Next Week: Open Source Bridge 2010

Next week (June 1-4 to be precise) marks the second annual Open Source Bridge conference here in Portland. Last year’s conference was dreamed up as an initial response to a Portland summer without OSCON (it was held in San Jose last year), and what resulted was a unique treat of a conference that was as socially invigorating as it was intellectually stimulating. My experience with tech conferences in the past has been admittedly limited, but last year’s Open Source Bridge brought forth a feeling of intimacy and warmth that was a welcome contrast to the sterile isolation I’m used to in the tech world.

Although the makeup of Open Source Bridge attendees and speakers weighs heavily Portlander, there is nothing about the content of the conference that benefits Portlanders exclusively. The conference is a great opportunity to learn a new skill, sharpen a pre-existing one, or take an entirely new tack on something old and familiar. The sessions are informative and incredibly practical – this year, I plan on attending a few talks that should have immediate application to my day-to-day work, as well as sessions that explore some tech concepts I’m familiar with but have never taken the time to learn about in any degree of depth. I can’t wait to revisit that exciting mental buzz of so many interesting tidbits bouncing around in my head (although I’m not looking forward to needing to temporarily shelve what I’ve learned not long after the conference wraps – I’m in the middle of preparing for a move and have to limit my out-of-work tech play).

One big thing has changed in the tech world since last year’s OS Bridge conference, and that is the existence of the Geek Feminism blog, which started publishing posts in August of 2009 (a couple of months after OS Bridge 2009). I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the Geek Feminism blog fills a massive void in the tech world, one that the community has desperately needed to fill for years and years (I would have experienced so much less pain and heartache if I’d had the blog around during my college years and my first years in industry – and that’s just me personally; there’s clearly a larger societal impact that is even more important).

As some women-in-tech research has cited, we yearn to see those who are like us (people we can identify with) in positions of visibility and power. Role models are really important – they help us see what’s possible. Whether or not they’ve intended it, the ladies at Geek Feminism have joined the cast of my own role models. They wow me with their confidence, their grasp of fundamentals in both tech and feminism, and their ability to explain (and combat) the social problems in the tech community succinctly and effectively. As a result, I’ve become way too excited about the Geek Feminism contributors whose names are attached to these talks and Birds of a Feather sessions – there are so many of them attending, and none of them Portlanders!:

Sumana Harihareswara is presenting The Second Step: HOWTO encourage open source work at for-profits. (A talk one I know one of my co-workers has tagged as “most interested in attending”.)

Liz Henry is presenting X Marks the Spot: Applying OpenStreetMap to the High Seas.

Leigh Honeywell is Wednesday’s keynote speaker(!) and presenting The Rise of Hacker Spaces.

Kirrily Robert is leading the Open Data BoF.

These are all fantastic topics on their own, but do they shoot to the top of my “to-attend” list because of the presenters? Of course! I admit my bias. Real role models have been hard to come by as a female programmer, and I’ve been so blessed to finally find a wealth of them over the last year or two. For this reason (among MANY others that I haven’t delved into on this post!) I can’t wait to attend OS Bridge next week – I’ll be surrounded by so many tech women that I admire, and you bet I’ll be feeling starstruck (in a geeky way, which mostly involves all emoting done via computer) – not just from the Geek Feminism contributors in attendance, but also from the local women I see every month at Code N Splode, who out-impress any sort of “dream tech role model” I could have imagined on my own.

I am hoping to do some blogging while the conference is underway, especially about the talks that I find the most interesting. I’m also going to be volunteering at the 24 Hour Hacker Lounge during the hours of midnight and 4 am (i.e. my best hours, for better or for worse). I missed the phenomenon of the Hacker Lounge last year because I was busy with work, but I read about it on Twitter and can’t wait to be a part of this year’s iteration. Next week looks to be a lot of fun, and that it’s done in the name of “professional development” is icing on the cake.

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