Last month, the first annual Open Source Bridge conference was held in Portland. The Open Source Bridge was a volunteer run conference focusing on all things open source. Kudos to all the volunteers that put this event together. It seemed like they had been putting this event on for years, I was quite impressed.
One of the really nice things about the conference was the diverse crowd. There were people ranging from kernel developers to documentation writers. There were also a lot of languages being represented including Python, Ruby, Perl and PHP. The only majority of people that I noticed were Portland natives. There was a decent showing of Plone folks at the conference as well, about 12 total. We set up a booth in the exhibition hall and handed out Plone stickers and Top Fifteen Questions About Plone pamphlets.
Along with the diverse crowd was a large selection of sessions. The sessions were split up into five categories (cooking, chemistry, business, culture, hacks) and split across eight rooms! Each session choice was really difficult since there were so many great talks packed into the schedule. One of the highlights for me was the keynote by Portland's mayor Sam Adams. He talked about how he wanted government to be a lab to push open source innovation forward. Portland really seems to want to embrace open source. There couldn't have been a better venue for this conference.
The Open Source Bridge was not your typical conference in more ways than just being volunteer run. At the end of the first day there was a yoga session entitled "Get Off Your Asana and Move!". It was the perfect end to the day, and wasn't just talk either, it was a 45 minute yoga session. As if that wasn't cool enough, at the end of the second day there was a meditation session. During all three days there was an all hours hacker lounge set up at the top of the Hilton downtown. I didn't make it out till the last night, but it had an incredible view and a nice vibe going on. It was a place were you could go hack on some code or get some work done if you needed to.
The last day of the conference was an unconference day. They handed the conference over to the attendees. This was my first exposure to such an event. Each person that wanted to lead a session went up to the podium, spoke about their topic briefly and then posted their session idea on the board. Once the dust settled there was a full schedule of talks produced by the attendees. One of the best sessions I attended was during the unconference day where we talked about writing documentation. It was a small group of folks who all had a lot of great ideas and experience writing docs.
The conference and the host city were both incredible. Portland was infused with technology. The buses and light rail are GPS enabled so the times on the website are always up-to-date. A lot of businesses use Twitter to communicate with the public. The best example was Bailey's Taproom where they tweet what's being tapped! I think we need to host a Plone Conference in Portland, did I mention that Portland has more breweries and brewpubs per capita than any other city in the United States. Another bonus was free public transportation downtown, so you could hop on the MAX from the hotel and go right to the convention center without paying a dime.