Why You Should Attend SCaLE 19x

The 19th iteration of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE) is around two weeks away, and I wanted to suggest some reasons why you should attend, assuming you are into free and open source software. AWS, where I work, is a platinum sponsor. The conference runs for four days starting on July 28th and is located at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton.

Note: Everything expressed here represents my own thoughts and opinions and I am not speaking for my employer Amazon Web Services.

I’ve been to a number of SCaLE conferences and I’m always impressed at how well they are run. This is a grass-roots, volunteer-led conference yet it is always at par with the more commercial trade shows I attend and sometimes exceeds them. This year looks exceptionally good.

The first reason you should go is the content. The conference has quite a number of tracks including one focused on containers and orchestration (‘natch) and also infrastructure, security and observability. There are tracks on using open source in the medical field as well as government. Big Data gets its own track as well as embedded systems, and there are several more tracks guaranteed to touch on almost every interest within free and open source software.

The conference spans four days, with the first two days focused more on workshops. Co-located with SCaLE is a two day, two track technical conference focused on PostgreSQL, and on Friday is the tenth DevOps Day LA. AWS is hosting a half-day workshop focused on Cloud Native builders with presentations on Kubernetes, InfluxDB and Apache Cassandra.

The second reason you should go is networking, or what is often called the “hallway track”.

For the last several years I’ve worked remote (i.e. not in an office outside of the home) and I will probably continue to do so for the rest of my career. Remote work has become almost a standard within technical jobs.

But I have to say I miss being able to see people face to face. When I was with OpenNMS we had this product where you could buy a year of support coupled with a week of on-site professional services and training. I used to love doing those, but even before COVID those trips became less frequent as companies adopted a distributed work force. There was really no “on-site” place to go when your team was across four time zones.

Technical conferences, such as SCaLE, provide a great opportunity to get together in person, and it can be wonderful to talk in an informal setting to people you may only know through e-mails, video calls and social media. A number of my coworkers will be at SCaLE and I am looking forward to spending some “in real life” time with them.

If you look through the list of speakers at this year’s conference, it is a “who’s who” of open source leaders and contributors, and you’ll have to the chance to meet them as well as other like-minded people. I love the fact that the organizers have built in a 30 minute cushion between talks. Not only does this avoid the rush that usually happens as one speaker finishes and another sets up, it gives people time to socialize before heading off to the next talk. Of course, it goes without saying that you should be courteous to speakers and other attendees, and SCaLE has published a Code of Conduct to formalize what that means, but also don’t let that stop you from asking tough or difficult questions of the speakers (just be nice about it). I always loved it when I was a speaker and someone asked me something I had never thought about.

The third reason you should go is the Exhibition Hall. There are a ton of sponsors who will have booths at the show (including AWS) and this is a great chance to talk with those projects you love, find new ones to love, and often there is some great swag to be had. The hall will be open on Friday through Sunday.

Finally, on Saturday night there is the famous “Game Night” reception and party. I’m excited that the original nerdcore rapper, MC Frontalot, will be performing. Frontalot combines musicianship with nerdy topics like video games, cosplay, fairy tales and technology into an incredibly entertaining show. If you are new to his work check out his YouTube channel. One of my favorite songs is “Stoop Sale” (kids especially like that one, so I guess I’m a kid at heart), and he recently had a fan take his song “Secrets from the Future” (about how all of our encrypted secrets will one day be an open book) and run the lyrics through the Midjourney AI image generator. The result is pretty amazing.

A full SCaLE pass runs $85, and I can’t think of a better value. In-person technical instruction runs $500+ a day, and even if you went to one of those on-line class sites you’re still going to pay $15-$50 a class, and here you can attend 15 or so sessions for around $5 per, and that doesn’t include all the extra stuff outside of the presentations. Even with travel it is still a deal.

I am very eager to attend and I hope to see you there, too.

Just one more note, this one on COVID. I am pretty rigorous when it comes to avoiding this disease which is one reason I haven’t traveled much in the last 2+ years. The first conference I attended since the pandemic started was the Open Source Summit in Austin, and while some people did test positive it was a small fraction of total attendees. One reason was that they had a mask requirement (except when eating or drinking) and you had to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. SCaLE has adopted a similar policy, and while this won’t mean it is impossible to get sick the evidence suggests that this will greatly limit exposure among the attendees. If you have health issues you may still want to stay home and if you come and don’t feel well use your best judgement. I will be taking along some rapid tests that I got for free from covid.gov as well as frequently taking my temperature just to be sure.