Max (spevack) wrote,

fosdem 2009 trip report

Once again, FOSDEM was a great event. It was the first chance since last year's FUDCon Brno for a large number of the Europen Fedora contributors to get together, and to bring a few folks from outside of Europe (like Tom Callaway and Greg DeKoenigsberg) to the event as well.

For me, FOSDEM was also the opportunity to throw away the talk that I gave a bunch of times in 2008, and replace it with a new talk that focuses on Fedora, and the project's four foundations (freedom, friends, features, first). FOSDEM was the first time that I gave this talk, and it will be improved and tweaked as we move through the Fedora 11 cycle.



Greg and I were the first to arrive at the event, with two suitcases full of CDs, shirts, stickers, and flyers in them. After a little while, Joerg showed up with all the posters, and the booth was able to take its usual form. Our booth was definitely the best one at the event, but that has come to be expected in EMEA these days.

A few organizational points:

* Whenever there is an event in which Fedora has any sort of speaking slots (whether it is one talk, or a whole day of talks like at FOSDEM), there should be flyers at the booth that have the schedule written on them. People were taking these flyers with them all day, and the turnout in our devroom was fantastic. Many of our sessions were standing-room only. We also posted our flyers on bulletin boards around the event, which helped to make people aware of what was happening.

* I brought a suitcase with about 300 CDs in it, and we didn't really do a great job of partitioning them out over the course of two days. By Sunday morning, there were only about 15 CDs left.

* The stickers were a great giveaway, as were the buttons that the Greek ambassadors brought.

I personally spent very little time at the booth, wandering by every now and then to see who was around (we had 30+ Fedora folks at FOSDEM) and shake hands. My standard procedure at an event like this is to have a bunch of meetings/conversations, to practice & deliver my talk, and to sneak in a bit of time to try to stay up to date on email.

It's great to see how diverse Fedora's European community is, with significant delegations from France, Germany, Italy, and Greece all at FOSDEM. I also like the very low-key, community feel of FOSDEM. We're able to have a productive series of days for comparatively low cost.

On Saturday mid-morning, I had a chance to sit down with Joerg Simon to discuss some upcoming presentations and community outreach that we plan to do in Romania and Hungary. I also gave Joerg the extra tshirts at the end of the weekend, so that he can bring them in his car to Chemnitzer Linuxtage, which means that I won't have to drag them all on a train or plane.

In the afternoon, I sat in Joe Brockmeier's talk about openSUSE. Joe was quite unlucky, as technical difficulties left him without the ability to display his slides and without a microphone for much of his talk. Fortunately for me, I didn't have any slides, and the microphone was fixed by the time I went next.

For the first time giving a new talk, I was reasonably pleased with how it went. I borrowed Jeroen's red fedora so that I could put it on every time I wanted to speak as "Max Spevack, Red Hat employee" versus "Max Spevack, Fedora contributor" and I had several comments from folks who liked that production value. I'll note the irony that I do not have a red fedora, and borrowed one from someone who is not a Red Hat employee.

I was disappointed with the audience in the room for the "main track". I think there were probably something like 60 people listening to my talk, and if I had given the same talk in the Fedora devroom I would have had closer to 100. They held the main track in a room that could accomodate probably 500 people, and it was like talking in an empty cave. With so many talks all happening simultaneoulsy, I guess it's just the nature of the conference that the audience available at any given time is stretched thinly.

After my speech, I was asked to participate in a brief video interview for Linux Magazine (I think it was Linux Magazine) with Joe Brockmeier and Steve McIntyre. We had a fun 10 minutes or so making a video that talked about the philosophies of our distros, and that also allowed me to joke that the interview was with two project leaders and one person (me) who has no authority whatsoever to do anything!

At the conclusion of this interview, when I reached into my wallet to hand out a business card, was when I realized that my Red Hat credit card (ie: means of paying for everything that Fedora does) was missing. As panic gripped my soul, I quickly thought about the last place I had seen my card, and I realized that I had tried to use it to pay for some drinks for Fedora guys the night before. The bartender told me that they couldn't take a credit card, and as I reached into my pocket for cash, he placed the card down on the bar and I forgot to pick it up.

