This was FOSDEM 2015

For a very long time now I’ve wanted to go to FOSDEM and last weekend I finally did it! And except for the really horrible weather it definitely lived up to what I had hoped it would be like. For those of you who don’t know it, FOSDEM is one of the largest annual Free Software and open source gatherings in the world with about 5000 attendees and it’s FREE!

All hands on desk for the Mars One mission

The event has been taking place for the last 14 years at the campus of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) which this year provided 25 rooms for the event where most of them are then handed over in the form of so-called devrooms. In these rooms sub-communities like for instance Python, Mozilla, or Go organise the sessions and also moderate them. I’ve only attended 4 dev rooms while there but this whole concept seems to work great for scaling such an event.


The tracks

Last year I had heard stories that these devrooms and especially Go’s tend to be completely full so people can no longer enter, but I didn’t expect this to be such a wide-spread issue. Sadly, on Saturday I faced quite a few closed doors but being persistent eventually got me into each track I wanted to, even the Go devroom on Sunday.

Surprising myself, I spent most of Saturday in the Legal and Policy Issues track listening to talks about the GNOME vs. Groupon- and RhodeCode vs. GPL-battles and other sessions about licensing related issues. I learnt quite a few things about GPLv3 that I hadn’t known before and I might even consider it for some future projects after that.

On Sunday I went to talks from the Mozilla-, Go- and Security-tracks learning more about HTTP/2.0, Bleve and OpenPGP key signing (and what a complete mess that still is). The day ended with an absolute highlight: A presentation about the Mars One project and how this might be a great chance for FOSS. Can’t wait to watch that one again once the videos are out.

Session list

So here are all the sessions I attended:

The venue and everything around and between sessions

There was actually so much to see that I didn’t really take enough time to cool down and get anything beyond snacks to eat. In general the whole structure of the event facilitates that by placing food trucks between the buildings housing the sessions. While I enjoy snacks like Frites, Hamburgers, Waffles, and more as much as the next guy, some fresh fruits would have been awesome. But perhaps I just didn’t see the healthy options ;-)

A big part of FOSDEM seems to be beer and below the main track there was a small bar where attendees could purchase beer out of a selection of about 15 brands. And since I didn’t notice anyone being drunk or rude because of that I consider the option to have beer directly at a conference to be awesome!

The whole “beer as a feature” thing actually started before the main conference with a special event on Friday evening. Sadly, after getting up at 3am that day and visiting the Atomium I was far too tired to make it out of my hotel room in the afternoon and so I missed that one. I’m not sure if I’d have actually enjoyed it, though, considering some of the pictures I saw of the huge crowd that was there.

And that was basically my only big problem with FOSDEM as a whole. I don’t really enjoy large groups of people. PyCon is also quite large but nothing compared to FOSDEM and it was very exhausting. Will this keep me from attending in the future? Probably not, but at least now I can prepare for it. Since this was my first time there I wanted to suck up as much knowledge as possible and “see everything”. Won’t do that again ;-) On Sunday evening I even opted for not taking a bus back to my hotel and instead walked the 5km distance in the rain… snow… rain… Yes, the weather was really awful.

Newly excited for …

Every event I go to somehow managed to excite me for something. And so did FOSDEM for these:

  • Free Software in general. I’m normally more in the Open Source camp but ever since I started messing around with Emacs nearly two months ago I’ve come to appreciate the “more radical” if you will part of the FOSS community. Heck, I even consider using the GPL for possible future projects again …
  • Rust. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy Go and the community around it very much and thanks to its awesome cross-platform support I don’t see Rust as a direct competitor here. So why should I not mess around with it in the future?!
  • Linux on the desktop: So many Thinkpads running Linux there … Have to give it a try again.

So, to conclude: FOSDEM is awesome! If you are into Free and OpenSource Software and you have an open spot in your schedule for February, go there. Unless you really don’t enjoy large groups of people.

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