libations and awesome open-source times together, but I was way too wrecked to facilitate socialization, and that was stressing me out even more.

But "People for Geeks" ended, and we ended up at the front of the room one way or another, and Gabrielle gorthx Roth and Audrey spinnerin_ftw Eschright materialized, and somehow I managed to be standing next to them and Schwern and Selena and Kirrily and Alex at just the perfect moment such that not many more than four words had to be said -- "Dinner?" "Side Door?" "Yeah" -- and we all got on our respective bikes and headed over to the Side Door and had dinner and frosty libations together, and then we all trooped over to CubeSpace and oh, look, Monica keystricken was there and Jesse jes5199 was there and lots of other wonderful people were there and I talked about ICFP and people really liked it! They really did! And then we all trooped back up the street to OSCON to hear Damian Conway give his keynote speech, which was entitled "Temporally Quaquaversal Virtual Nanomachine Programming In Multiple Topologically Connected Quantum-Relativistic Parallel Timespaces...Made Easy!", to an enthusiastic full house.

Back in 2004, after Chris underwhelm and I witnessed extreme devaluation of the standing ovation, I decided that my new policy would be to not stand up for a performance unless it had been a likely candidate for "ten best performances of my life". I've stood up to clap twice since 2004. Once was last fall at a performance of Verdi's La Traviata, and the other time was at the end of Damian Conway's talk at OSCON 2008. It's possible that I only liked it so much because my brain was awash in post-Code n' Splode-talk happy-neurotransmitter juice, but for whatever reason, it was hilarious and brilliant and a perfect end to the day. We rode our bikes home and slept, happily exhausted. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Next time: Wednesday!


From: (Anonymous)
2009-02-11 12:26 pm (UTC)

Yay for quoting!

For what it's worth, being told how awesome my quote was to my face by someone that didn't actually know they were quoting me to myself was probably one of the four or five highlights of my entire three month tour, with another being the aforementioned Rock Band awesomeness. :)

Adam K

P.S. Thanks so much for the link to my website, it helps me in the fight against Adam Kennedy the baseball player. I should probably take a look at updating it though, it hasn't changed since like 2005.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-02-11 11:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Yay for quoting!

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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-02-11 12:43 pm (UTC)
I too am unable to remember much or to recall stuff well from a conference. I have found it incredibly useful to bring pad of index cards in my back pocket to conferences, and every time I see something I want to remember, I write it down on an index card and (this is the crucial part) slip that card into a *different* pocket.

By the end of the conference, putting it most inappropriately, my pants are filled with good ideas.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-02-11 11:50 pm (UTC)
Well, I actually do recall a lot of OSCON vividly. And starting the following day, I started typing notes, as you'll see in the next few installments. It's just that the things I remember are not necessarily the things I think other people would find memorable.
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From: gorthx
2009-02-11 03:07 pm (UTC)
I had a total fangirl moment with Tim Bunce (author of Perl::DBI) in which I actually squealed.

I more sorry than ever now that I missed your party...I was just so thrashed by Friday!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-02-11 11:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I completely understand. It took a lot out of me, and I wasn't even presenting or boothing like you were.
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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2009-02-11 06:09 pm (UTC)
Ben Collins-Sussman

Hey! You dropped something!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-02-11 11:43 pm (UTC)
Dude, if you think I'm name-dropping now, just wait until the next three installments.
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[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2009-02-12 01:20 am (UTC)

Ben "Il Martello" Collins-Sussman

I originally interpreted that as "you left out his nickname".
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