Now in its 20th year, the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE) has carved out a special place in the open source community that reaches far beyond its regional conference roots.
Each year, thousands of open source users, contributors, enthusiasts and luminaries travel from around the world to attend SCaLE in Los Angeles for what is billed as the largest community-run open source conference in North America. They come for the unique balance of community and corporate participation, the breadth and depth of presentations and for the inclusiveness of the community. SCaLE may be the most welcoming open source technology conference environment for attendees and speakers of all backgrounds, identities and skill levels.
SCaLE also happens to be one of my favorite tech events, even though I’ve only attended twice -- something I’m intent on prioritizing and correcting in the future.
My first experience with SCaLE was back in 2010 at SCaLE 8x, where I gave my first-ever solo tech presentation called The One Woman Web Team as part of the Women in Open Source (WIOS) track. I didn’t make it back until SCaLE 17x in 2019, but I was welcomed as if I'd attended every year. While many open source communities and projects suffer a bit from a gatekeeping phenomenon with an insulating inner circle of long-time contributors and community members barring those trying to break in, I’ve always thought that SCaLE represents the better aspects of open source culture. I've always been a fan and supporter, so I was very happy to see Intel sponsor this edition. I see all our paths aligned!
Where Corporate and Community Interests Meet
As a community-run conference, SCaLE has maintained a grass-roots charm even as it has grown over two decades into a major event that attracts industry experts and big corporate sponsors. It's a delicate cultural balance that has worked well. The result is a conference that satisfies the needs of all involved, equally representing large companies like Intel and local interest groups like LinuxChix LA. This welcoming environment sets the stage for open conversations that lead to the type of innovation that aligns with our culture and goals at Open.Intel. By shedding some of the formality, pomp and circumstance typical of a commercial technology event, open source contributors, newbies and sponsors can come together unencumbered and for all to benefit.
Catch up on What You Missed
An obvious benefit of attracting such a broad cross-section of open source experts and enthusiasts is the overwhelming amount of useful information shared. Fortunately, the sessions were livestreamed on YouTube and you can catch them even if you missed the conference. For now, each day’s sessions are posted as the archived stream for each conference room, so you’ll need to consult the conference schedule and locate the sessions by room name and day, posted on the Socallinuxexpo YouTube channel.
Notably, the sessions cover far more than just Linux and address a wide range of topics related to open source software for an array of skill levels.
Here are a few talks to get you started:
- Speedrunning Kubernetes Deployments, Kat Cosgrove. We all need to work with Kubernetes at some point, don’t we? I’ve been in the shoes of the absolute Kubernetes beginner and wish I’d seen this talk then.
- Victims of our success: How open source vulnerabilities became a national security risk, Aeva Black, Saturday Keynote. Black covers the important and very timely issue of trust in open source. This is something my team and think about every day, and this talk is a good starting point for this critical conversation.
- Not breaking userspace: The evolving Linux Abstract Build Interface (ABI), Alison Chaiken. This talk reminds us of the importance of maintaining the stability of the Linux application binary interface to not break userspace.
- Snitching on Apps That Snitch On You, Kyle Rankin. Rankin demonstrates OpenSnitch, an open source application firewall. This talk reveals the perils of live sessions – a soda can explodes midway through. Rankin recovered brilliantly and the incident is an emphatic reminder not to leave soda cans next to hot projectors!
- Internet and Open Source Thoughts, Vint Cerf, Closing Keynote. Tech icon Cerf ,co-creator of the internet protocol suite (TCP/IP), is worth watching for a healthy dose of nostalgia, then pondering where we go from here.
How to Create a Culture of Inclusion
SCaLE organizers personify the best of the open source ethos. They’re generous with their time and foster an inclusive culture that brings together celebrated veteran contributors and trailblazers with new users, programmers, the open source curious and even their families.
This year’s schedule sets a great example of speaker inclusion, representing many backgrounds, genders, ages and skill levels. Newer speakers find a place at the podium alongside the most recognizable names.
Perhaps most encouraging is the number of young people joining their families to learn and explore, even setting aside a family hour during game night to provide kids with the full conference experience. These newcomers -- some probably still wobbly on a bicycle, others perhaps just old enough to vote -- are the future of open source. They represent the next generation of open source community and SCaLE deserves a lot of credit for making that investment.
There's also room to participate if board games or speaking aren’t your thing. SCaLE is always looking for volunteers to help during the event. If you’re interested, please fill out the volunteer form.
About the author
Katherine Druckman, an Intel Open Source Evangelist, is a co-host of podcasts Reality 2.0 and FLOSS Weekly. A long-time Drupal enthusiast and former digital director of Linux Journal, she's a 15-year veteran of the marvelous world of open source software.
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