First time at FOSDEM

Last Saturday, I went to FOSDEM for the first time and I though I’d write a little post about my general findings.FOSDEM

I attended about 7 talks in 5 different tracks. Contentwise, most talks were interesting enough and most speakers I have seen did a decent job on their presentation. Some weren’t quite the masters of the English language you would hope for, and some really need to improve on their time-management (*), but on average it wasn’t bad.

(*) I attended one talk where the speaker started with an introduction of the product he was talking about, before starting on the actual subject of the talk, but due to taking questions from the audience, he only had 5 minutes left after the introduction and he ended up skipping more than half his slides. Since I was already familiar with the product, I learnt nothing new and the whole talk was sort of a waste of time 🙁

There were some things that really bothered me though:

  • The venue has some really old buildings and classrooms, that are noisy as hell. Squeeking and loudly banging doors, and tables being (un)folded were quite distracting. As a matter of fact, I find it hard to imagine that students actually take classes in an environment like that.
  • With almost all the talks I went to, the room was filled to the last chair, giving the impression that bigger rooms are needed.
  • People can walk in and out of talks whenever they like, causing distractions, mostly due to the noise.
  • Talks are scheduled without breaks inbetween, so in the last 5 minutes of a talk (usually the Q&A section) groups of people come barging into the room for the next talk. They can’t sit anywhere, because the room is full, but people wanting to leave the room after the talk now can’t because there are people standing everywhere.

So, in short, I was pleased with the schedule, but on the practical side, I see a lot of room for improvement. I understand that some things are hard to fix, but I would definitely recommend scheduling time between talks and getting people to guard the doors to make sure a talk is finished and people can get out before letting the next crowd in.

In general, FOSDEM is a nice conference to visit. Good talks, and many renowned people from the Open Source community are there (I even saw RMS handing out flyers outside) and they’re available for questions and discussions, which is really great. No entrance fee or registration is required, which makes it very accessible (but it won’t stop me from complaining 😉 ).

FOSDEM has a lot in common with T-DOSE, which is much smaller, but also a great conference.