My third O’Reilly Open Source Conference has come and gone. Sure, it ended over a week ago, but this is the first moment I’ve had a chance to sit down to write this. Last year, I was able to spend a few hours with the free wifi at the Portland airport, but this year my flight was scheduled before 7:00 AM, so I was left with little time to write. As I have the past two years, I had a great time. It was good to see Al, Brad, and Kevin again. This year, Sam and Jonathan joined us as well. While the #oscon IRC channel has surely been vacated by now, I hope see the channel denizens again on Freenode.
About half way through the week I was accused of being a prolific blogger. Just how prolific, I wondered. So I went through the list of all of my posts prefixed with “OSCON 2008,” including this one. As it turns out, I wrote a grand total of 17,270 words. The post for Damian Conway’s Perl Worst Practices has the dubious distinction of containing the most words, at a scale-tipping 1,209. Other posts I made during the conference, but not directly related to any sessions totaled 1,608 additional words. Prolific? Perhaps.
My primary reason for writing so much about the sessions is for my own reference. These posts allow me to go back and remind myself of what I did and what I learned. I just happen to post my notes publicly, because I hope they may be useful or informative for others. In particular, anyone who couldn’t join me at OSCON. Naturally, I was a bit curious to know if anyone was actually reading my articles. So I checked.
Thinking back over what I’ve written, I’m not completely pleased with the finished product. I don’t think attempting to post entries so immediately after each session is the best approach. In the end, I don’t believe I’ve done the topic or the speakers justice. Next time, I may simply take notes in preparation for a proper article after the fact. The Tuesday night keynotes, in particular, would have benefited from this treatment.
I’ve been a fan of Damian Conway since I first attended one of his talks at a San Diego Perl Mongers meeting in late 2005. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to see him speak at two OSCONs as well as attending his Perl training at my place of employment. There must be something about Australians, because one of the best presenters at OSCON this year was Paul Fenwick, also from Down Under. I highly recommend them both. Entertaining and educational, a far too uncommon combination.
This year I found that I wasn’t as excited about OSCON as I have been in the past. It’s been more than just this past week, too. A lot of things that once brought me joy have left me feeling empty. I didn’t know why, and assumed that I was simply too busy, trying to juggle too many balls again. I was wrong, though.
Near the end of the Perl Worst Practices tutorial, Dr. Conway was asked how he became so proficient at what he does. In response he asked who in the room practiced martial arts. No one in front of me raised their hand, but I suspect at least one person behind me, in addition to myself, raised their hand. Disappointed, he cycled through a couple other sports (cycling and tennis, I think) until he received a reasonable response. The point, of course, was that, like these sports, programming requires passion and should be practiced every day.
That’s when it hit me. I don’t write code every day anymore. I’ve been writing code as long as I can remember. My first Hello World was written in BASIC at the tender age of four. Lately, I haven’t spent any time at all writing code. I’ve been waking up early, working long hours, going to bed early, and spending what free time I have left with my pregnant wife. That has to change. So now I’m back to staying up late, doing more work from home, and stealing moments to write code; even if it’s just a few lines. I’m also working on a talk I plan on presenting to my coworkers and would also like to give at SCALE 7x next year.
Conferences are not always about the tutorials or the sessions. Sure, they offer plenty of opportunities to learn something new, but that’s almost a complement to the main event. It’s about networking with our peers. Most importantly, it’s about revitalization. My annual pilgrimage to Portland replenishes my spirit. I return refreshed and full of creative energy. The trick is maintaining the momentum.