This is the story how I might have the opportunity to speak at OSCON 07… 

If you’re familiar with Thinkweek at Microsoft, then you know that Bill Gates takes a week off every 6 months to read papers submitted by his employees.  The best papers are selected for Bill to read and leave comments.  I participated this December for the first time by writing a Thinkweek paper on winning the hearts and minds of developers (one of my division’s primary goals) based on the lessons my team and I have learned from the open source community. The idea behind the paper was to study how open source software projects work from the social interactions to the OSS software development lifecycle, and then apply the best practices (the lessons learned by my team) for all types of projects (from open to closed) on the Windows platform to see what the ultimate developer community could look like.

The driving motivation of this ultimate community comes from what one of my friends in college (hi Torey!) had once told me after I had installed RedHat for the first time.  He said, “Always go to -  never dot com, never dot org, always”  So, I spent most of December ’06 thinking “what would the ultimate site look like for all levels of collaborative development for all types of development models…”

As I’ve stated time and time again on my blog, I’ve been working relentlessly to understand how the OSS community works, especially within the context of Microsoft – something I never imagined beyond my wildest dreams I would be doing, much less loving every second of it.  Thus, in preparation to writing this paper, I offered to buy members of the Port 25 and the Open Source Lab teams coffee in exchange for letting me pick their brains on how OSS works and letting them drill me on my ideas.  I refused to make any more OSS n00b mistakes in this paper, as I felt schooled enough at OSCON ’06.   So, about 5 of them sat around me at a cafeteria table asking me the hard questions about my motivations, definitions of success, and so forth, although I think they ended up buying me the coffee instead.  At one point, I said, “What?  You mean there are written rules to OSS?” to which everyone responded in unison, “Yes!  Release Early, Release Often.  All code is considered equal…”  I felt that I had been missing out on something very fundamental, like the morning pledge of allegiance in our elementary schools.  I had this image pop into my head of having our power toy team recite these rules every morning before our 10am scrum (don’t worry guys, our scrums are safe and recital free =)

Finally, after 4 hours with the OSS guys  on a Friday afternoon, I felt I had drank enough of the Microsoft kool-aid and the OSS sparkling fruit punch (that’s just my made-up term to illustrate the mixing of the two schools of thought) to write a decent Thinkweek paper on what that ultimate site (always dot net, not dot com or dot org) could look like.  I joked about raising our starbucks coffees towards the space needle at 7:45am every Tuesday morning (thanks Rob for letting me steal your space needle idea!)  Oh, the look on people’s faces as I perfected my deadpan expression.  A little humor goes a long way in influencing change at Microsoft.

Although BillG didn’t submit feedback on my paper, the next best thing happened.  I got a phone call from one of the Port 25 guys suggesting that I submit a talk at OSCON.  After receiving some really good, constructive feedback from Sam Ramji, who runs the Open Source Software Lab, I worked from Tuesday at 9am until 2am Wednesday morning (only breaking to come up for air) to incorporate Sam and others’ feedback into the original paper and to write the submission proposal.  I actually used Sam’s OSCON submission as a template – not the least bit intimidating, let me tell you.  =)  I love my job.   Anyways, I was headed back home for my 10 year high school reunion and Mardi Gras in a couple of days, so I had to get it done immediately in order to give people adequate time to review it.  Someone (thanks Brian!) once told me that passionate people will do whatever it takes, no matter how difficult, to get the right job done right.  Without a doubt I fall into this category, but if I didn’t love what I do, I wouldn’t choose to be up to 2am 3 days in a row prior to my mardi gras holidays.  Work always seems to find you just prior to your vacation.

Alias, we (thanks Jamie!) sent in the submission “Towards a Stronger Open Source Ecosystem” and now the waiting game begins.  How cool would it be if my paper gets selected?!  I can only imagine what I’ll do to prepare for a rock-solid presentation, like sing karaoke (I can’t sing, btw) in front of my coworkers to practice being completely nervous in front of a mixed crowd of friends and strangers.

Wish me luck!  I’ll keep you posted.  =)