This was my first FOSDEM, which has been happening in Brussels every year for the past 20 years! It’s kind of a mostly talk based hacker space with no registration required for the attendees. This year the estimate was 5000 attendees each day, and that doesn’t include the fringe events happening around the main event. The fringe itself has tons of events and I managed to attend one or two.
The whole thing has an interesting format; you have the main organization team and then the dev rooms, all handled by volunteers, and with a perfectly functional delegation system. The dev room volunteers have complete control over what happens there, given a few general rules and principles like fire safety and a CoC.
It was interesting to see that they had very few sponsors, and most sponsors would contribute through service rather than money, e.g. providing the venue, or the cabling system or the recycled laptops to process the videos.
Another point which I’d like to take to PyData conferences is that the video review was done predominantly by speakers. I received an email after my talk, I then suggested exact start/finish times, audio channel, etc., and with all that your video would be up and done within an hour after your talk.
It’s truly impressive to see what they’ve done with volunteer work and minimal external services. It’s also interesting from a planning point of view that they manage the whole thing w/o ever knowing who’s coming and how many. Of course there are long lines behind most of the dev room doors waiting to get in, but usually you wouldn’t wait for more than a talk’s time long and that was mostly around half an hour.
One thing which stroke me was the poor gender diversity of the conference and the speakers. The Python room for instance, where I gave my talk, had 0 female speakers. The diversity wasn’t much better among attendees either, and it was worse in some rooms than others.
There were two events/rooms which I particularly found interesting and met a ton of really cool people in them were the CHAOScon and the community dev room. We had really interesting discussions and talks about how to build a community around a project, how to measure community’s health, and how to sustain it. Most definitely useful for the communities I’m involved with.
I also gave a talk on How to write a scikit-learn compatible estimator/transformer with the video and the material both available. It was the first time I presented something (other than opening/closing remarks of a conference) to ~500 people. It was such a pleasure and privilege to do so.
I guess I’ll try to be more engaged with the community related communities next year if I end up going, and should definitely plan my time better. It’s overwhelming and exhausting to try and figure things out there. The talks are also all live streamed, that’s also something to use.