I just returned from POSSCON (Palmetto Open Source Conference) in Columbia, South Carolina. For a regional open source event, attendance at 700 was pretty sweet (and so was the Southern hospitality!). Conference attendees range from large commercial organizations to universities to students. While there are many developer events on the “left coast” there are few in the southeast (which, BTW, is home to large developer shops including Red Hat, SAS Institute, Bank of America, etc.), and this is a good one. It’s unique, with session tracks covering educational topics, big picture ideas/themes, demos (SugarCRM, Alfresco, SkySQL, etc.) and more.
All the hot areas of open source were covered – cloud, big data, mobile, health care – and the headliner of the event was definitely Scott McNealy, Founder and former Sun CEO. As someone who’s lived through hardware wars competing against Scott/Sun while at HP and Compaq through the 80’s and 90’s, it was quite a treat for me to meet and talk to Mr. McNealy. He has a reputation for speaking his mind and he didn’t disappoint attendees. In his keynote, and without the shackles of being the CEO of a publicly traded company, he was unencumbered and made jokes about Larry Ellison and Oracle at every turn- McNealy’s “Top Ten Signs Your Company Should have Gone to Open Source” were mostly directed at Ellison. And he can play to the audience, extolling the crowd: “Open source people, you are a ‘Technology Army’ working for the good of all of us.” Scott is now the Executive Chairman for Wayin.com, a new social polling site, which he used to survey POSSCON attendees.
My presentation in the “Big Picture” track at the conference drew from work Black Duck has done with AOL, Yahoo! and other customers, as well as our own community management experience with Ohloh.net, on how to take proprietary projects and make them successful open source projects. I described the best practices we’ve gleaned from our experience, got many good questions on community and project management, and was fortunate to have a community guru, Jim Jagielski, the President of the Apache Software Foundation, attend my talk and help me out – thank you Jim!!! – on the tougher, practical questions of specification and requirements management.
POSSCON has been growing over the last few years and it’s easy to see why. Excellent content, great keynote speakers (in addition to Scott McNealy, Larry Augustin from SugarCRM, and others), a well-managed event, and a beautiful setting in Columbia, SC, make for good conference and one I recommend you attend in 2013!