This week I attended Open Source Bridge, a completely community and volunteer run conference in Portland. Having attended many large corporate trade shows, OS Bridge felt incredibly refreshing. The diversity of the audience impressed me: in addition to open source developers I met project managers, designers, entrepreneurs, and even a lawyer. I also saw greater participation from women than I’ve seen at any other tech event. The schedule included technical sessions as well as presentations on culture, community, and business. Participants were encouraged to make notes and share knowledge on the sessions using the event wiki. The conference also included some fun perks, including excellent, locally catered food, a massage therapist on site, and a yoga class.
During the two days that I spent at the event, I attended several other fascinating talks. Here are some highlights from my favorite sessions.
Be Bold: An Origin Story
I arrived on Tuesday morning to attend Sumana’s keynote on being bold. Her inspiring talk covered her upbringing, her parents, and her interest in computers as a child. It included a great call to action about empowering young people to get involved in open source.
Text Lacks Empathy
I learned about the challenges of geek communication in Text Lacks Empathy, where Noirin Plunkett and Michael Schwern gave several practical suggestions for reducing miscommunications over email, forum discussions, and bug reports:
- Perception is reality and by default, when we read factual text we assume the worst emotion
- State your feelings or use emoticons
- Geeks can lack tact so it’s always important to apply a little bit of tact in communications by default
- Consider paraphrasing what the other person is saying to reduce confusion
- Assume sincerity instead of sarcasm
- IM is better than email, phone is better than IM, Skype/Video chat is better than phone, but in person communication is best
- Use the passive voice: “Someone broke the build” implies accusation or blame, so consider “The build is broken.”
- Start with the summary, then go to the detailed explaination
How We Went Remote
Immediately prior to Text Lacks Empathy, I attended a session from VM Brasseur on How We Went Remote. The challenges that the presenter discussed exemplified many of the concepts covered in Text Lacks Empathy. After discussing the benefits of building a remote team, including access to talent and reduced cost, VM gave some practical tips:
- Being “in the office” is being logged into the team chat room
- Documentation is critical! VM would open tickets for her team to update the docs so that it was included in their daily workflow.
- Getting the team together in person a few times a year is important in order for the staff to gel
What We Talk About When We Talk About Project Management
On Wednesday, I participated in a fun and interactive session called What We Talk About When We Talk About Project Management. Presenter Amye Scavarda, a Drupal Project Manager from Acquia, clearly defined the role of a project manager. She then proceeded to pull up several job descriptions for project managers, demonstrating how a very specific skill set is becoming a catch-all for many companies. The group reviewed and debated the different job listings in a fun and lively discussion.
Scaling Community By Nurturing Leaders
I also presented on Wednesday, giving the presentation version of my recent blog posts on scaling community and why we should invest in community leaders. I posted my slides on SpeakerDeck and look forward to your feedback.
Thanks to everyone at OSB for an amazing and inspiring event. I look forward to next year’s conference, and hopefully I will see some of my new friends at OSCON in a few weeks!