October 20, 2021

I recently attended my first in-person conference since March 2020! It was quite the experience with strict Covid protocols to follow, including proof of vaccination and daily health checks. Those efforts helped make it feel a little more comfortable being around people again. One reason I chose this conference was because they’ve always provided a large venue. Plus, they had accepted my FreeBSD talk, and I was keen on giving it in person.

5K Sightseeing Run

It was an incredible feeling being with other open source folks in person again. Though, it was a little surreal seeing folks in real life, instead of on my computer! Being there in person gave me a chance to have productive conversations and meet other open source leaders that I hadn’t met before. While I opted out of any inside social event, I did participate in their 5km (which was really 5 miles) sightseeing run, where I had interesting conversations with some of the attendees.

Without a doubt, the best part of my trip was attending the Seattle FreeBSD Meet Up that we organized. None of us had actually met each other in person before, so that made it interesting. I was very excited to finally meet Greg Lewis in person! He’s the individual who’s been maintaining the Java and JDK stuff even before I joined the Foundation back in 2005. Providing Java binaries for FreeBSD was the first project I worked on when I joined. I also had a chance to meet Vincent Milum Jr., who is an avid FreeBSD contributor/user and a co-founder of the FreeBSD discord channel, which has over 1000 users now. He regularly supports FreeBSD users on Twitter and discord, always sharing accomplishments of community members. Vincent is hoping to start up a Seattle BSD group (reach out to him if you are interested in helping!).

Back at the Summit, I spent most of my time in the expo area, using that space as a hallway track. It provided the perfect work space while allowing me to keep an eye out for folks I wanted to meet with. Seriously, the conference was spread out over so much space that I didn’t have to worry too much about the potential exposure to Covid.

Vincent Milum Jr. joining me at my talk

I ended the conference by giving a talk on FreeBSD. There weren’t as many attendees as previous conferences, but I have no idea how many folks were watching virtually. Vincent joined me to talk about how he was introduced to FreeBSD and why he thinks FreeBSD is great. That was a great addition to my talk, and he answered some ZFS questions that came his way. I was happy to have the opportunity to talk about FreeBSD and Project, and hopefully the recording will be available soon.

In summary, I’m glad I attended the conference, because it gave me a chance to share FreeBSD with other open source enthusiasts, meet with other technology leaders, and some of our corporate users. But, I don’t think we’re quite ready for larger in-person conferences yet. There were maybe 300 attendees over an incredibly large space, with strict Covid protocols, including Covid vaccine requirements. Most conference organizers don’t have the funds to pay for that type of space. But, I have hope that after this winter, we will be able to start meeting in person again. With any luck, we can start with BSDCan, June 2022.

– Contributed by Deb Goodkin