The last week has been pretty crazy. Kevin & I flew out of Columbus on Thursday ~1:30pm and arrived in Brussels ~8am Friday morning. We were to fly out of Brussels at 10am, but missed the check-in time by about 10 minutes due to cancelled trains, which led to us having to rebook for another flight which was supposed to leave at 12:10… but due to mechanical issues didn’t actually take off until nearly 2pm. So, we’re now supposed to arrive back in Columbus ~7pm, assuming we don’t miss our connecting flight in Washington DC. Of course, once we get back to Columbus we still have a 2.5-3hr car ride home, and then school and work all day Wednesday. Here’s hoping we make it in time, and survive the next couple days of insanity.
Anyhow, our trip to Brussels & FOSDEM 2012 has been amazing and certainly something that neither of us will soon forget. Its been a crazy whirlwind tour, and I know we’d both have liked it to last a bit longer, but its still been fun. FOSDEM 2012 was my first conference & Kevin’s first time in Europe, and I think we made the best of it. We got to met tons of great people both at FOSDEM & all around Brussels, wander around the city, see some, though certainly not all of the cool stuff in Brussels, and have just had a great time.
At FOSDEM I met dozens of amazing and inspiring people including Karen Sandler, Allan Day, Dave Neary, Seif Lofty & many, many more. After arriving in Brussels on Friday we spent the next 4 hours incredibly lost before finally finding our hotel & taking a much-needed nap. The afternoon was spent seeing Brussels, getting lost again, and finally finding the Delirium Cafe where the FOSDEM Beer Party was held, which was fantastic. We ended up spending most of the night with a group from Barcelona Spain, with whom we went out to eat & then to another bar across from the Manneken Pís before finding our way back to our hotel rather late.
On Saturday, Kevin & I walked to FOSDEM, where I spent most of Saturday manning the GNOME booth in the K-Building, though I did get to attend a couple of sessions, including part of the Legal Issues room fill in and Grey Areas of Software Licensing by Dave Neary , as well as the Cross Desktop group picture & Allan Day’s GNOME 3: Every Detail Matter’s, which hopefully reminded people that the little things really do matter!
That night we went to the GNOME Beer Party at La Becassé which was a blast. Kevin & I spent most of the night chatting with Mario Sánchez Prada of Igalia about pretty much everything – computers, kids, video games, languages, and just life in general. I/we apparently stayed up a bit late though which led to me missing a couple of the talks in the morning which I was hoping to catch, most notably GNOME 3.4 accessible: Status, news, future by Alejandro Piñeiro Iglesias and The Anatomy of a role playing game by Arthur Huillet.
I did manage to make it back to FOSDEM & the GNOME booth in time for the mini-marketing meeting, during which we touched on a wide range of issues. Topics included the redesign of the website, the Annual Report & the overall direction of GNOME in the coming months/years. One of our most important tasks in the coming weeks will be the publication of the annual report, which covers both 2010 and 2011. Another major topic was the re-design of news.gnome.org being done by Christy Eller & Allan Day, including the future of the news site, GNOME Journal, Quarterly reports, the GNOME Foundation site and how to better streamline all of them. One over all theme seemed to be a need for new content, on everything from news articles, how to articles on specific applications, interviews of developers, hackfest reports and pretty much anything else. If you’re interested in writing please let us know!!
After the mini-marketing meeting I spent the rest of the day attending sessions. I started with Seif Lofty & Allan Day’s How to trick a developer into becoming a designer, which was informative while also being humorous and engaging. I next attended a Lightning talk on libre.fm & GNU FM by Michael Sheldon, and caught part of the lighting talk on Netmagis by Jean Benoit, before returning to the Cross-Desktop room.
My last couple hours at FOSDEM were spent in in the Cross-Desktop room attending the last 3 sessions there – WebKitGTK+ status and roadmap to WebKit2 by Mario Sánchez Prada & Philippe Normand, Getting into GNOME by Ekaterina Gerasimova & David King and finally Web applications in GNOME by Xan López.
Getting into GNOME was the most interesting for myself, mostly since I felt that they were speaking to me & many others in my position. There are literally millions of users of free and open source software, but only a thousand actively contribute. Bridging this gap will be the key to the long-term survival and success of free free/open source software.
I know I’ve used Linux & GNOME pretty consistently for the last 10+ years but only found out how to get involved in the last few months. Not because I didn’t want to, but simply because I didn’t know that I could. Up until this past fall I was under the impression, as I suspect many are that there wasn’t a lot to be done outside of coding, which I, and undoubtedly many other users simply don’t know how to do. However as I’ve discovered over the past few months, this simply isn’t true. GNOME (and, I suspect most if not all other free/open source projects) need people to do lots of things which don’t require coding – writing news articles, documentation, making art work, manning booths at conferences (of which there are dozens! There’s probably even one close to you!!), and much more.
So, if you use/love free/open source software, please get involved! Its not hard and every contribution really is appreciated no matter how small. Even hanging out on irc.gnome.org & answering questions in #gnome or #gnome-love when your available, is appreciated. Even if you think ‘oh, I don’t know enough to answer questions…’ you probably do. I know I never thought I’d be able to help people, but I have! Its not hard, and it’s incredibly fulfilling when you do. Alternatively, pick a specific project and see what they need help with. Theres sure to be something that you can do to help!
Overall, I’ve had a great, if slightly crazy week, and I hope to make it to many more conferences in the future. If you haven’t made it to one yet, I highly recommend it!!