Red Hat has a unique opportunity to reach out and connect with a global free and open source software community. In recent months, it has become apparent that certain regions in that community feel less of a connection to Red Hat and its varied community efforts. South America is one such region, and this trip was undertaken with the goal to discover what, if anything, Red Hat and the OSAS team can do to maximize its relationship with South American communities.
The CentOS dojo was the first event on this eight-day trip, with Jim Perrin from CentOS, Diane Mueller from OpenShift, and myself for oVirt (and a little bit of Project Atomic), as well as Eduardo Jansen from HostDime speaking on CentOS and how our various projects and products work with CentOS.
The venue was well-suited for the event: BandTec, a vocational campus in the city of São Paulo that provided a mid-sized lecture hall for the evening. Attendance for the event, which was expected to be around 35, was lower, with a combination of sysadmins and developers in attendance. Jansen delivered his talk on HostDime’s use of CentOS in Portuguese, while we Red Hatters stayed in English. Ricardo de Oliveira from the São Paulo Red Hat office was on hand to provide translation support, but for the most part, we believe our talks got across. Listening to English and reading our slides was more than sufficient for our guests.
The staff and faculty at BandTec was very accommodating. They requested that we record mini-interviews with members of their English department, to be shown later to BandTec students. From these interviews, I shared observations on teaching IT with English faculty member Vinicius Silva, and we have struck up a dialog where I may be giving his students some feedback on their projects as time goes on. I saw this as an opportunity to deliver open-source-based observations on the state of technology.
The conversations during and after the presentations were good, and I concur in our hosts’ observations that the next time we conduct an event like this in São Paulo, it might be better to hold it on a weekend, as weeknight traffic in the city is legendarily bad and may have played a factor in keeping people away.
My overall impressions of the event were positive. This was the first of many observations on this trip: IT staffers and managers in Brazil seem to have a predilection for using Ubuntu-based products in their personal projects, but for enterprise use, they are very keen on using el6-based technology. CentOS as an enterprise platform for open source projects in this region would be highly valuable to IT departments that are just now coming into the fore in Brazil’s growing economy.
Like the CentOS dojo, predicted attendance for this event (which was estimated to be anywhere from 8,000-15,000 depending on who you asked) was lower… according to the FISL site, attendance on Friday was up to just 3,550 attendees. With Saturday’s traffic, I estimate attendance may have been raised to about 4,500.
The core of this event is very much its program: a very rich FLOSS-oriented program with sessions on development, systems administration, DevOps, robotics, big data and the Internet of Things. oVirt was fortunate enough to have three talks in this program: two sessions led by myself, and an oVirt Community update led by the Brazil-based oVirt team members and myself.
In terms of audience type, I would say that a vast majority of attendees were students and/or young professionals. I saw very few executive types or seasoned IT veterans in the crowd or the sessions. This is important, because I believe it affords Red Hat and other free software companies a great opportunity to connect with this demographic and plug them into the open source projects we have going now.
Based on the responses I received for the oVirt talks, I think there is an opportunity here to conduct co-located oVirt workshops for attendees and thus get more technical skills for oVirt disseminated. An oVirt-sponsored meetup at this event would have also attracted more interested parties.
For the most part, despite the language barrier, I found that Brazil is a pretty awesome place to visit. Everyone I met was friendly and accomodating, and travel costs (once you pay for the plane ticket) are actually much less expensive than visiting Asia or Western Europe.
The country itself is beautiful. São Paulo is a modern and developed city, and Porto Alegre offers a smaller-city charm. My one regret was not getting out of the cities on this trip to see the countryside.
Language is still an issue; my hosts agreed that Brazilians are about as eager to learn a second language as citizens of the United States. Spanish, by the way is of little help. My smattering of Spanish only served to muddle conversations, not help them.
Still, events like FISL do provide excellent translators, and when speaking technical-ese, conversations usually were clear enough to follow. I listened in on a dinner conversation about Linux kernel development for about a minute before realizing it was in Portuguese.
And that’s the commonality that we all share: a love of technology that brings people of different cultures together to create tools that get things done. I, for one, am looking forward to my next visit.