Not much I could do about it at that time, so I went off to listen to Greg's talk, which can be summarized as "a passionate call to action in the realm of open source education". Greg is one of the best public speakers that I have ever seen, and he delivered a monster of a talk that left a packed Fedora devroom completely in awe, delivered from notes that he scribbled on to a napkin while he ate lunch that day.

People started to drift away from FOSDEM soon after (the day was over). I followed my steps back to the bar from the previous night, where the waiter (who hadn't been working) informed me that they didn't have any credit cards. I started calling folks in the United States hoping that someone could give me the number of Bank of America so I could cancel my card, but no one answered their phones.

I eventually met up with Jan Wildeboer and Greg at the bar that was supposed to be the Fedora meeting point, but no one else from Fedora was there. The three of us went to get dinner, and as we were walking I continued trying to find the Bank of America number. Fortune smiled upon me, as we happened to walk by (once again) the bar from the previous night. Figuring there was no harm in asking one more time, I went inside and the bartender from the night before immediately recognized me and gave me back my card. "I was going to call to cancel it if you didn't come back today," he said.

Suddenly in good spirits, I bought Jan and Greg dinner. After dinner, I failed once again to meet up with any of the other Fedora folks, and went back to the hotel to sleep.

ORGANIZATIONAL NOTE: We need to do a better job of organizing the night time activities when we have crowds of more than 10 people. The evenings are a chance for face to face community bonding and more in-depth conversations, and it's a shame to not take advantage of those opportunities.


I commented to Greg on Sunday afternoon that I felt a bit like the Godfather, in that my day was basically a series of one-off conversations and meetings back to back, from the time I arrived at FOSDEM until the time we got into a cab to head to the train station.

I also commented to Greg that it was one of the best and most productive days that I felt like I'd had in a long time.

What follows is a brief list of the conversations that I had:

I spoke with Yaakov about a 6-8 week roadmap for EKG that we need to take to the project's mailing list, as well as the timeline for winding down his part-time internship, since his life will soon take some exciting new twists and turns.

Frederic and I had a brief FOSDEM post-mortem, in which we made a few notes about ideas for next year. In particular I'd like to have our own Fedora devroom, because I believe we could fill the entire two days with nothing but Fedora tracks. The past few years, we have shared the devroom with CentOS. I also promised to send Frederic some additional F10 CDs, and to put him in touch with the Red Hat marketing person who is responsible for Belgium.

My next chat was with Christoph Wickert and Mario Behling (President of the LXDE Foundation). LXDE is gaining a lot of momentum in Fedora, and I am interested in supporting their efforts a bit more. In particular, I am told that LXDE's community is very strong in Asia, and that Mario and Harish Pillay (who serves as Red Hat's community point-of-contact in that region) know each other. It should be pretty easy to get a few quick wins with a bit of organization and resource allocation.

I had a really good meeting with Thomas Canniot and Armel Kermorvant, in which we discussed Fedora and Red Hat working together a bit in France. They brought me up to speed on the planning for Linux Solutions in Paris, as well as their outreach work to other French-speaking Ambassadors (such as the Tunisian Fedora community). Finally, I briefed them on an idea that we have in progress on a pan-EMEA Fedora store (more details on this soon), as well as telling them that I want to make sure that some of our French community is able to make it to this year's EMEA FUDCon. Armel and Thomas are great guys, and it's a pleasure to work with them and talk with them.

This post is getting too long, so I'll briefly mention that I had chats with Chitlesh about Fedora Electronics Lab and Francesco about how I can get to an event in Italy somewhere around May.

My final conversation of the day was with Dimitris who filled me in on some of the work happening in the Transifex community and with Indifex. Dimitris mentioned that LXDE was using Transifex, so I left him deep in conversation with Mario (who I'd spoken to earlier in the day), wandered back to the Fedora booth, and said all my goodbyes.

FOSDEM 2009 is in the books. See you all at FUDCon EMEA 2009, and stay tuned this week for some formal announcements about that event!
Tags: redhat

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