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OSU Open Source Lab

Open Source Bridge Promotes Community

by Melissa Morse on Mon, Jun 24 2013

With the open source conference season well underway, OSL students and staff were excited to attend `Open Source Bridge`_ at the Eliot Center in downtown Portland from June 18-21. Now in its fifth year, the conference provided a unique opportunity for the open source community to connect and share with each other.

Besides great vegetarian food, one of the ways conference organizers promoted a feeling of community was with the hacker lounge, sponsored by Intel. Comfortable seating, plenty of power strips and wifi, a 3-D printer and a Lego table added to the atmosphere of creativity. For OSL Director Lance Albertson, the hacker lounge was the most important part of Open Source Bridge.

“It provides a place to start a conversation, work together and find out other cool projects people are doing,” Albertson says.

Another unique aspect of Open Source Bridge is that it’s completely run by volunteers. This prompted Jenn Garcia, OSL student outreach manager, to volunteer this year; she worked as a session chair and assistant volunteer coordinator. Garcia was impressed with how friendly the open source community was.

“My favorite thing about volunteering was the people I got to meet,” Garcia says.

In addition to promoting community, Open Source Bridge offers valuable content during sessions. Conference organizers created five tracks for presentations: Culture, Business, Hacks, Cooking, and Chemistry. Albertson was impressed with the variety of content offered this year. Session topics he attended ranged from Leveling up in DevOps: the Art of Bad Shell Scripts to Hacking the Academic Experience.

“I really enjoyed the diversity of not only the people attending but also the session topics,” Albertson says. “I noticed a wider variety of topics this year than in the past--from advanced technical to sociological topics.”

Lance Albertson Presentation

Lance Albertson giving a presentation on how the OSU Open Source Lab mentors "rockstar" students.

In the culture track, the OSL presented How We Mentor “Rock Star” Students, in conjunction with Portland State University’s CAT presentation Zero to Root in 12 Months. Albertson and Senior Software Engineer Ken Lett emphasized that mentoring college students involves much more than teaching code.

“We teach students to collaborate with each other and with the open source community,” Albertson says. “All of our developers are on IRC, and our students answer user questions.”

Lett explained that experienced students are encouraged to take leadership roles on projects at the OSL. Student-to-student mentoring fosters relationships at the OSL and helps students learn.

“Students really blossom when they get to teach others about cool new things,” Lett says.

Teaching others is an integral part of Open Source Bridge, and this year’s conference was no exception. The OSL staff is looking forward to implementing what we’ve learned--and to attending again next year.

“OS Bridge continues to be the best diverse, community-driven conference in the world,” Albertson says.

Conference organizers have already started planning the next conference, which will be held June 24-27, 2014. (Early bird registration is available).