A couple of weeks ago, I went down to Montreal with some people from work to attend the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference. Until now, my software experience has mostly been somewhat informal – side projects, casual volunteer work… my most “formal” experience has my Red Hat internship and working on GNU Classpath – and (especially as an intern) even that’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere.
CUSEC gave me a bit more insight into software as a profession, and the role of software in industry. I think it’s a fairly interesting distinction, the difference between a company that does software (ie Red Hat) and a company that has an IT department supporting their other activities, in which case the IT staff are often viewed as overhead. But the conference definitely widened my view of software engineering and where the software sector is going. I’ve also come away tempted to dabble a bit in Ruby (just to say I’ve used it, since it seems to be the new “big thing”).
One interesting thing was the huge prevelence of Microsoft & proprietary software. I suppose the “bubble” that I’m in really shields me from it in my day-to-day, but it was a bit of an eyeopener. There were a lot of anti-opensource “radicals” among the speakers, but very few (or at least much less outspoken) open source advocates. Open source software and systems were still regarded as a hobby and a hippie thing, but not “professional”… which was unfortunate. It was harder to gauge open source vs proprietary support among the delegates, but it still felt lower than I’d expected (not even a 50-50 split). I would have welcomed some more serious discussion on proprietary vs FOSS, but it seemed like the “cool” thing among the speakers (this year at least) was to simply bash open source.
All in all, though, I found the academic talks were quite interesting, and the keynotes offered some good tips that apply to all kinds of software development (proprietary and FOSS).
And in other conference news, I recently spent a few days in Calgary for the Engineers Without Borders National Conference. I’ve been involved with them for the past few years in my spare time, and it’s always an amazing experience to spend time with such a group of energetic, highly motivated people.