This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural FOSSY conference in my home town of Portland, Oregon. FOSSY focuses on free and open source software, and included tracks on community, containers, compliance, diversity, gaming, and education. I got a chance to connect with friends and make new friends. It was an excellent event, and in this post I’ll just focus on some highlights.

Writing and Machine Learning

Software developers may get a lot of attention in FOSS spaces, but a lot of different types of contributions are required to create a successful open source project. The most significant contributions I’ve made to a large open source project have been writing for Kubernetes. Projects also need community leaders, software architects, web designers, publicity and marketing experts, and quality assurance technicians. There is plenty of space for additional contributions in almost every open source project.

FOSSY had some excellent sessions on writing, both from the point of view of a contributor to open source projects, and in examining how various open source projects can help the writer. Paco Nathan gave a very informative talk about language tools available for creators, focusing on machine learning, graph technology, and natural language processing. I also really enjoyed Kyle Davis’s talk on writing for open source projects. He discussed issues of style guides, adjusting your writing voice, and differentiating between marketing copy and open source writing.

Containers, Containers, Containers

The Container Days track was deeply technical and educational. I didn’t get to attend as much of this track as I would have liked, because there was too much to focus on across the conference. However, I did manage to catch Josh Berkus’s excellent talk, “The Cloud Native Burrito.” In it, Josh explained the composition of a fully cloud-native application using a delicious metaphor. Kubernetes is the tortilla of your application, while other essential components such as your container runtime and virtual network are the rice and beans. The metaphor went on—and yes, it was before lunch—until eventually though your stomach rumbled, Kubernetes made more sense.

There was also a talk on Development Containers that I really wanted to attend, but there was just too much!

Open Source Philosophy

The most thought-provoking talk I attended was “FOSS in World Affairs” by Delib. This talk deconstructed the philosophy of open source until it could be applied more broadly to larger social issues such as abuses of capitalism and the breakdown of social contracts. It generated a ton of discussion, including talk about how a corporation could be completely open-sourced, in a way that would welcome both collaboration and competition. I came away from this talk with a lot to think about.

I also attended a talk by Keith Bergelt on mitigating patent risks in open source projects. He introduced me to the Open Invention Network, which I feel I should have known about before. This organization seeks to cushion large open source projects from patent litigation through various means such as building a “patent non-aggression community”. Bergelt was careful to point out that there are plenty of companies out there who seek to stall open source by leveraging patents.

Conclusion: Do it Again

FOSSY was great. I hadn’t attended an open source conference in years, and it was really enjoyable to be around so many like-minded nerds. I hope they do it again next year! I’ll endeavor to attend again.