FOSDEM 2017 Day 3: Talks & Chats

Silent morning at the booths in building K (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Today I got early up, going with Andreas to the venue, arriving at 8.30 AM. He was going there to open the Open Source Design room, I was going there to open the GNOME booth. After the shift I then decided to wandered around to collect stickers and speak to various projects at their booths.

Emiliano at the LibreOffice booth (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

LibreOffice‘s booth who had a stand right next to us and I decided to stop by. In LibreOffice they had just released version 5.3, which among other new features include a renewed user interface. LibreOffice is also making progress on integrating with GTK+3, although I unfortunately missed the talk they had about that the day before. In recent years a new flavor of LibreOffice has also arrived, namely LibreOffice online. This project makes it possible to deploy your own collaborative document editing infrastructure.

Team Coala at FOSDEM (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

At the Coala booth, I met Lasse whom I know also via the GNOME community. Coala is a type of meta code analysis software. Currently they are reworking internals, and ultimately aiming at simplifying how to perform the code analysis.

Jobs corner located in Building H. (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

My experience in all three FOSDEM conferences is that they are a good place to network and meet new faces. One thing I dont recall seeing at previous FOSDEMs was job postings. There was a very long wall and table dedicated so that individuals and organizations could advertise jobs, from everything between part-time system administrators and DevOps to full-time software engineers or project managers. Practical!

Stickers! (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

..and that was the end of my sticker collecting journey. Now I’ve got some, ready to be put on the dorm door at home. :-)


The rest of the day went with watching talks. In many places there were very large lines of people trying to get in, inside many of the rooms.

People standing in line to the “Decentralized Internet” room (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

In the end I went to the open source design room, in which i stayed for the rest of the day. This being an open source conference, many of the talks at FOSDEM are focused around software-engineering. The open source design room is the exception. It’s a small room, but there was good space available and I could sit down and do a little work in the meantime.

The Open Source Design room (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

What I really like about this room is that it is arranged by the open source design community. It feels very unified that the room directly represents a community, not just a topic. Open source design have its own repository with assets, their own forum etc and it represents designers who do their work in many different open source projects. Many of the talks were reflecting on the methodology we use to do design in open source. Many of the talks revolved around how we can approach user research to inform ourselves when designing. A speaker named Miroslav Mazel spoke about the challenges in conducting user research using local volunteers. One particular difficulty he explained is on how to keep the interest among the volunteers up for conducting it. Andreas was also there to speak about his experience conducting user interviews to inform his work on GNOME Maps. Including the user in the design process helped to recognize new use cases when designing transit routing in GNOME Maps.

Andreas answering questions during his speech “Interviews as user research” (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Matthias Clasen and Emel spoke about the design of GNOME Recipes, a new application they are working on for GNOME’s upcoming 20th Anniversary. I think the application looks very promising and am definitely interested in submitting some more recipes!

Emel explaining the design of GNOME Recipes (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Finally Jan, a designer on NextCloud, spoke about getting more designers involved in open source. IT is afterall not only about software engineering, the technology has to be used by people. So design matters and there are many projects which are in dire need of more designers. The open source room concluded with project pitches. Developers of various open source projects would each have three minutes to advertise their projects and make a call for design participation. I really liked this initiative! It’s hard to get started in many open source projects, especially if your role is not a software engineer. I hope for all the developers who stood up and advertised their project, succeeded in reaching out to interested designers. :-)


Monday, we left Belgium. Although I left with an upset stomach and a cold, all in all I did have a really good time. Maybe we will meet again at Open Source Days 2017, foss-north 2017 or GUADEC 2017?

FOSDEM 2017 Day 2: Showtime

In line at FOSDEM. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

All of us woke up at around 8, aiming to get to FOSDEM at half past 9. Booths would be set up between 9 and 10 and the first set of talks would start around 10. Since I have stayed at the accommodation before, I had a pretty good feeling for the route to go to FOSDEM, but we barely got out of the door before I realized that I had forgot all the merchandise I had brought with me, though.. :-)

Packing like a salesman.. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

I had planned to spend most of today helping out in GNOME’s booth. We walked to the venue a little past 9, so I wouldn’t expect that many people to be around the FOSDEM venue yet. But when we arrived at 10, there were a ton of people already. I went straight to building K where the GNOME stand was located. Very crowded morning!

