OSCON 2017: Sessions you don't want to miss

By Christian Wenz    |    May 04, 2017

I still have fond memories of the first time I attended OSCON in 2006 in Portland, OR. Larry Wall talked about Perl 6, which wouldn’t end up being released for another nine years, and Guido van Rossum spoke about Python 3000. 

Although it’s been 11 years since that OSCON, I’ll be returning – and hopefully joining some of you – this time around in Austin, TX. With more than 120 sessions scheduled and some time-slots having 13 concurrent talks, this open source conference may feel a little overwhelming. But, many sessions are recorded and can be viewed later on. Additionally, it helps to pick out a few sessions you don’t want to miss. I generally try to avoid having a fixed list of sessions I’m planning to attend, since random encounters with friends, old and new, are a welcomed distraction. However, here are a few talks to keep your eye on at OSCON 2017! 


The first day of OSCON begins with keynotes from Google, IBM, Netflix, Huawei, The Linux Foundation and The White House. OSCON keynotes are great to get a feel for how large the conference is each year, as well as get an idea of what themes to expect from speakers throughout the week. In particular, Netflix and The White House will be discussing their recent open source contributions and their overall approach to open-source software. 

Wednesday, May 10th 

Adopting Open Source in Your Organization by Edward Thomas (Microsoft) 

Last year, Microsoft held the GitHub title of the most open source contributions of any organization. Despite originally calling open source “a cancer,” this Microsoft session will hopefully give candid insight into how Microsoft is handling open-source into the future. 

The Paved Road at Netflix - At the junction of freedom and responsibility by Dianne Marsh (Netflix)

Next door to the Microsoft talk is a Netflix presentation about how to handle centralized and localized teams. With teams all over the world, Netflix has had an interesting challenge of finding ways to make commitments among individual teams and also allow for freedom among their polyglot dev team. There’s only 10 minutes between this session and Microsoft’s, so hopefully we’ll be able to make it to both!

Speedy React apps - Learn from Walmart Lab by Alexander Grigoryan (Walmart Labs)

Interest in web performance and frameworks? I sure am, so I’m excited to see how Walmart has been using React to make leaps in speed and performance on their Electrode project. 

Stephen King's practical advice for tech writers by Rikki Endsley (Red Hat)

Time to flex your writing muscle—Rikki Endsley of Red Hat will share  technical writing advice by repurposing some tips from Stephen King’s musings on writing. Rikki will take a deep dive into how, even if you’re not a technical writer, you can improve your own writing abilities to communicate with non-technical team members or the public. 

Wednesday Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions 

My favorite part of OSCON is the unpredictability and randomness of the conference. Although it’s easy to get lost in sessions, the best part of the conference comes from speakers and attendees sharing unexpected ideas and surprising discussions. The Birds of a Feather sessions allow attendees to pitch impromptu talk ideas to share with the community. You never know what you’ll hear!

Thursday, May 11th

Build Better Stuff by Talking to Strangers by Jane Davis (Dropbox) 

Jane will explore how Dropbox uses customer feedback to incorporate more design fundamentals into the development process. If your company has a number of designers on staff (like mine), chances are you may be able to apply some of the advice from this talk!

Graph Databases will Change Your Freakin’ Life by Edward Finkler (Graph Story)

Attending talks about topics that you wouldn’t normally get to hear about is one of the best things about OSCON. Graph databases isn’t something I know much about already, but Edward Finkler is an OSCON vet (we met at OSCON more than 10 years ago), so I’m excited to hear from a long-time expert! 

Offline-first apps with Web Components by Amahdy Abdelaziz (Vaadin)

Everyone agrees we need the functionality of offline applications, but the current process of standardization and adoption, as well as market lag, prevent it from happening. What better way to talk about solutions to the problem than with a big group of developers?

Content Security Policy by me AKA Christian Wenz (Arrabiata Solutions GmbH)

Toward the end of the final day, I’ll be giving my own talk: Web application security: Browsers fight back. I’ll be diving into the fascinating W3C standard that limits what browsers do to load and execute JavaScript Code. I’ll also have a new Pluralsight course on the same topic coming out in the the next few days!

OSCON 2017 takeaways

To make the most of OSCON, it’s important to get lost and explore. There are an overwhelming number of talks and people to meet. Take the time to learn something new, learn things relevant to your career, catch up with friends and make some new ones. 

If you’re attending this year, feel free to say hello either in a session or in the hallway! And don’t forget to stop by the Pluralsight booth. You could enter to win a Nintendo Switch, or score some swag—just stop by booth #315 and say hello!

About the author

Christian Wenz is an author, consultant and trainer focusing on web technologies. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 books, is a fixture at international developer conferences since 2001, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for ASP.NET, an ASPInsiders member, and main author of the Zend PHP certification. His day job at Munich/London-based Arrabiata Solutions ( includes conducting security audits, migrating old code bases, implementing complex web applications and helping companies choose the right web strategy and web technology mix.