It should go without saying that there is no substitute for face to face collaboration. And what is open source if not the ultimate example of collaboration? Open source events provide a wide range of opportunities for the community to connect, and the end result of all of this is good for the community and good for business.
Over the years, and across more than a hundred events, we’ve learned quite a bit of just what it is that makes events specifically so important to the community. Here are some of those reasons:
1. To advance technology. The world has come to understand that open source collaboration moves technology forward. A lot of work can be accomplished over mailing lists and conference calls, but it still slows the process. Time and time again, we hear from all types of technologists – kernel maintainers to architects, that there is absolutely no substitute for the face time they get at events.
2. To learn how the community works. Not everyone in tech starts in open source, and the open source community is unique. Attending events gives developers, sysadmins, operators, users, executives and other open source players and firsthand look at how the community operates. There is no better way to immerse yourself.
3. To get motivated. Programmers are often portrayed as people who work very independently, coding for long hours at their computers into the wee hours of the night. While the long coding hours part is probably true, programmers aren’t the lone wolfs they are sometimes portrayed as. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something bigger, part of a community. This is what drives open source. Attendees frequently tell us that the ability to meet in person with like-minded folks to discuss the projects and technologies they are working on is a huge motivation.
4. To connect directly with the maintainers, committers and key members of projects. One of the biggest benefits of our events that we often hear about is the ability to connect directly with these folks to ask questions and gain knowledge. For example, if a developer wants to start submitting patches to the kernel but wants some information on best practices to be successful at this, what better way to find out than to speak directly to one of the kernel maintainers? There is huge benefit to the growth of the community by being able to engage in person with these people.
5. To cross-pollinate. Some of our events gather together the developers who are building technologies, with the operators that are implementing them, the users that are benefiting from them, and the business leaders making the decisions. It is incredibly important for these groups to be able to connect and events provide that opportunity. For a developer to be able to explain value directly to a business leader? For a user to be able to ask questions or propose a new feature direct to a developer? Only the open source community truly allows this level of collaboration and events are the best place to offer it.
6. To learn about the Latest and Greatest. Technology moves fast. Every time you turn around there are new open source projects, new technologies and new advancements. Events provide an unprecedented ability to learn a ton of new information in a short amount of time, with the added benefit of being able to ask questions real time to the speakers presenting new information and to engage with others to discuss the material, ask questions and brainstorm right away.
7. To have fun. The open source community works hard and sometimes events can be a bit of an information overload, so attendees appreciate the ability to ‘take 5’ while onsite and have a little fun. 5k fun runs, games, evening events with good beer and company; these elements are appreciated by attendees and contribute to a productive experience.
The list of reasons could go on and on. The fact is, events provide different benefits for different attendees. The overarching point, though, remains the same: Events help further collaboration and the advancement of open source technology. If you’re thinking of attending an event, or contemplating sending some of your team to an event, and weighing all the pros and cons of whether you should go, the answer is: go. The knowledge gained, the relationships made, the questions answered – there is no substitute and everyone benefits.