I just came back from a wonderful week in Portland, attending OSCON, the open source conference.
I started the conference by attending the Presentation Aikido workshop. Damian covered many aspects of a good presentation, from material selection to storyline formation to slide design to handling questions. He pointed out that talks are rarely a primary information source. Rather, it connects the new material with what the audience already knows, providing a structure for understanding.
So many topics!
Besides public speaking skills, I explored many different topics during OSCON. There were more than ten sessions going on at the same time, and it was a bit overwhelming to decide which ones to attend. My daily routine focuses on mobile development, but instead of going to mobile talks I decided to use this opportunity to expand my horizons.
In the HTML5 game workshop I learned to make sound by mixing sine waves, square waves and saw waves, and adjusting the sound envelope.
In the Arduino workshop I made my very first Arduino circuit, and took home a starter kit with enough components to build various projects.
In the Functional Thinking talk I realized that I have already dipped my toes in functional programming by using list comprehension in python and ruby, and learned about interesting concepts like memoization with pure functions.
Bust the Android fragmentation myth
I had so much fun going to all the different sessions that I almost forgot I needed to give a talk as well!
The side effect of kicking off the conference with the Presentation Aikido workshop was the I became acutely aware of the presentation techniques of various speakers.
For instance, I really enjoyed the talk by Simon Phipps, Can Evil Corporations Embrace Open Source? He started by asking the question "Are Corporations Evil?", and compared them to lawnmowers. Lawnmowers cut. If you put your hand in a lawnmower, it gets cut. Because that's what lawnmowers do, not because they are evil. To change the direction of a lawnmower, you do not put your hand in it. Instead, you steer it from behind. Much like lawnmowers, corporations do not think or feel, and cannot be evil.
Later in the presentation he mentioned that people used to question his role pushing open source within Sun Microsystems. How can he pretend to embrace open source while working for a corporation, they asked. To which Simon replied, he was steering the lawnmower. There were many cross references like the throughout the talk, giving it consistency and structure. I loved it.
OSCON concluded with a fabulous talk by Paul Fenwick, titled "Fear, Uncertainty, and Dopamine". He showed us lots of interesting research on motivation, and suggested ways to apply them to the open source community. Paul was extremely eloquent, and his talk was informative, entertaining and inspiring. You should check it out.
OSCON was not just about workshops and session. I got to hang out with lots of cool people, explore Portland, and eat yummy food.
Monday night I went to Nicholas for some delicious Lebanese food. We had baba ghanoug, toum, lamb kebab, fried veggies and Lebanese pizza, and everything was so tasty.
Wednesday night Rupa and I decided to pay a visit to the legendary Powell's Bookstore. We went to straight up to the top floor for the Rare Book Room.
After that we wandered around a bit. We stumbled upon the popup books in the children's section, which were really fun.
Thursday night we went out in search for yummy food again. This time we went to Bamboo Sushi.
We were going to get ice cream from Salt & Straw next door, but alas, the line was really really long.
On the last day we joined a tour to check out the food carts.
We sampled 9 carts in total:
- Bulgogi taco
- Bacon almond dates
- Salmon chowder
- Beer battered mushrooms
- Chilled basil sweet corn soup
- Chinese dumplings
- Liège waffles
After the food cart tour I met up with a friend who moved from the SF Bay Area to Portland a few years ago, eager to hear more about the Portland lifestyle. Portland strikes me as a very livable place - excellent public transportation, affordable real estate, thriving tech community. I am seriously tempted to move there!