As you walk down the crowded, narrow Rue des Bouchers on any given Brussels evening, you may find yourself assailed by restaurant barkers intent on getting you to swing into their establishment and dine on their fare. It's not exactly a welcoming gesture, particularly when some of the barkers embrace the situation and just tell you flat out they want your money.
This past weekend, five kilometers to the south at the Université libre de Bruxelles, other crowded, narrow pathways were full of folks promoting a different sort of fare: free and open source software. If you don't like crowds, FOSDEM would definitely a place to not be –except for the fact that so much goes on there. Far from unwelcoming, the sense of excitement and camaraderie at this annual event makes it a much more positive environment than similar events within FLOSS.
To describe FOSDEM to the newcomer is at once easy and frustrating –"big" certainly covers it, but doesn't communicate the scope of an event that spans this small university in the heart of Brussels. The sheer variety of sessions alone are enough to feed the appetite of the most voracious FLOSS advocate.
oVirt certainly had its share of sessions in the conference program. From Gerrit to Gluster to smart VM scheduling, members of the oVirt community were out in force, educating attendees on the latest work being done in our project, as well as the tools and techniques we use to improve our process flow.
oVirt was also fortunate enough to have a booth in the event's exhibition hall, smack-dab in-between the OpenStack and Puppet stands. Working alongside the OpenStack community folks was fun, given that many people tend to conflate the use cases for our two projects. But the proximity of our booths enabled us to explain to the many visitors who attended when and why would would want to use oVirt, and when an OpenStack solution like RDO would be a better fit.
Yes, free software projects do find themselves competing for mindshare and resources at times, but unlike the barkers of Rue des Bouchers, we're not going to do it at the expense of the user's wallet or valuable time. If a particular tool or platform works better for someone, we'd rather they use that happily instead of being unhappy with our offerings.
That doesn't mean we're not going to try to improve our own project, though. Self-awareness of problems and the self-discipline to improve them – these are the keys to open source and free software projects' success. Not slick marketing and empty promises.
That's never fare you should see at FOSDEM.
Follow the oVirt community on Twitter at @oVirt.