You can take FOSDEM out of Brussels, but you cannot take the Brussels out of FOSDEM. Meeting virtually is different, but FOSDEM once again succeeded in invigorating spirits and building bonds between developers.
Picture on top: myself “at FOSDEM” 2021. Missing the crowds, but still getting interaction!
The MariaDB presenters, the MariaDB Devroom organising committee and the team at MariaDB Foundation put considerable effort into all MariaDB talks at FOSDEM. The 24 MariaDB related talks are now all available on-line as a YouTube playlist on https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaJ5BwLUdDZ-JQME9xbO2UD3uvBXnizM1
MariaDB Foundation got its first-ever devroom just for MariaDB Server. We’re still friends with MySQL, and mutually visited each others devrooms. Ours was on Saturday, the day where Q&A sessions didn’t yet fully function, and we tried to help the MySQL devroom to get them going on Sunday. But taking 8000 developers and making us interact seamlessly in a virtual setting, that’s easier said than done.
We thoroughly enjoyed the possibility to have our own devroom. Chatting happened in the chat room, and there were additional chatrooms: one for each talk, after it had ended, one for speakers, one for the MariaDB Stand.
It makes us proud to note that so many great presenters took time to really distil their knowledge into the few minutes available during the FOSDEM day. Nineteen slots, about 20 minutes each. Due to an additional 30 second limitation that we weren’t aware of when setting up the day, some presenters were cut short – sorry about that. However, you’ll see the full presentation uploaded online and posted above.
Given the easier virtual logistics, MariaDB was now for the first time extensively present in several other devrooms. This was particularly exciting.
- Daniel Black spoke on MariaDB PaaS using systemd multi-instance / socket activation in the Cloud Computing devroom, and got exciting interactions eg. with OpenNebula, the Cloud reference implementation.
- Anel Husakovic spoke on Using LibreOffice with MariaDB [and Docker] in the LibreOffice devroom, and was one of the many presenters who got kudos for having subtitles (plus a lot of tech questions).
- Vlad Bogolin spoke on MariaDB Buildbot, the journey of a reinvention in the Continuous Integration devroom and on MariaDB Buildbot Container environments in the Container devroom, reaching outside the bubble of usual MariaDB Server users.
- Anna Widenius held a much-acclaimed talk on Organising online events and “the new normal” in the Community track. She kept chatting with her audience for ages after her talk was concluded. Yay!
- Kaj Arnö (myself) spoke on Ensuring user focus of open source development: Case MariaDB Server, also in the Community track. The Q&A focused on inclusion and on how to ensure community members feel safe in the environment.
Interacting with users was, as always at FOSDEM, the most important takeaway. This has both a social and a technical aspect. One team member noted that it’s great to be able to put faces to chat room handles! Not quite like sharing a beverage, but still much better than character-only interaction in our Zulip chat rooms.
Our first todo was to share the videos already made. That’s now done, and published in this blog post.
Our second todo will be related to the roadmap, or more specifically, to all the tasks listed in Jira. We call them “MDEVs”, due to the prefix of individual entries. Well over a dozen individual MDEVs were discussed during FOSDEM, and we are grateful to get the user perspective on what is important, so we can allocate our resources accordingly. In due course, you’ll see a summary of the FOSDEM 2021 MDEV discussions on desirable features and bug fixes.
Our third todo is to follow up on our FOSDEM interactions. We got quite a number of new contacts that we want to pursue, and having a meaningful interaction.
Our fourth todo will be adjusting our own goals based on what we learned at FOSDEM. It would be foolish not to use your input.
We have already personally thanked the speakers contributing to the MariaDB devroom. We would also like to extend our thank you to the FOSDEM organisers. It must have been quite a stressful challenge to set up such a huge conference, determining how to map real life to a good virtual experience! Sure, there were some glitches (eg. the Q&A sessions did not work), but all in all, you did a great job. Thank you!
Allow me to conclude by speculating about next year’s FOSDEM. I really long back to the face-to-face interactions and the beverage! At the same time, I think it was fantastic to get access to an even larger pool of presenters and attendees, who did not need to spend time or money travelling around, queuing at airports, or checking into hotels. It also felt good to spend less carbon dioxide polluting the planet.
Hence, I hope for a new experience at FOSDEM 2022. Some way of using remote presenters and attendees to create value for local presenters and attendees in Brussels, and vice versa. Already at FOSDEM 2020 and before, lots of interactions happened over the net.
For 2022, I look forward to the type of “New Normal” we have yet to experience – one where remote attendees are neither the only type of attendees (like this year, 2021), nor secondary citizens being neglected (like in all conferences 2019 and before, FOSDEM or otherwise).
Creating that “New Normal” will take a lot of imagination, creativity and effort. But I believe it will be worth it.
Thank you, everyone involved with FOSDEM 2021!