OSCON Observations

Some observations from OSCON. The short form is that Ruby,Ruby on Rails and Ubuntu were the biggest things around at this year’s OSCON, closely followed by Ajax. My more detailed observations are continued below (except for Ubuntu, since I can’t really add anything — I use it, I like it, but if another Linux distribution comes along that I like better I’ll easily switch).While Java and Perl still occupy a significant mind-share, it appears that share is receding. Perhaps we are at an inflection point, where the (open source) development community is moving towards Ruby (and Python). To an Java/Perl programmers reading this, I suggest you learn one or both of these languages. Due to work, I had to learn Python first and Ruby in my spare time — the Pythonistas will probably lynch me, but if I had a choice I would’ve skipped Python in favor of Ruby. It seems that there is a bit of (albeit friendly) competition between the Rubyists and Pythonistas — though instead of copying killer apps (*cough* Subway *cough*) the two groups should work together to help those poor souls stuck in Java, C/C++ and Perl move into the 21st century (or back to the middle of the 20th century, since Lisp had all of these goodies first — I couldn’t resist ;–)). Developing web-apps is hugely popular as evidenced by all of the love going Ruby on Rails’ way as well as the interest surrounding Ajax. Alex Russell, of Dojo Toolkit fame, gave a couple of different tutorials/sessions on Ajax/JavaScript and both were quite full (the tutorial was sold out). Now Alex is a great speaker and seems like a nice guy, but I don’t think all those people were there just for him — the recent coining of the XMLHTTP “technology” Ajax (which has been around in IE for quite a while) seems to have brought it to the forefront (that and the folks using our web-apps are more savvy today and won’t put up with full page refreshes and stupid web UIs which make them jump through hoops). I’m just getting up to speed on this stuff myself since the majority of programming work has been with “traditional” client-apps. Since most open source developers have the luxury of choosing their programming language when starting a project, they will usually choose the one they are most productive in. Companies need to anticipate this change so they can hire the best developers. Developers who do not take the initiative may find themselves in danger of losing their jobs, as unlike the transitions from FORTRAN to C or C++ to Java, many businesses have realizes they can find just as well educated employees in countries with much lower costs of labor. Google still gets quite a bit of “love” from the open source community. I’m a bit surprised at this — not to say that Google is bad (or “evil”) in any way — just that Google is perceived as the internet leader. What about Yahoo!? Yes, everyone here still loves Flickr as well (and it is somewhat deserved), but I think the euphoria around Google has created an RDF (Apple folks will know what I mean). The Yahoo! Developer network has released a bunch of new APIs/tools within the last couple of weeks which are amazing. Because of this, I think that either Google’s stock is currently overvalued or Yahoo! is undervalued — it is probably the former, but since uncovered shorts are risky (and Google stock is still so volatile), I’d recommend buying Yahoo! instead. Disclaimer, I don’t own any Yahoo! or Google stock, yet.