(Article originally posted at InfoWorld Magazine)
The 5th annual Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 5x) was hosted at the LAX Airport Westin this past weekend. It was a relatively small affair, nothing as extravagant as LinuxWorld in San Francisco. The show floor was small and there were no large, fancy booths from big companies. The classes were short one hour sessions that flew by while the speakers presented at an almost frantic pace sometimes. Yet this was a surprisingly good conference. I will absolutely attend again next year.
What made SCALE so special? For starters, they held a special Open Source Health Care Summit all day Friday. Health care is an industry where Open Source Software (OSS) has not yet made big inroads, but the industry would benefit greatly from adoption of Open Source software. We heard a presentation on what is wrong with the healthcare industry and how OSS can help to fix these problems. Fred Trotter told us about Open Source electronic medical record (EMR) applications. There were Open Source Software case studies from a major cancer center in the southeast, as well as a group of government funded clinics in California. And we even saw how a small Linux appliance can help disparate medical applications talk to each other and share data.
Also on Friday, SCALE held a special summit on women in Open Source. One set of statistics claims that while 25% of proprietary software developers are women, only 1.5% of Open Source developers are women! Several organizations are actively trying to make the OSS community more inviting to women.
As I said earlier, the booths were small. Even IBM, one of the gold sponsors of the event, had the largest booth – yet it was 10 feet deep and maybe 25 feet long. But appearances were deceptive here. There were companies present with some serious offerings and they meant business! And these big business players were standing side by side with small Open Source projects and community organizations. Everybody played nicely together as we’ve come to expect from the Open Source community at these events. The small size of this event gave me more face time with the big business tech experts as well as the Open Source community leaders and developers. I learned about new projects and products that impressed me beyond any expectations I might have had.
The one hour seminars/presentations went well and were included in the price of registration. The presentations were pretty fast and furious since they were only one hour long, but most of the presenters were well prepared with slides and notes so the classes were easy to follow and quite informative. All in all, the $70 that I paid for the Open Source Health Care Summit and two days of presentations and show floor access was money well spent. Seriously, this conference was a complete steal at $70. So I’m sorry to hear that you missed the event. I hope that you sign up early for next year’s show!