I spent most of last week at Flock 2015 in Rochester, NY. I had a blast and I tip my hat (fedora?) to everyone involved in making the conference run smoothly. I didn't go to a huge number of sessions (more on that below) but the sessions I did go to were superb. The talks I attended ranged from design (Future of Fedora Hubs) to security, to some ARM discussion, to "What does Red Hat Want". My teammates also gave a few kernel related talks where I sat in the audience and commented as necessary. I recommend watching the videos when they come out.
For me personally, the hallway track was most useful. I joined Red Hat fulltime back in April as part of Fedora Engineering to work on the kernel team. I had zero experience with the Fedora community before I joined. When you switch companies, you have to re-build and re-learn your internal network of who everybody is. An open source community is like a completely separate company so essentially you have two networks to contend with. Everyone at Red Hat and the Fedora community has made me feel welcome in all respects but it's still work to build a network.
So, how do you build that network? I work remotely so most of my interaction is via e-mail, IRC, or the occasional laggy video call. This works remarkbly well for getting things done. There's even room for fun in there depending on the people involved. All that is part of building the network and it is very valuable. Part of building a network is also feeling connected to that network, and that's where I think face to face conferences are most valuable. This is probably not actually news or a new idea. I think it's important to hilight this though for retention in both open source communities and corporations. If your employees or members don't feel connected to what you are doing, they won't stay. There are certainly people out there who can feel connected without going to a conference and meeting face to face, and making blanket rules about attendance will certainly end poorly. There are very good reasons why people do not want to attend conferences, especially in open source (a topic for another blog post). There need to be other ways for people to feel engaged and connected besides conferences. For me personally, going and talking to people in person is one way I feel more engaged and enthusiastic about my work.
So thanks again to everyone I met at Flock. It was great talking to you and I hope to do it again. Tomorrow I leave for Linux Plumbers up in Seattle. I'll probably write up something else when that is all done.