FOSDEM 2023: MariaDB Reflections

MariaDB (Ian Gilfillan), Postgres (the Elephant) and MySQL (LeFred)

Finally, a face to face FOSDEM! The encounters invigorated day-to-day work for all of MariaDB Foundation, even those of us not present in Brussels.

Withdrawal symptoms

With three years since last time, it felt like it was about time to see the familiar FOSDEM faces live again. Finally, last weekend gave us a chance to do what one had come to take for granted – meet in packed devrooms, hear the latest, chat in corridors, exchange thoughts and make plans at Brussels cafés and restaurants.

Back with MySQL

The MariaDB, MySQL and Friends room was back together in one room, having been separated virtually. The drills from earlier years were not forgotten, and the vibes were similar. MariaDB re-joined devrooms with MySQL, which worked out even better than expected.

Two superficial reflections: Age and gender

Let me start with two casual remarks.

My first observation is that the faces in the corridors were older. Both IT in general and Open Source in particular have in my mind always been youthful industries. This seems to have turned into an illusion. Having myself earned my living by coding (or managing coders) for over four decades, it should be obvious to me that our industry is getting mature. But it didn’t strike me until now.

My second observation is that the faces in the corridors were male. Sadly, that hasn’t changed much since I started going to conferences. My aunt, a programmer starting at IBM in 1960 and now in her nineties, reports of similar gender proportions in her heydays. Only when it comes to ethnicity do I see more diversity than before, but not by a wide margin.

Impressions from the ecosystem

There are two reasons for me to attend FOSDEM. One of them is to get fresh impressions from outside my bubble, outside the group of people I meet regularly.

The impressions fall into two categories: Those about MariaDB and how it is perceived by others, and those about other industry developments. War stories about everything from ChatGPT to industry layoffs and new open source tools. 

As I wasn’t the only one from MariaDB Foundation at FOSDEM, you will likely see blogs by several people with various conclusions and insights from FOSDEM, over the coming weeks. 

Chatting with colleagues, friends and new contacts 

The other reason for me to go to FOSDEM is to meet with people. Of course, you get the impressions while talking to the people, so you may say that the two reasons are one and the same. But we humans are social creatures, and human interactions carry an intrinsic value regardless of whether they result in new insights or actions.

It was good to chat with various representatives of the MariaDB ecosystem, to meet old colleagues from MariaDB Corporation (now MariaDB plc), and from MySQL AB. Some of the discussions were about things that can result in visible progress by the MariaDB user base – on the process level or on a feature level. Other interactions were just about maintaining relationships, without any specific goals. For instance, I loved sharing a matcha latte with Peter Zaitsev of Percona; we chatted more about world politics and running, than we did about databases. The same morning, we had both had a very wet run through Ter Kamerenbos, the big park close to the FOSDEM venue.

Thank you, FOSDEM!

All in all, FOSDEM again did a great job of organising a meeting for thousands and thousands of developers. Thanks to the FOSDEM organisers, thanks to Ian Gilfillan organising the MariaDB Foundation attendance, thanks to everyone coming to the MariaDB stand and devroom!

See you again at FOSDEM 2024!