For the seventh time now, the Université Libre de Bruxelles  in Brussels, Belgium, is hosting FOSDEM .
The impact of meetings like these on the free software community as awhole is huge. Apart from the obvious attractions of the meeting, such asthe ability to go to different talks and learn about exciting newthings related tofree software or to see demos at different stands, FOSDEM also allowsyou to meet people from all kinds of different backgrounds.
And rather than just being limited to ASCII conversations,which iswhat most free software projects limit themselves to bynecessity, a real-life meeting allows you to not only put names tofaces but also to do those things which people usually think of asenjoyable: go to a bar and discuss your views on a particular problemfrom a project you're working on, on the project as a whole, on freesoftware as a whole, or heck, on the world as a whole.
I think it's hard to overestimate the effect that conferences such asthis one have on people. Since FOSDEM is in Belgium I've never missedit once; every time the boost in morale and in motivation which ithas given me has helped keep me going for another year. The effects onsocial networking, and the discussion culture within a project, that an eventlike this has is therefore immensely important.
Lots of things have happened in these last seven years and FOSDEM 2007 isalmost nothing like that first edition back in 2001, then still calledOSDEM. Obviously the event has grown: it's gone from hosting a fewhundred to a few thousand people; it has grown from holding threeconcurrent talks at any time in three different aulas to holding twoconcurrent talks in the primary rooms - and a zillion more in the 10or so developer's rooms being managed by various projects. On a muchmore personal level, I have been appointed as the "volunteer" toorganize the GPG key signing party; and for Debian, I am organisingtheir presence for the fourth time (both a booth and a developer'sroom).
Volunteer or not, I do love preparing things like this. If you wereto ask me why, I don't think I could tell you: perhaps it is related tothe fact that it reminds me in late September and early October thatFOSDEM still exists; perhaps, though I'd hate for this to be true, it'sbecause it makes me feel more important than I really am; perhaps it'sbecause it helps me warm up slowly for the real thing, so ithelps me enjoy the event so much more. Whatever the reason, I wouldn'twant my half year without it.
And now it's that time of year again. At the time of writing, it'ssaturday evening, 1AM, and I'm about to find my bed; but witheverything still fresh in my head, I felt I had to write it downnow.
For the first time, since what seems like forever, the FOSDEMorganizers managedto actually have an almost working network at 9AM in the morning,with everything fully set up at 10. The main difference with previousyears was that this time around, rather than setting up the equipmentwhen everyone else is allowed in, they arrived at the insane hour of 5AMto start laying cables, installing AP devices, and doing more of thisgeneral grunt work; by the time people started arriving, the networkwas almost fully operational, prompting me to take a picture of mylaptop with an
ssh -v session running. A working network could besaid to be taking away part of the charm that defines FOSDEM though.Heh.
Joking aside, so far FOSDEM allowed me to meet some interesting newpeople and meet-up with some people I knew from the past; it has alreadyallowed me to learn some new and interesting things about varioustopics , while I also found out a bit about some things I_thought_ I was familiar with.
I can hardly wait for tomorrow.