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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