FOSDEM - Brussels

We had our first experience attending the FOSDEM conference in Brussels this week and it was excellent! Our founder Erik Riedel presented a session Collaboration is the Better Way alongside Lauri Apple from Workday in the Community Developer room. It was one of many, many excellent sessions during the day in that room - organized by Leslie Hawthorn and Laura Czajkowski - around various stories about creating and sustaining communities - including some sessions that filled the space to squeezing-room only.

Other sessions at FOSDEM were completely filled to standing-room only, with an estimated 8,000 people in attendance from around Europe and around the world. My flight from Dublin the afternoon before had been filled - at least half, if not three-quarters - with FOSDEM attendees of all ages and styles.

I had been warned that FOSDEM was unlike any other event that I had been to in that they do not have any registration. Not only is there no registration fee, but there is no registration at all. No name tags. No list of attendees. No idea how many folks will be there or are actually there. A sophisticated set of volunteer organizers recruited from among the attendees helped to keep everyone moving and keep the talks on track. I signed up for “heralding” duty which involved introducing speakers in one of the larger session rooms and reminding people not to sit on the steps. I also spent a few minutes substituting on camera duty - all sessions are available via livesteam and for replay soon after the event is over - many by later the same evening. Their video production setup is completely built with open source components, and was running in over a dozen rooms at the same time, operated and shepherded by participant volunteers. This is the kind of thing that “more organized” conferences pay an arm and a leg for, handled here on a shoestring budget.

There were so many rooms running in parallel, including a RISC-V devroom on open source hardware that I did not find out about until almost 2 months later! The sheer breadth of tracks and the depth of material presented over the course of two days (one snowy, one bright) was amazing - as was the enthusiasm and breadth of the crowd. One of the best stories that I saw was a late impromptu addition to the schedule due to a late-to-arrive speaker where Jeremy Allison of Google spoke about Handling Security Flaws in an Open Source Project outlining the discovery and remediation of a serious security flaw in the Samba project, with many lessons for projects open source and inner source alike.

Highly Recommended - annual FOSDEM event in Brussels.