This article was written by team member James Tait
The OpenCraft team was present at the 2019 Open edX Conference that was taking place on March 23-26 at University of California San Diego. All OpenCraft team members work remotely - the Conference is always a great occasion for us to meet in person, to work together and to cram in a few team meals and fun activities. Our time at the Conference was followed by a week-long team retreat in Mexico where we spent even more quality time together. Here’s a recap of those two weeks:
Although most of us arrived over the weekend of March 23rd-24th (despite people missing connections due to delays at security!), the Conference itself didn’t kick off until March 26th.
Monday Mar 25 was our first coworking day at UCSD, and kicked off with our weekly sprint meeting. We had a wonderful team meal at Donna Jean, a delicious vegan restaurant in San Diego.
Tuesday was workshop day at the conference, so those who were involved headed over to Center Hall for that while the rest of us continued at the coworking room in The Village, UCSD.
Wednesday was the start of the conference proper and kicked off with breakfast and registration at Center Hall before keynote talks from edX® CEO and founder Anant Agarwal, edX COO Adam Medros, and Director of Learning Science and Engineering at Amazon Candace Thille, punctuated with a brief talk from Ned Batchelder in which several OpenCrafters got shout-outs, and followed by a panel discussion and lunch.
The breakfast and lunch bars were a good opportunity to mix with people from the Open edX community and put faces to names and GitHub handles. There was a healthy mix of in-depth technical discussions, general business talk and friendly chatter which was reflected throughout the conference.
Wednesday afternoon saw the arrival of the talks from the community; several of us gave talks ourselves: Xavier and Seamus co-presented “A Contributor’s Journey - The Impact of Our Work on Others, and on Ourselves”, and Piotr co-presented “Painless Open edX upgrades and maintainable UI customizations”.
When the formalities of the conference were finished for Wednesday, there was a reception at Birch Aquarium. We were greeted with margaritas and invited to walk around the tanks and see the exhibits while enjoying food and drinks. This, again, proved to be a useful networking opportunity, and we were treated to a glorious sunset.
Thursday kicked off with breakfast and juggling, followed by the more serious business of more keynotes: Mark Haseltine, Marco Morales and Nimisha Asthagiri presented The State of the Open edX Platform; Robert Lue gave an inspiring talk about An Open Source Pathway to Personalized and Collective Learning at Scale; Dean Baker talked about A Route for Saving Journalism and other creative work; and Walter Bender rounded up the morning with a thought-provoking piece about How transparent AI can transform learning.
After lunch, there were more community-provided talks. Our CTO Braden MacDonald co-presented a talk with David Ormsbee about the Blockstore Architecture, and team member Jill Vogel talked about Maintainably Extending Open edX: Why, When, How.
Friday was the day of the Developer Summit; for those who didn’t attend, it was a regular work day. Several of us attended a falconry lesson organized by Pooja, which was excellent, as well as providing some breathtaking views over Mesa Valley. We met some beautiful raptors and had a great time flying one of them. In the evening a group of us went along to Mesa Rim bouldering centre to test ourselves against immovable objects!
We made the trip from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta on Saturday March 30th, arriving shortly after midday, which gave us a nice relaxed afternoon to settle in. There was ceviche followed by margaritas by the sea to really get us into el spirito de México!
On Sunday most of us hiked from Boca de Tomatlán to Playa Las Ánimas. It was a glorious sunny day with some stunning beach views.
A couple of common themes in Puerto Vallarta: waiters have repeatedly told us we were ordering too much food, only for us to prove them wrong; seems we really do have an appetite! And a lot of places just aren’t set up to accommodate a group of 10 or more turistas to arrive unannounced - who knew?