OSCON moves to San Jose

The official word is out, OSCON 2009 will be moving from Portland, Oregon to San Jose, California. We’ve received significant positive feedback on the move, and messages of welcome from Bay Area open source contacts, but also some messages of disappointment from the local Portland open source community, and from non-local attendees who enjoyed visiting Portland every year. We’re also sad to leave, Portland has been an incredible incubator for the conference, as it is for many open source ventures. OSCON was first launched in Monterey, California, and then moved to San Diego, California. In 2003 we moved to Portland, to the Marriott Hotel on the Waterfront, and in 2005 we moved to the Oregon Convention Center on the other side of the river. During our time in Portland, we received incredible support from the local open source and technical communities, and from the Portland Development Commission. In Portland, OSCON grew from 1300 registered attendees in 2003, to 3000 registered attendees in 2008.

Clearly Portland was good for OSCON, but at the same time, we move most of our conferences every few years, to allow new local communities and organizations to participate and to provide new activities for non-local attendees. And while every conference planner likes to see yearly growth as a sign of a healthy conference, it’s a challenge to find space for 3000 people plus a projected growth of ~20% (based on previous years). The largest available keynote space at the Oregon Convention Center (the largest conference facility in Oregon) holds approximately 2500 people in our current layout (with a stage and airwall space to divide into smaller rooms for day sessions), and has an absolute maximum limit of 3600 people. 2008 marked a record high of OSCON attendees being turned away from sessions they wanted to see, due to firecode restrictions on the maximum occupancy of the rooms. Even Tim O’Reilly was turned away from two sessions. Given a choice between restricting conference registrations to a pre-set limit (like we do with the Web 2.0 Summit) and finding a bigger space, we knew the right choice for a community-oriented conference like OSCON was to find a bigger space.

We’re thrilled to see LinuxCon starting up in Portland, and hope that the energy of yearly Portland-local open source events that grew to complement OSCON will naturally migrate to LinuxCon. Jim Zemlin, who I’ve known for years, emailed me as soon as an article was released speculating that LinuxCon was started as a reaction to OSCON leaving Portland, to assure me that they had been planning LinuxCon in Portland long before they knew OSCON was moving, and reiterating the Linux Foundation’s full and continued support for OSCON. We plan to do cross-promotion between OSCON and LinuxCon, and maybe even cross-conference discounts (if we can work out the practicalities of verifying registration at an unrelated event).

We don’t know yet how long we’ll stay in San Jose. Some aspects of the space are ideal: it’s got a strong local open source community, it’s certainly large enough to host us now and for a few years in the future, and it’ll be convenient for the attendees and staff to have the conference hotels connected to the session space again. And, with the rising cost of fuel and travel, a huge local open source population in the greater Bay Area is a definite advantage. But, it’s hard to tell exactly how good a fit any space is for a given conference until you’ve actually held the conference there. I’m sure some things about the space will be less-than-ideal, and we look forward to the feedback from OSCON 2009 attendees (both good and bad) to help us make an educated decision on the location of OSCON 2010 and beyond. We also welcome suggestions from open source communities in other cities (with conference facilities to host 3500+ people), as candidates for future years.

Thanks for your part in ten fabulous years of OSCON and open source. Here’s to another fabulous ten ahead.

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  • Personally I’m disappointed. Having the conference actually in a real city was a huge plus. There was public transportation, and lots of stuff to do and see nearby.

    My experience with Silicon Valley is that the public transportation is pretty poor, and it’s just not as dense as Portland, so there’s likely to just be less stuff of interest in walking distance.

    I really wish conferences would always be in urban centers.

  • One important question: with the impending economic downturn, do you think OSCON 2009 will be bigger in terms of attendees than OSCON 2008? I have a feeling it (and the industry as a whole) will contract a bit and would be surprised to see more people attending next summer (which as you can guess, would mean the move away from Portland would be unnecessary).

  • I’ve heard a bunch of mentions of west coast cities, but what about east coast? A la Washington, DC, NYC, or even Boston (where I hail from). There is a HUGE contingent of open source developers and users in and around the Boston area, public transportation is easy, and of course there are many watering holes to partake in and sights to see. We have a pretty new conference and exhibition center (google BCEC and MCCA), easily accessible via our mass transit, the T.

    I really hope O’Reilly considers moving the conference somewhere on the east coast, even temporarily. I had my work foot my bill out to Portland this past year for OSCON 2008 and had a blast. I think if only it were a bit more geographically varied, you could serve an even bigger audience (I can only imagine the amount of college kids around here who would love to get their feet wet at an Open Source conference).


  • @Dave, remember the San Diego venue, out in the middle of nowhere? The Santa Clara center is somewhat better, though I agree that Portland had huge advantages with the venue location.

