Have you considered attending an open source conference this year? I'm just back from OSCON in the USA and adjusting back to UK time after attending to launch Individual Membership for the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which is now available to open source supporters everywhere.
OSCON is one of the most consistently important open source conferences in the world. It was the place the open source movement was born in 1998-9, bringing the ideas of software freedom that had been pioneered by both the GNU Project and the BSD project to a general business audience. Since then it's been a meeting place for thought leaders of the english-speaking open source movement, consistently delivering great content and unbeatable networking opportunities.
There are other events, of course - the huge Brazilian conference FISL is running this week in Porto Alegre, for example, and FOSDEM in Brussels each winter is a must-attend event for many. Attending one of these gatherings is a crucial dynamic of the open source movement. Mailing list and other remote engagement is great, but getting to know the people at the other end of those online aliases can't be beaten.
If you didn't know make it to OSCON maybe you should consider attending one of the other events I'm attending over the next quarter. They include:
- OggCamp - A grass-roots gathering for the UK's Free Culture mavens, this year's OggCamp will feature a live (if virtual) appearance by Stephen Fry. It's the weekend of August 18-19 in Liverpool, and a fresh batch of (free) tickets has just been made available to hurry along to get one while you can. This is an "unconference" - just show up and lead a session on a topic of your choice if you're so inclined.
- Open World Forum - Held October 11-13 in Paris and run in both French and English, OWF is one of the larger international events, with multiple tracks and a wide range of different content and styles. Despite the size and diversity, the event is still free of charge. This is an event for policy-makers and business decision-makers more than developers but it's a great choice for a first conference - not lest because Paris can be a great place to visit in mid-October. Various Call for Papers for this conference are still open.
- The LibreOffice Conference - An event very much intended for developers, The Document Foundation's LibreOffice Conference in Berlin October 17-19 is also a welcoming place for end users of this fine open source office suite. If you've been using OpenOffice or LibreOffice for years and wish you could get involved, this is the event to attend. The Call for Papers for this conference is still open.
- OSS 2012 - The Eighth International Conference on Open Source Systems is an academic conference populated mainly with peer-reviewed papers but there are a number of industry sessions as well as non-academic keynotes. The conference this year is in Tunisia 10-13 September in a fine resort, so it's also an attractive destination in its own right. This conference has already picked all its content.
That's one conference each in the four main styles. Plan to attend one and get new ideas, new networks and maybe even a new job. Submit a paper if you can - sharing your experience is as good a way to contribute to a community as code. But whatever you do, get involved - open source is one of the key trends for the decade and your career deserves it.Follow Simon as @webmink on Twitter and Identi.Ca and also on Google+