Interview: Edd Dumbill on the Drivers of Open Source at OSCON

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The OSCON conference returns to Portland this week with recurring themes of open source, innovation, and Big Data. To learn more, I caught up with Program Chair Edd Dumbill.

inside-BigData: What do you think brings attendees back to OSCON year after year?

Edd Dumbill: Simply put: each other. OSCON is a fabulous gathering of the open source community across a broad variety of projects and technologies. What makes it so special are the speakers and the attendees, and what we learn from each other.

inside-BigData: From the outside, it almost seems to me as if Big Data has breathed new life into open source by providing new challenges for the community. What do you think?

Edd Dumbill: I’d say open source gave birth to much of big data! Many of the developments with cloud and big data right now have sound foundations in open source projects.

inside-BigData: As program chair, what would you say will be different, new, and exciting this year at OSCON?

Edd Dumbill: I’m excited at the continuing growth of OpenStack. That has the potential to do for the data center what the IBM PC design did for personal computing. I’m also thrilled at the depth of programming expertise we’re continually able to bring to OSCON. One particular highlight will be Rob Pike presenting on the Go programming language.

inside-BigData: I was following your twitter stream, and you wrote that you had just finished reading every one of the 650 plus Strata New York and Hadoop World proposals. What drives you to invest that kind of time into event content?

Edd Dumbill: For me personally, I feel so much more certain about the choices I make when I put the effort into reviewing everybody’s proposal. All our would-be speakers put a lot of effort into their submissions, and as much as possible they deserve the chair to have seen

inside-BigData: Did you notice any new trends in such an exhausting exercise?

Edd Dumbill: The biggest trend is the sheer explosion of interest in big data. With that comes both the good and the bad. On the downside, in their haste to join the bandwagon, people forget the important thing at the event is educating the attendees: these people don’t get asked to speak. On the good side, there’s such a thrill in uniting people across many industries doing cutting edge work in big data. If you want some high level trends, I’d say they were the need to deliver analytic power to the end user, and making big data processing more real-time and interactive.

inside-BigData: As a long-time media pundit, what would you say has changed the most in the open source community since the boom? Is the typical attendee starting to suit up, put on ties, and mature?

Edd Dumbill: We’re all maturing, for sure 😉 OSCON has always had a strong mix of both open source developers that work both for very large and very small companies. Nobody puts on ties at OSCON, but we have people who are solving big problems inside industry, which might have seemed improbable to the attendee from ten years ago. As open source becomes increasingly the default, we have projects such as OpenStack that start off their life with companies collaborating, rather than growing from individuals.

inside-BigData: As a resident of Portlandia, I think its great that OSCON makes it home here for the annual conference. How do the show organizers feel about our town and what kind of reception have your attendees come to expect here?

Edd Dumbill: We love being in Portland, and always receive a warm welcome from the city. When OSCON’s in town, it’s always a great atmosphere, and we’re able to make the convention center our own for the week.