July 10, 2023

The May 2023 FreeBSD Developer Summit and BSDCan 2023 marked the return of in person events for a number of FreeBSD community members, myself included. It was such a great experience to see everyone in person again. In person events, especially ones like the Developer Summit are such an integral part of the FreeBSD community. Getting to talk face-to-face about what problems you’re facing, discussions on what’s happening with the new release, it’s all key to moving the Project forward. From an advocacy perspective, this event was the chance to talk with companies who are using FreeBSD and find out what’s working and what’s not. It’s a chance to learn more about why people choose FreeBSD and also recruit others to help us spread the word. The May 2023 Developer Summit was even more exciting this year because we were able to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of FreeBSD. More on that later. 

As part of the organizing committee, members of the Foundation team have been meeting since January to tackle our first in-person meeting in two years. With all of the many event planning details to sort out, there was definitely a wave of relief when I arrived at the venue and saw the boxes of t-shirts and FreeBSD Journals waiting for me. The organizing committee would also be remiss if we didn’t mention the invaluable help from BSDCan’s own Dan Langille. Co-locating with BSDCan makes producing the Developer Summit so much more manageable.

John Baldwin, member of the organizing committee and emcee extraordinaire kicked things off with a rundown of the schedule for the day and a thank you to our sponsors. Tarsnap joined the FreeBSD Foundation at the Gold level of sponsorship allowing, Colin Percival to continue his long tradition of designing the back of the Developer Summit t-shirt. iX Systems TruNas and the Linux Professional Institute sponsored the Summit at the Bronze level. We’re always grateful when companies within the FreeBSD universe step up to support developer focused events. 

The program began with an update from the FreeBSD Foundation. While presenting isn’t my strong suit, I was glad to be able to join my colleagues in providing an update about what we’ve been up to in the land of advocacy over the year so far. 

The rest of the day included an update from the Core Team, a Guided Code Reading with Mark Johnston (very popular with attendees, if the post session talk is any indicator), and then breakout working groups focused on Google Summer of Code and External Toolchain. 

During the next break, it was time to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the FreeBSD Project- complete with a timeline cake! It was great to have FreeBSD originals  Kirk McKusick and Mike Karels there to help us celebrate. 

Day 1 ended with the continuation of the FreeBSD by the Fire series. Mike Karels took to the podium to share stories and answer questions about the early days of FreeBSD. 

Next up, the Foundation sponsored a pizza party in the “hackers lounge” on the ground floor of the university dorm. Access to a place where you can sit laptop to laptop to solve problems and learn new things is one of the biggest benefits of returning to an in-person format. The hacker lounge also provides another opportunity for members of the Foundation team to sit down with developers and company representatives to learn more about their needs and what gaps we may need to fill. 

The second day of the Developer Summit began with the Foundation presenting Colin Percival with an award for his efforts in orchestrating the release of 13.2. Colin stepped up and managed to keep things on track when FreeBSD Release Engineer Glen Barber was out. His efforts did not go unnoticed. 

John then kicked off a 14.0 wrap-up session working with folks to make sure that everything is on track for the new release this Fall. Because the innovating never stops, John followed that up with a session on planning for the 15.0 release. The Summit then wrapped up with working group sessions focusing on the Technical Roadmap for the Foundation, Documentation and Workflow / GitHub PRs. Slides from all of the sessions can be found on the May 2023 FreeBSD Developer Summit wiki. Thanks to Alan Jude and ScaleEngine, Patrick McEvoy and Andrew Fengler, the sessions were also live streamed and videos can be found on the FreeBSD Project YouTube Channel

The start of BSDCan also meant the opening of the Foundation table. My colleagues Drew Gurkowski, Deb Goodkin and I arrived early to get set up. The table at BSDCan is one of my favorite places to be. It gives Drew and I a chance to talk with the community and learn more about how folks are using FreeBSD while discovering additional avenues for promoting the Project. The table this year was particularly exciting because we were able to unveil the new 30th Anniversary swag, timeline poster, and printed version of the special edition of the Journal

The final day of BSDCan also allowed Drew and I to enlist folks into doing interviews as part of our FreeBSD Day celebration. Drew asked great questions about why and how people are using FreeBSD and even got Kirk McKusick ‘s thoughts on FreeBSD 30 years later. You can also find the interviews on the Project’s YouTube Channel.

From an advocacy perspective, the FreeBSD Developer Summit and BSDCan are crucial to the Foundation’s marketing efforts. We have the opportunity to learn from the people who are doing the work. Community input helps us create concrete messaging on the benefits of using FreeBSD. It helps us figure out new event strategies and aids us in evaluating what’s working and what’s not in our overall advocacy roadmap. 

It was a very busy and wonderfully exhausting week for the Foundation Team and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you to all who stopped by the table, participated in interviews, gave talks at the Summit and made our week in Ottawa so successful. I look forward to seeing you next year.

— Contributed by Anne Dickison