Summer is always a busy time in tech conference season, especially for the Open Source and Standards team. In the past few weeks, we have had team members in Japan, China, and Germany. Other community teams are busy too—today AnsibleFest happened in London, and last week the oVirt team was busy helping out with PyCon Israel.
There's a little bit of a lull coming up, and several of us are taking breathers as we recover from the challenges of international travel. Right now, those challenges are fairly well-known: jet lag, language barriers, cultural differences… but there seems to be an uncertain future on the horizon, a future where travel may be potentially complicated by much greater forces, such as climate and geopolitical change.
Reply Hazy, Try Again
Watching the news these days seems to always be an exercise in watching chaos, as governments and world leaders make decisions that seemingly fly in the face of common sense. Distrust and fear seem more prevalent every day, and for those of us that work in community, it's particularly ironic that we might be living in a period of history where the world is coming farther apart rather than coming together.
It does not matter which end of the political spectrum you sit—fear of opposing viewpoints has gotten many of us to the point where we won't even listen anymore, let alone come to a consensus.
Alongside that is increasing evidence that the natural environment around us all is changing dramatically. A hotter planet means disrupted food and water supplies, previously habitable areas rendered near- to totally inhospitable, and (as we have seen in the southeastern U.S.) a direct effect on air travel. As a pilot, I know the problem of density altitude is always prevalent in the summer, as warmer air is essentially thinner than cooler air. This effect is rather unnerving for a Cessna trying to claw its way to altitude in the Midwest… at higher elevations, it's a no-fly limitation.
If these conditions continue to manifest, this will effect community building, too.
Local Before Global
It has always been evident that a big part of community building is getting together with fellow community members in real life. Whether a local meetup or an international event, open source projects tend to thrive when people get together and pool their ideas and creativity.
Social bonds are strengthened too, as shared experiences like a tire-squealing taxi driver in Chicago or accidentally playing a real-life game of Frogger on a Dublin street bring people together just as much as collaboration on a shared bit of code in a repo.
But if travel is about to be disrupted, then we may have hard choices ahead about how and when we journey to larger events.
This is why it is important to start focusing on the local-level events now. Local events are important for other reasons, of course, not the least of which is that locally organized events tend to being communities more strength and resiliency than "top-down" national and regional events that happen less frequently. So even if the world does not drastically change, you're still focusing on a worthy goal.
Moving forward, OSAS and Red Hat will be working on just this type of plan: guidance and resources for communities of any size and shape to host their own local community events. This (euphemistic) "meetup-in-a-box" will enable open source projects to seek out and gather people who share your passion.
Maybe you believe open source can save the world… and maybe you don't. But bringing people together is always better than keeping them apart. And if that helps more people understand those who are different than them, then I'd call that a win.