One of the three highlights of this young, long-haired gentleman's trip to California was to participate in the GSoC 2008 conference. Earlier this year I had been asked to become a mentor for the Dojo foundation. As you might know Google gives out enormous amounts of money each year to Open Source organization all over the world, earmarked for students so that they can afford to work on a project for their organization during the summer.
This in itself is really cool and generates (deservedly) no small amount of goodwill for Google. Being a mentor I was invited, along with some 200 other people to the conference. At first it felt a bit strange to have an open source conference. I mean, it felt like having a conference on wearing pants. It's a given, more or less. The only times I normally reflect on Open Source licensing is when I see someone walking down the street sporting a nekkid lower half.
Most, if not all of the focus of an Open Source software developer surely lies in the application or service being created. However, when arriving at the conference I suddenly understood the reason for the conference. Naturally the focus was on Open Source Software, and some of the sessions did indeed focus on project management and licensing issues, but the whole point of the conference was to get to meet the best and the brightest developers in the world - or so it felt at least.
Most people don't code at all. Of those who code a fair share, say at least 50%, just code as if it was any other kind of job. No real enthusiasm. Of those who are somewhat enthusiastic, there's maybe one in ten who are _really_ enthusiastic about programming. Of those maybe again 1/10 have the inclination or assertiveness to actually engage themselves in a public Open Source project, and of them not many decide to take on the responsibility of being a mentor (of which I could have made a much better job, actually, but more on that in some later post).
Anyway, those were the guys I met. But before the conference there was a traditional Thai dinner in downtown Mountain View. The way to the restaurant look a bit like this from the train station:
There was a lot of happy confusion, assertive Leslie Hawthorns all over the place and a resounding call to arms for the following beer bash at a nearby establishment built for this very purpose. The volume of all these programmers talking at the same time was positively deafening, despite some truly outrageously tasty local beer. I'm so sorry that I never remember names, but I hope you know who you are! Please mail me if you want to get in contact.
I met the project manager for the NTP project and was surprised to hear that something that is relied on by so many and used daily for a number of purposes is not getting the economic attention it really deserves. I met a lot of guys from Germany working on MoinMoin, and another that worked on Zope (which I have actually tried out). There was Boombox an Open Source project to replace the OS on an iPod (and other things), several ambitious bio-CMS systems (I'm a reformed molecular biologist hobbyist myself :) and tons of other people.
The party went on into the night and I was nearly unable to manage a late night dry martini at the hotel when I got home, where I had a long discussion with a couple from Alaska who liked to travel a lot (he was a geologist and she was a M&A specialist, which gave me a feeling that they were probably able to. Traveling can be exhausting in my opinion, but here were climbers of Kilimanjaro who would not agree :). They were also really nice people) discussing Obama (Yes!), various economic conundrums and how to pronounce Göteborg and whether the city in question resides in Sweden or Denmark (the former).
Sadly, since I had to be back home on Sunday, I had to leave on Saturday, leaving me only with four hours of conference. With a rapid taxi out to MTV I decided to make the most of it, and made a great number of good contacts, some with people who agreed with me that we must have met before, but could not recall when (it's just half a world away, really). Tons of good discussions on Dojo and on implenetations of REST and general information managemenet. Thanks everyone I met. It was a pleasure talking to all of you!
ANd then there was the scale-model (surely?) of the X1 spaceship. And the lebansese buffet, and the juice bars, and the Testing onThe Toilet posters (on the toilet), and the general Googly atmosphere.
Anyway, most of all; Thanks 1.0E6 to Leslie Hawthorn and Chris diBona (and the rest of the crew) for creating a wonderful experience and creative climate for all of us. And for the Google frisbees. I snacthed two to give to the kids when I got home, who were duly impressed and commenced wrecking our living room immediately :)