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The history of OpenSQL Camp

I got a couple of questions and comments about OpenSQL Camp in the past week, and I thought it would be worth noting down the history, because I think there is some difference in perception and memory about this series of events. The following is only my point of view.

What is OpenSQL Camp?

I can say what I had in mind when I created the original event, but this is bigger than me, so I don’t get to dictate anything. I wanted a free technical event created entirely by and for a community of open-source databases, in an inclusive sense. Not created or heavily influenced by someone employed by a corporation whose job title includes the word “Community,” but really by a community themselves. There’s nothing wrong with Community So-And-So employed at a corporation, but they are by nature a liaison with that company, and it’s not the same thing. My original blog post about this topic is probably the clearest explanation of what I had in mind.

Who controls it?

Nobody. That’s right – I deliberately abdicated control over things. I wanted it to be decentralized. Centralization is a problem; decentralization prevents problems. As just one example, Sheeri Cabral owns the last I saw, and Technocation tends to be the default conduit for all things financial.

If someone wants to take things in a new direction, then they can do so. I don’t know if anyone would show up for an event that didn’t really match the spirit that I think is lodged in people’s minds now, but there is no stick you can brandish, other than threat of negative publicity.

What’s the relationship with MySQL Camp?

Nothing whatsoever. MySQL Camp was a series of mini-conferences about MySQL, a particular open-source database. There the resemblance ends. OpenSQL Camp is not “the same thing under a different name,” and it’s not even “the continuation of MySQL Camp.” It’s not even a MySQL event. If you want to look at a particular MySQL event and see where a seed was planted, look to the commercial MySQL conference, not the free MySQL Camp; but you’d be much better off looking at beCamp as a root than anything to do with MySQL.

If MySQL Camp wasn’t the origin, what was?

I created OpenSQL Camp to set off in a new direction. However, the idea was not fully my own. A brief timeline begins in the Spring of 2008, after I’d been to a few MySQL Camp events and could see that something was lacking:

  1. After O’Reilly/MySQL co-hosted MySQL Conference and Expo (a large commercial event) that year, there was a bit of dissatisfaction amongst a few people about the increasingly commercial and marketing-oriented nature of that conference. Some people refused to call the conference by its new name (Conference and Expo) and wanted to put pressure on MySQL to keep it a MySQL User’s Conference.
  2. I pointed out that this wasn’t going to work and said that if we wanted a user’s conference, we needed to take matters into our own hands.
  3. Peter Zaitsev agreed, and together with Arjen Lentz, created and announced a new Google Group to discuss the matter.
  4. Discussion happened on the new mailing list.
  5. After a while, I concluded that the discussion was not headed in a direction that’d really make anything happen. There were simply too many different visions of what was needed, and some of them I strongly disliked, so I stopped contributing.
  6. I privately decided (with my wife’s consent) to go ahead and organize what I wanted to see. I drew on a couple of people in my hometown who organized a small conference called beCamp and got things going. I found a venue, initial sponsors, did some initial work on things like catering, and got speakers to commit to presentations.
  7. Once I had a reasonable amount of support from speakers, and had firmly reserved the venue and date, I announced the event.
  8. Pretty quickly thereafter, a flood of help arrived. In particular, Sheeri and my wife really carried the project forward and did far more work than I did. I might be mixing up the timeline; Sheeri might have already been helping before the public announcement, I’m not sure. Brian Aker and others really used their networks to get more support behind the project.
  9. Two more events were held in 2009, and I had absolutely nothing to do with organizing them, which I think is awesome.

When is the next event?

I heard a rumor this past week that planning for at least one event is in progress, but isn’t public yet. I had not heard this news until then myself, which again I think is awesome. This is exactly the point: nobody needs to get approval from any “authority” to run these things.

Surprise isn’t very community oriented, is it?

This entire conference was born out of an “I see a lot of talk but no action” kind of situation. I generally don’t believe in surprise when a community is involved, but sometimes there is a lot of chatter, and talk is actually preventing action – to get things to happen, you actually have to stop talking. These events were born out of my realization that two things were true:

  1. There was an invitation and call to action but nobody took it, so I didn’t need to feel bad about going off and doing something myself.
  2. If I tried to involve anyone in the early stages of planning, it would just regress back to the arguments over differing visions of the event.

Sometimes, it’s simply time to shut up and do stuff.

Posted on Sun, Apr 18, 2010. Approximately 1000 Words.

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