Celebrating 20 Years of Open Source at O’Reilly Open Source Convention

In the technology field, late Summer and early Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere is the traditional conference season — a time for colleagues to pause to reconnect with each other, learn about trends and challenges in the industry, and of course, build new relationships and strengthen old ones. For the past 20 years now, one of the biggest of these gatherings of creators and consumers of open source software has been the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). DIAL’s Open Source Center team just returned from the event in Portland, Oregon, and once again left informed and refreshed as open source enters its third decade.

As Director of Community for the DIAL Open Source Center, I primarily focus on the power of people to build technology to improve the reach and impact of international development and humanitarian response work, and to bring people in our field together to tackle new problems and find new ways to collaborate. That’s why the Community Leadership Summit, held each year just before OSCON, was particularly valuable this year. An “unconference”, the content of the event is driven by participants. I hosted the “Beyond Fiscal Sponsors” session, where experts honed in on the challenges and gaps faced by open source software projects and how organizations like DIAL and our Open Source Center can fill those gaps and amplify the impact of software projects — not only in the development & humanitarian sectors, but also in all types of open source work.

Two days of tutorials and in-depth workshops followed for the team, on topics from giving better technical presentations, to coaching engineering team members, to technology platforms like Kubernetes, containers, and continuous delivery. Finally, there were two days of keynotes and shorter technical talks, enabling us learn about the work of our open source colleagues around the world as the develop best practices.

Of course, there were many exciting conversations for our team along the way. David McCann, the Center’s Director of Technology, sat down with O’Reilly Media to talk a little bit about the United Nations Foundation, DIAL, and how the Open Source Center is working to turbocharge projects in the international development space. Check out the interview here.

Michael Downey

Throughout the weeklong event, the entire team — including the newest member of our team, Heath Arensen, was able to meet and brainstorm with key players in the tech industry about how we might adapt the lessons they’ve learned to build more financially sustainable open source software projects with long-lasting impact. We had great discussions sharing success stories and ideas for how to strengthen this invaluable effort to build even more technology capacity and launch more technology careers for women, people in the Global South, and other under-represented groups.

On the final day of the week, I presented a talk about the DIAL Open Source Center, how open source software is being used in critical humanitarian and development world in every part of the world, and how we’re helping to mitigate some of the risk involved by providing additional resources and services to those projects.

Conferences are major investments of time and energy, but the time spent on forging new relationships and partnerships, as well as teaching others about what we’ve learned, helps to increase the impact of every bit of work we do the rest of the year. Again this year, we were very grateful for the opportunity to be surrounding by thousands of our colleagues for such a vibrant and busy week.