Monday, July 29, 2013

OSCON

I just came back from a wonderful week in Portland, attending OSCON, the open source conference.

Presentation Aikido

Presentation Aikido
Presentation Aikido

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.


Making waves

In the HTML5 game workshop I learned to make sound by mixing sine waves, square waves and saw waves, and adjusting the sound envelope.

My first Arduino circuit
My first Arduino circuit

In the Arduino workshop I made my very first Arduino circuit, and took home a starter kit with enough components to build various projects.

Object-oriented programming vs functional programming
Object-oriented programming vs functional programming

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!

My talk covers the techniques to develop Android apps that works on all devices, no matter what screen sizes, aspect ratios and OS versions. Android borrows a lot of concepts from the web, so I used a lot of analogies with html, css and javascript. I did not realize that when I prepared the talk, but I was making connections for my audience, just as Damian said in Presentation Aikido.

Awesome speakers

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.

Are Corporations Evil?
Are Corporations Evil?

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.

Portland

OSCON was not just about workshops and session. I got to hang out with lots of cool people, explore Portland, and eat yummy food.

Bread at Nicholas restaurant
Bread at Nicholas restaurant

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.

8:36pm: was out at Nicholas with these amazing women (Rose, Rupa, Julia, and Chiu-Ki), in town for #oscon!
The gang at Nicholas: Rose, Rupa, Julia and me. Liene was holding the camera.

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.

Bookends in the Rare Book Room at Powell
Bookends in the Rare Book Room at Powell

After that we wandered around a bit. We stumbled upon the popup books in the children's section, which were really fun.

Popup book
Popup book

Thursday night we went out in search for yummy food again. This time we went to Bamboo Sushi.

Shrimp tempura roll
Shrimp tempura roll

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.

Food cart tour
Food cart tour

We sampled 9 carts in total:

  1. Empanada
  2. Bulgogi taco
  3. Falafel
  4. Bacon almond dates
  5. Salmon chowder
  6. Beer battered mushrooms
  7. Chilled basil sweet corn soup
  8. Chinese dumplings
  9. Li├Ęge 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!