  • It’s San Jose, not Santa Clara. While I probably wouldn’t plan a vacation in San Jose, the Convention Center is one of my favorite locations for a conference, precisely because it’s right downtown, and walkable (good bakeries to stop at on your way in to the show, too). Plus, it’s next door to the public library, so there’s a quiet, bookish place of refuge should you need a break from all the activity.

  • Sort of funny after this video I made about the subject:

  • @Sara, my mistake. I thought this was the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is nice but not walkable. The San Jose venue seems much better that way.

  • Roger Weeks

    Dave Rolsky, I take some offense at your categorization of San Jose as not a “real city”. What definition are you working from? We have more people than Portland, if that’s any basis of “real city”.

    Downtown San Jose is wonderfully walkable, has several museums (including the TECH museum), restaurants, breweries, cafes, the library as someone mentioned, nightclubs, bars, etc. All within 10 walking blocks of the convention center.

    Public transit (VTA light rail) runs right past the convention center and connects you with trains up to San Francisco should you want to go up that direction, it’s an hour train ride from San Jose.

    While we don’t have the nifty light rail all the way into our airport like Portland does, it’s a several block free bus ride to the light rail.

    Come visit, you’ll see it’s not all bad.

  • I really liked that Perl Conference (and then later OSCON) traditionally moved around, and I didn’t like that it stayed in Portland for so long.

    Thing is, the part of Portland near the convention center was annoyingly far from downtown Portland anyway. San Diego had the same problem, as someone mentioned.

    That said, I didn’t begrudge Allison and the other organizers for not wanting to move around anymore once Portland worked out so well, because new venue scouting must be very challenging. But, I am thrilled they are taking on the task again and, since FLOSS conferences is the only traveling I can afford to do, I am glad to see other places. :)

    So, ultimately, no complaints from me. See you all in San Jose!

  • @chromatic: San Diego was exactly what I was thinking of in terms of a venue that wasn’t near anything, and kind of sucked for doing anything except the conference.

    I also am thinking of ApacheCon 2001 in Santa Clara, another incredibly pedestrian/public transportation unfriendly place.

    I suspect San Jose might be a bit better. Maybe it has an actual city portion (like Palo Alto).

    Really, it’s not so much leaving Portland as moving out of an urban center. If the conference were actually in San Francisco proper I’d be much more excited.

    @Roger: It’s good to hear that there’s actually stuff nearby.

    By “real city” I mean an urban center that is accessible without a car. Portland does that really well, and it’s limits on city growth have helped ensure that it has a great density of cool stuff throughout the city. I doubt San Jose has the same density.

    Plus I can’t help thinking of all of Silly Valley as a sort of lame suburb of San Francisco, a city I really like.

    @bkuhn: Yeah, it wasn’t in the downtown but with Portland’s transportation, I didn’t notice. Actually, I even walked to the edge of downtown for vegan donuts one morning and it wasn’t too far.

  • Just a San Jose local with some recommendations. The San Jose Convention Center can easily hold 3,500+ people. It’s actually where a majority of international and national conventions are held each year in the Bay Area, and would probably suit you best. Regards!

  • Pierre B

    I’m disappointed.
    OSBC, Mysql user conf, LinuxWorld, Office 2.0,..
    Do all the conferences have to be in Bay Area ?
    I attended all these this year, and I think OSCON was the best, and in part because it was at Portland. The Oregon CC is great and we didn’t need a car to go downtown or go around. OSCON at Portland is good.

  • This is straight downtown San Jose. There’s actually a bit of a downtown revival, good transit (CalTrain is 10 minutes walk, VTA Light Rail runs right past the convention center, lots of busses), and a pretty good street life withing five minutes of the convention center: restaurants, theaters, clubs, bars, cinema, SJSU, and the like.

    Perhaps not as fully cozy as Portland (I’ve spent far too little time there), but this most decidedly is NOT the horrific Santa Clara Convention Center. San Francisco is just over an hour’s ride by mini-bullet (limited service) on CalTrain. And for those who haven’t left the 19th century, I hear there’s ample access and parking for horseless carriages.

  • Rob

    Portland was fantastic. Was looking forward to going there in 2009. :(

  • Graham Barr

    I have mixed feelings about this. Having not been able to attend for many years, my last being the first in Portland, I was hoping to visit Portland again next year. On the other hand I am sure that being in the Bay area will make it easier for many.

    However I still have reservations. I remember we moved the conference from Monterey to San Diego. One reason given was we had outgrown the venue. Only to have an economic downturn and then the conference seemed lost in the huge San Diego confernece center. I hope we do not make the same mistake.

  • What if the location in Portland was a major reason for the growth? Were there any stats done to show whether that was the case?

  • @Kenric: It seems unlikely. The growth curve for OSCON is steady across the years. Moving to Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t cause a statistically significant increase in attendees.

  • tony

    boooo. (this is the sound of one man’s disappointment)