Anybody that knows me knows that I’m a vociferous proponent of Open Source as the best way to build the foundational stuff on which we all work together to invent the future. Why is it, then, that I’ve only made it to All Things Open this year? The conference has been running in Raleigh since 2013, and gets bigger every year. Well, honestly it just wasn’t on my radar. The past six years or so have had me deep in the content and process space and a more general software conference wasn’t something I felt I could make time for. That was a mistake. This is the year I made the decision to pivot my career back to what I really love: building things that delight people. What better way to get back to basics than spending a few days with people building world changing technology? With that in mind, I applied to speak and much to my delight, had the opportunity to do so. If you would like to take a look at the deck, it’s up on Slideshare.
All Things Open 2018 was an eye opener. I went in expecting the chance to learn from the experts across a wide variety of topics, but what I didn’t expect was the sheer information overload that ensued. Some time slots had 20+ concurrent sessions scheduled across every topic imaginable from 101 introductions, to blockchain, IoT, security, design, UI/UX, business development and just about everything else under the sun. This conference has something for you no matter how specialized you may be.
This was my first visit to Raleigh, so that feels like a logical place to start writing about the event. The short version? Raleigh is impressive. Really impressive. As one of the three cities that make up the vertices of the Research Triangle, home to Research Triangle Park (RTP), the city is chock full of tech companies large and small. This makes it an ideal location for a large east coast tech conference. It also doesn’t hurt that Raleigh is home to Red Hat, one of the early companies to make a big bet on open source and one that is seen as one of the pillars of the open source community. Not going to try to hide my bias here, I’m a Red Hat fan, and have been since my early days with Linux. RPM felt like a huge leap forward and hooked me straight away.
Anyway… Raleigh. I’m spending most of my time today working on various aspects of IoT so when an email arrived announcing that RIOT would be at ATO, a great conference got even better. RIOT is a great example of what can happen when governments, businesses, and a community come together to support launching new tech. Just look at their stats. Over 5000 members, 40 companies through the accelerator, 275M in investment, 400 jobs. Their demo night at ATO was one of the event highlights for me, personally. We have a small but growing community of IoT developers and dreamers here in Birmingham, and seeing what RIOT has accomplished was nothing short of inspiring.
The demo night was definitely my favorite part of the event, but overall the session quality was also excellent. Taron Foxworth’s talk on industrial IoT and Tensorflow was a great introduction. It was refreshing to get a view of the intersection of machine learning topics and IoT from somebody that had many of the same questions that I have. I’ll certainly approach the topic more boldly in the future now that some of the pieces and parts have been demystified a bit! Another favorite was a talk from Dan Thyer, not only does he know his stuff, but he’s funny as hell. The conference organizers are collecting up the slides from the presentations, so I’ll link back to those as they become available. It’s a shame more of the sessions were not recorded, if they were I’d link you directly to some favorite moments. Maybe next year?
A few points of advice for those thinking about attending:
- Take the chance to walk around downtown Raleigh if you are just visiting. NC BBQ isn’t what you’ll find throughout much of the south, but it is delicious.
- Bring a water bottle, and be prepared to get coffee elsewhere between sessions. Unfortunately the coffee service stopped for much of the day.
- Get to your favorite sessions EARLY if you want a seat for a popular topic. It feels like ATO might be bumping up against the capacity of the venue. A lot of the sessions in smaller rooms were standing room only.
- Watch out for those infernal Bird scooters (although this advice probably applies everywhere they run), I was almost run down a couple times.
- Get out of your comfort zone and try a track on a topic you know nothing about. I’m not a brand or marketing guy, but took a LOT of great tips away from Jonathan Opp’s session on building brands the open source way.
- Talk to a stranger. As many of them as you can. Ask them questions. I learned so much about interesting things going on from impromptu conversations across the event.
- Bring stickers. Get stickers.
All in all ATO was a total winner. My only regret is that it took so long for this event to land on the top of my to do list. Won’t make that mistake again.
See you in 2019!