Building K, on the outside and inside. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

FODSEM is happening at the Université libre de Bruxelles which is a university campus area that consists of several buildings. The GNOME booth is located next to LibreOffice and KDE in building K. I always request two tables but FOSDEM is growing each year with even more booths, so this time we had just a single table. When I came to the booth, Kat, David and others were already there, selling t-shirts. There were some problems doing the grey on grey GNOME shirts that I showed on my blog previously so instead Kat has printed the motive in white on dark grey, blue and orange. With a dozen t-shirts and hoodies the single table was already quite stuffed. It’s fortunate that socks doesn’t take up that much space!

Socks on display at the GNOME booth. They might seem really big at first, but they shrink to half the size after a a wash. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The socks turned out to sell well. I had brought 60-70 pairs and by the end of the first day all the socks were sold.
I also brought flyers, and Sebastian Wilmet complimented them with his technical flyers describing the GNOME as a development platform. This was really useful, since the flyers I have are very high level, encouraging contribution to all kinds of teams in GNOME whether engagement, documentation, translation, design etc. Sebastians flyers were aimed more towards the technical software students and developers, which an event like FOSDEM attracts many of.

While standing in booth, there were many people coming by that i had the opportunity to speak with. We had attendants that came by and said thanks for the work and effort and telling their story of ending up using GNOME. I also had positive comments on the release video! I’m really happy that there are people here who watch and look forward to watch these videos. It is a large effort, but it feels all worth it when you are getting positive reactions, in person. In previous years of FOSDEM I also remember we received lot of criticsm at the booth too. With GNOME 3, GNOME completely revamped its desktop and interaction style and this sudden change probably caused a lot of stir. What I’m seeing is probably the result of our desktop interaction style becoming more stable and GNOME’s new vision becoming more clear.

In the cafeteria I met Matthias and Emel who was preparing for a talk in the design room tomorrow about the new app GNOME Recipes. Will definitely attend that! We also discussed how the size of FOSDEM means that it’s hard to find people. Everyone are scattered across attending talks, standing in booths etc. Once I had split up with the rest of Open Source Aalborg, we were all in each our location. Even though this is the third time I am at FOSDEM, I keep getting impressed anew of the amount of traction and amount of people it holds. If you need a break, probably the best choice for taking it is to go outside the university campus.

Geoffrey working on the Android port of VLC. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Over at the cafeteria was a bunch of people wearing funny cone hats. Took me some time to realize that, of course, this is the VLC project sitting around at a table, hacking on the video player. I went over to them and spoke with a guy named Geoffrey. Geoffrey is from France and develops the port of VLC for Android. He was working on integrating VLC more with the Android platform. Also VLC 3.0 is coming up soon, which means that developers are currently focusing on bug fixing and landing the last few features before the feature freeze. Some features they have under the works, among others, are support for 360 degree videos and support for playing videos in virtual reality style.

The GNOME Beer event at La Becasse, promoted at FOSDSEM. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Saturday ended with GNOME’s annual beer night. This is a good opportunity to meet with fellow members of the GNOME community and GNOME users. I had a great time there! Thanks to the Collabora people for sponsoring some beers for everyone.

Beers, at GNOME beer night. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

FOSDEM 2017 Day 1: Arrival

Dear diary. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Extra t-shirt, check! Toothbrush, check! 60 pairs of socks, check! Friday the 3rd february was day 1 of my trip to FOSDEM with Open Source Aalborg. We’ve booked flight tickets so we can go early in the morning just to make the best out of the 4 days we’ll be staying in Brussels. 10 minutes intensive situps + 10 kilometers bike trip to the airport at 5 AM and you feel like you can do anything afterwards. At the local airport in Aalborg I met Daniel and Niklas. Much of the morning we spent just talking while flights, escalators and trains would take us to our destination. In all three years I have attended FOSDEM, it has had 500-600 events happening over the course of just one weekend. Finding and planning which talks to see and handling conflicting talks is enough of a hassle that it appears there is even an apps for it. I’m not that big of a talk goer though. I’m looking much more forward to helping in the GNOME booth, visiting booths and speaking with people I haven’t had a conversation with face-to-face for many months.

Niklas and Daniel, discussing the FOSDEM companion app (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

A trivial train ride got us from the airport to the accommodation in Etterbeek. It’s the same apartment which I also booked last year for a few of us in GNOME. The place is a very nice roof apartment at decent price and with a sweet host. Metro, Supermarket and FOSDEM venue are at convenient walking distance too. So the afternoon went by with shopping and waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive at the apartment.

Here we are, 5 members of Open Source Aalborg, ready for to go to FOSDEM (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

The day rounded off with buckwheat pancakes and beer. FOSDEM starts tomorrow at 10 and I’ll go there early to help setting up the GNOME booth. Anticipation is high!

Pancakes (CC-BY-SA 3.0)