Open Source Bridge 2009

I attended Open Source Bridge was last week, and have to say it was the best conference I’ve been to (I’ve only been to half a dozen). The variety of content kept the conference interesting and it was nice for me to finally meet others in the Portland tech community. I took a bunch of notes during the sessions and wanted to summarize them here.

Wednesday, June 17th

Welcome Session

The welcome session started with some statistics that I thought were interesting:

  • About 400 people attending
  • 25% people are presenting
  • 33% speakers are female

How to earn an open source living without taking investors or selling your soul

Brian Jamison from OpenSourcery talked about running a business that generates revenue from Open Source. He had a lot of good ideas, some of which I’m going to try out in Little Stream Software. My favorite idea was something we should all do more often:

“Say No, a lot

  • Specific customer
  • Sweat equity
  • Microsoft projects
  • Scope creep
  • Lowering price – you’ve lost if the customer asks”

Open Source tools for freelancers

Christie Koehler, a Portland freelance developer, went over several open source tools she used. She mentioned a small Python utility called timebook. It’s a command line program that you can use to keep a running timer for tasks. I’m going to try it out for a few days to see if it can replace my paper timelog I keep.

How to build a successful open source software consulting company

Nate Aune from Jazkarta talked about starting an Open Source Consulting company. I already consider Little Stream Software an OS Consulting company, based on the work I do for Redmine but I did pick up few ideas on how to generate other streams of revenue (without selling my soul):

  • Custom development
  • Training
  • Support
  • Hosting

Information Security for the Open Source Business

Kevin Kenan gave a session on Information Security. Sadly, it was targeted at larger businesses than so many of the ideas weren’t useful to me. A good idea I did get was that products should give their customers a guide showing how to configure the product securely along with the tools needed to test those security precautions.

Cluster Analysis – how to have fun in n dimensions

In Jesse Hallett‘s talk, showed how to do some Statistical analysis (Cluster analysis) to visually group data. It was a very interesting talk, though above my current math knowledge. He did have pretty animations though.

How to Work with the Government for fun and profit

I made a change at the last minute and decided to go to Deborah Bryant‘s session on how smaller businesses can win Government projects. I haven’t had a lot of chances to work with larger organizations so I wanted to know how feasible it is to work with the local government.

Thursday, June 18th

Thursday Keynotes

The opening keynote for Thursday included a talk by the Portland Mayor, Sam Adams. He mentioned that Portland has a lot of funds for digital improvements but there isn’t enough people trying to help. This might be a good opportunity for local tech businesses to pick up some work.

Ward Cunningham gave the next keynote about Innovations in Teamwork. One of his suggestion was that we try to work together more often, because that will lead to more insights and solutions than we have now. Based on that advise, I’m going to try to attend more local user groups.

Unit test your database

David Wheeler from PostgreSQL Experts Inc gave a talk about unit testing the PostgreSQL database. Even though Ruby on Rails doesn’t use all of the features for each database, this talk had a few points that are great for writing unit tests against non-database code:

  • Test Driven Development is not for finding bugs, it for your own sanity and checking code consistently
  • If testing an interface is hard, then the function might need to be refactored. Hard to test means hard to use.
  • Tests are about as fast as your code but even then… they are much faster than debugging.

RubySpec: What does my Ruby do?

Brian Ford from Engine Yard gave a talk about RubySpec. I’m really excited about this project because he talked about some very easy ways to get involved and contribute. RubySpec is being used by many of the major Ruby implementations in order compare their implementation against the standard Ruby (MRI).

Configuration Management Panel

I went to this panel looking for a system that would help me automate server setup for myself and my customers. I was looking for something that was easy to use and that would make doing system upgrades simple. After hearing everyone speak, I’m going to take a look at puppet and automateit for my needs. The recording of this session just came online at, I’d recommend watching it just to see the panel make offhand remarks at the other projects.

Bootstrapping Your Open Source Business

The GitHubbers never fail to entertain. Some notable quotes:

  • “Taking VC money is like marring a girl”
  • “I’m the CRO. Chief Revenue Officer”
  • “100,000 users on Twitter is the best integration test ever”

Git vs bzr smackdown

Selena Deckelmann and EmmaJane Hogbin paired on a session comparing git to bzr. bzr was my first exposure to a distributed version control system but git was the first one I really understood. From what Emma and the audience were saying, bzr is easier to learn and is good if you work with Windows. They also put up two sites to continue the battle:

Friday, June 19th

Friday was the unconference day. I didn’t take many notes but I think Friday was still my favorite day just from the networking and discussions that came up. I’m going to have to attend more unconferences in Portland.

That’s my write up of Open Source Bridge. I really enjoyed myself and would highly recommend attending next years conference. If anyone wants some more details about the notes I took, email me me and I’d be happy to send you a copy.