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A new and an old thing I (re)learned at FOSDEM

FOSDEM is a great conference and I would like two share specific things from it. The first is something I will try to put into practice immediately; the second is something that is useful for every year of FOSDEM (and possibly other conferences as well).

Highlight from the Community developer room

I spent most of my time in the Community developer room. I can highly recommend that to anyone who has the slightest interest in community management. It was packed with good talks and had a lovely atmosphere (and cake!). I encourage you to go to the website for the community track and start watching videos.

One of the talks that gave us at the Foundation for Public Code some really nice ideas was Jacob Redding’s talk Engaging Enterprise consumers of OSS. What especially resonated with us was the recommendation to sign your commits as being made on behalf of your organization. The argument was that it would make it more transparent to the maintainers of a repository what they could expect of you. And radiating your intent is always a good idea. So strongly did this appeal to us, we opened an issue for integrating this into our processes even before the conference had ended.

Jacob’s talk was all over a gem, and that’s why I want to highlight it in its entirety here. It has nothing to do with that I got to show of my skills in pronunciation of Swedish surnames. Not at all.

FOSDEM is huge - planning is key

The second thing I would like to share is that FOSDEM is a massive conference, in a way that sets it apart from most other conferences. With over 20 parallel tracks it is hard to get a good overview of what is happening.

Therefore it can be easy to feel a bit lost and overwhelmed by the conference - I know I did the first time I went. So my number one tip is to do your homework. Study the program and make notes on what you would like to see. Be aware that it can take up to 10 minutes to navigate through the crowd if the sessions are on opposite ends of the campus, so don’t jam too much in there. Now, I crammed in everything I wanted in my schedule, which brings us to the next tip.

Don’t feel bound to the schedule when you are there. It is easy to get fooled by the sunk cost fallacy, making you believe that since you did some research for your schedule now you have to stick to it. Instead, be open to new information that presents itself and adjust accordingly.

To me it happened almost at soon as the conference was kicked off. Already after the first talk I went to I started chatting with Guy Janssen from Moja global. We had so many common interests it didn’t make sense to run to the next talk. Instead I readjusted my plans on the fly which also was much easier since I had them so neatly laid out.

One additional feature of FOSDEM that helps with this is that so many talks are recorded and made available afterwards. So if - or rather when! - you miss something because of a chance encounter, there is an opportunity to watch it later. This has the sweet side effect of helping that warm FOSDEM feeling last longer.