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SOOCon24 Wrapup

Zin Lwin
14th February 2024

Momentous: Reflecting on the Second Annual State of Open Con

Wow, can’t believe it has been a week since the State of Open Con 2024 kicked off! In the end, there were 208 impressive speakers over two days across eight tracks and over 150 sessions and activities. Plus a broad delegate experience space across the whole site, where people could enjoy the hallway track, experiment with AI, “fly” a Boeing jet, a larger-than-life job board and more. There were even circus performers at our epic Day 1 Rave!

Open Source Job Hub @ SOOCon24

But an event like SOOCon24 isn’t about a schedule or a venue. A community event such as this is made up of moments. You may remember having a good time, but what you really remember is the people you met and the moments you made together. This is why I reached out to the OpenUK community of ambassadors and speakers to understand what memories they wanted to share. 

The Most Memorable Sessions

OK it’s a big event, any reflection demands that we ask folks what were some of the most memorable sessions for them. In particular, keynote speakers are chosen not just because they are experts in their subjects, but because they can capture an audience’s attention. This year’s SOOCon keynotes will not be soon forgotten.

Perhaps the biggest enthusiasm via roaring applause came for Professor Neil Lawrence’s talk on Open Society and its Enemies, as he gave an impassioned call to the SOOCon24 audience to re-democratize AI to make it truly open again: “The people, who have the power and who are owning the conversation at the moment, are the guilds. The guilds of those social engineers who would like to keep that closed and within their own power so that they can continue to maintain their own society,” he said. “You shouldn’t be using sound bites, you should be using dialogue.”

Infographic of The-Open-Society-and-Its-Enemies Session


Speaking of a keynote from Day 1, Lorna Mitchell said that, “For me it was Bruce Perens, getting on stage, looking quite harmless — in a good way! — and bringing the audience along with him, then announcing that we need to be ‘Post-open’. You could hear a pin drop in that room.”

Sometimes, when you attend an event, it’s the talks outside your comfort zone that you learn the most from. For Nico Vibert, State of Open Con helped give zoom out from the ample Kubernetes community to consider other areas of open source, especially the event’s massive AI track. “I found fascinating the sessions about AI regulations, especially the fact there’s a GDPR-like fine for any businesses operating in EU that use AI for practices outside the new EU guidelines,” he said. “Whether it will have a similar effect to GDPR remains to be seen but I am impressed at how quickly the EU has put some form of regulations together.”

For me, a really moving moment was, when, after Zainab Daodu gave an excellent guide to inclusive — and thus Google-friendly — open source documentation, track host Sami Atabani was moved to share how an emphasis on accessibility has truly helped his partially sighted son get through life — and now hopefully A-levels!


Hallway Track FTW

A lot of events have great talks — SOOCon among them. But nowadays, like State of Open Con, you can bet that you can watch the recordings soon after. What keeps people coming back year after year are the interstitial moments, that so-called hallway track. This year’s event emphasized the power of bringing together open source’s movers, shakers and community makers under one roof.

“There were a lot of good moments! I had a really great chat with Ron Efroni and Justin Cormack in the cafe,” said Emily Omier, who not only spoke at the event, but hosted a special event for open source founders. “When I think about my favorite moments, it’s usually the serendipitous moments when I meet someone who I’ve known online but didn’t realize was at the conference and thus wasn’t expecting to meet. That happened with Divya Mohan at SOOCon this year, so I can call out that.”

Echoing that, Divya actually said, “I think my favorite moment was meeting and chatting with all my friends.”

Similarly, Dominique Top said that “by far my favorite moments are connecting with old friends and meeting new people with the same interests. Farrah [Campbell] and Megan [Knight] from AWS are fantastic — new friends basically!”

For one of the OpenUK event coordinators Colleen Coll, her favorite moment was meeting the plenary speakers and the State of OpenCon team who put it all together. “I ‘handled’ and ‘guided’ the speakers upon their arrival to the VIP area, assuring their comfort before their panels, keynotes, etcetera. Although brief, the conversations I had with Baroness Tina Stowell, Margaret Hartnett, Dawn Foster, Mike McQuaid, Umesh Rajani, Stormy Peters and Jono Bacon were gold,” she said. “Working with my staff mates Luca, Eunice, Nina, Chaw, Zin, Andy, Amanda, and Chloe was an absolute blast.”

As Colleen said, it’s all about the people: “These events are always about engagement whether it’s conversing about the future of open source or ingredients for the perfect bolognese.”

Another thing that makes State of Open Con continue to stand out — especially striking against the very undiverse open source world it operates in — is its commitment to diversity.

SOOCon is the most diverse conference I’ve been part of and it was really pleasing to see. The session I co-presented had about 20 folks and I counted four white men. That’s unheard of,” in the tech industry and especially in open source, Nico said. “I was just glad that the conference reflects the diversity you see in London and in the UK broadly. And so many young folks! Hopefully they found the event inspiring.”

But perhaps the best-put highlight comes from our favorite Spain-based OpenUK ambassador Bart Farrell when he said, “It really is all about the people.” Because the people are what make open source — and the people are what keep it open. 

Community first, community always.

Got FOMO? Don’t worry, everyone does! There was more to be seen than anyone could’ve cloned themselves to see! The plenaries are already up on the OpenUK YouTube Channel, soon to be followed by a lot more sessions, so subscribe and turn on notifications to be the first to know! 

Oh and Save the Date because the third annual State of Open Con will be at the Southbank, London on 4 and 5 February, 2025!


About the author

Jennifer Riggins is a culture side of tech storyteller, journalist, writer, and event and podcast host, helping to share the stories where culture and technology collide and to translate the impact of the tech we are building. She has been a working writer since 2003, and is based in London.



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