O’Reilly shuts down its conferences. The end of an era.

O’Reilly Media has chosen to shut down its in-person conference business.

This means no more OSCON, no more Strata, no more Foo.

Let me start by saying I 100% support this decision. COVID must be taken seriously not just this year, but as a threat for the next two or three years. Laura Baldwin is absolutely doing her math correctly, that there is no way to plan around this. Its a brick wall and her job is to make sure O’Reilly Media survives for her employees and for the world. That means facing reality and I support her and the company as they make this hard choice.

But let me also admit that this makes me so sad. My career has blossomed based on merely being near the positive and warm energy of the O’Reilly Media conference team. So much of what I have now is due to the fact that they decided to take me seriously, back when Health IT itself was a dead-end career that was full of either incredibly gifted “missionary” professionals and washouts who could not find work elsewhere. Before Obama decided to through billions at EHR technology, the dynamic in the industry was similar to pattern of employees at the poorest inner city schools.

I made the handshake deal to write Hacking Healthcare with David Uhlman at one OSCON and then announced at a later one. I launched my Open Data career during a 5 minute keynote at Strata RX. When the time came to do a Healthcare focused Foo Camp I was honored that they asked me to participate and even chose to invite some of the people I recommended.

I also remember the time that David and I started drinking at 9 a.m. so that we could demonstrate medical devices that test blood alcohol levels in our session on hacking personal digital health devices. (FYI the device accurately reflected the two drinks I had). I remember the 5k where everyone contributed their multiple pedometer and GPS device data to science. OSCON was brilliant and fun. And every other O’Reilly conference inherited that spirit. Creating more value than you capture, was Tim O’Reilly’s keynote at OSCON 2013 that remains the most central touchstone values framework that I aspire to.

At every stage of my career O’Reilly conferences have served to educate me and inspire me. Dozens of coding practices I use every day are things I picked up at OSCON. I learned about how to choose which technologies to leverage at OSCON and Strata. I learned how to use those technologies at the same conferences.

I am keenly aware that my career was launched on stages that said the words “O’REILLY” in big letters on the background. CareSet, my company owes its existence and much of its current success, in no small part to the ongoing commitment that O’Reilly Media has to educate and spread innovation.

But I still support this decision completely. This is not a time to shy away from difficult decisions. This is not a time to ignore realities or pretend that complicated problems will become uncomplicated merely by the passage of time. In retrospect, it is possible that people will regard Baldwin’s decision as a mistake, but it is a poor habit of historians to pretend trends that will become obvious in a year were obvious to decision makers today. I think it far more likely that Baldwin will be celebrated for her decision, but even if she is not, I want to be clear that I support it. Based on the information that I can see, and the arguments that she has articulated in her letter above, no other decision makes sense. She cannot risk every employee’s financial future at O’Reilly Media by protecting a division that has no future.

Which brings me to my last point. If you have recently been let go by O’Reilly Media, please take a look now at the CareSet Jobs posting. If there is not something that you are qualified for there, please consider looking back soon as we post more roles. I am not in a position to promise to hire anyone and many of our roles do require that you live in Houston, which is has the weather patterns of the Shrek Swamp. But any applicant that we see that has experience working at O’Reilly Media supporting their conferences will be regarded as very qualified. If you are reading this, and you also have been given a lift over the years by O’Reilly Media, please consider making the same offer.