March 26, 2020

For the third year in a row, I attended FOSDEM, an amazing open source conference in Brussels, Belgium. Taking place, February 1-2, the event is a totally volunteer run conference geared towards promoting the widespread use of free and open source software. The Foundation has sponsored and organized a FreeBSD table there for a few years now.

The conference was preceded by a full-day FreeBSD Developer Summit, sponsored by the Foundation, and organized and run by Foundation Board Vice President, Benedict Reuschling. This was our largest Brussels Developer Summit yet with ~30 attendees . The day kicked off with each of us introducing ourselves and talking about where our interests lie with FreeBSD. We then started brainstorming ideas for Google Summer of Code projects and mentors. The FreeBSD Project has been a participant in this program since it began in 2005. We are excited to have been accepted into the program again this year! There were many great suggestions for summer projects. If you are a student, consider applying for the program here.

After a satisfying lunch, we had a few discussions on graphics and ports, followed by time to work together in smaller groups of 2-3 people. Taking part in face-to-face opportunities such as this summit, helps projects move forward more quickly, energizes folks to contribute more, and is generally helpful for connecting names and faces. After the summit, most people went out for dinner in smaller groups.

The next day we arrived early at the FOSDEM venue to set up the FreeBSD table. As has been the case over the years, we had many community members volunteer to help, both behind and in front of the table. There just wasn’t enough room for all of us to work behind the table! New this year, the Foundation decided to offer custom “FreeBSD at FOSDEM” t-shirts and ordered 100 shirts to sell for donations. We ended up selling just over 50, and will offer the rest at the next BSD conference. We had lots of people stop by the table to ask questions and admire the flier tower, which seems to grow taller every year.

In the evening, I participated in a new event called Speed Dating for Open Source Projects. Participants each had 15 minutes to pitch our project to open source experts for a chance to win $10,000 funding. It was a great experience and opportunity for me. Basically you had 2 minutes to describe your project, then 1 minute to explain your goal for the $10,000 funding, 1 minute for the activities you’d undertake to achieve your goal, and finally 1 minute to explain the impact the funding would have on our Project. The rest of the time was spent with me answering questions and receiving feedback from the experts. I thought it went really well, and hope to use that experience for improving my funding pitch to potential large donors. We ended up winning the grant!

After the speed dating event, I enjoyed a long walk back to the hotel, picking up some food on the way, so I could finish up the slides for my FreeBSD presentation.

On Sunday we arrived at the venue early again, and prepped the table for more visitors. Of course, someone made sure to rebuild the impressive tower of fliers. The BSD Devroom was also happening this day, which was organized and run by Rodrigo Osorio. There were over 100 attendees listening to BSD talks throughout the day. Be sure to check out all the talks. I also gave a talk called FreeBSD Around the World.

Advocacy, with the purpose of recruiting more users and contributors to the Project, is a big part of our mission in supporting FreeBSD,. It ensures the Project will continue to grow in size while remaining relevant for many years to come. I believe FOSDEM is one of the best conferences for us to fulfill this part of our mission. It’s one of the largest open source conferences in Europe, and is very community oriented. Not only are there over 8,000 attendees, but we have so many FreeBSD contributors who step in to help every year.. They do this because they love FreeBSD, and want to share their knowledge, experiences, and passion for the Project with others. They’ve also built friendships with other FreeBSD contributors, so FOSDEM provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy catching up with others over meals, drinks, and of course, Belgian waffles at the end of each day!

My purpose for attending this conference is to not only advocate for FreeBSD, but also to meet with other open source leaders, corporate users, and people from our community. It gives me a chance to listen to what they are working on, hear about what challenges they are facing and learn more about what people are doing in other open source projects. I also take advantage of the opportunity to encourage members of our community to give FreeBSD talks, run meetups, and contribute to areas of FreeBSD that they are interested in. Asking someone to step out of their comfort zone is not always easy, but you’d be surprised as to what can be achieved when you remind folks just how experienced they really are.

In summary, FOSDEM proved again to be a vital part of our efforts to advocate for the Project. It allowed members of the FreeBSD community to come together to work on important development projects, while providing us the opportunity to educate people on the many different aspects of FreeBSD, recruit more talent to the Project, and encourage folks to check out our favorite open source operating system!

– contributed by Deb Goodkin