FOSDEM is Community at its Purest

Fedora Booth If you have never been to FOSDEM on the ULB Solbosch campus in Brussels before, let me try to sum it up in one sentence for you: over 8,000 free and open source developers and enthusiasts all seeking to learn as much as possible in as many ways as possible.

That really doesn’t do it justice. With more detail, I can also tell you that it is crowded, loud, and certainly populated by the most politically and socially diverse people I have ever seen in one place.

And I would not trade any visit for the world.

FOSDEM Keynote
FOSDEM Keynote Audience

FOSDEM is an event that is full of contradictions to me and many of my fellow community managers. At its heart, it is an event that is comprised of exactly the right kind of people we want to meet: new developers and sysadmins who are trying to get a handle on this thing known as free and open source software (FLOSS).

At the same time, there are some people we could just as easily avoid: people coming in with chips on their shoulders and intent on delivering their complaints about what they perceive as something wrong with FLOSS. Mind you, it’s not the complaints about our software that’s the problem. Indeed, we welcome those conversations. How else do we learn?

No, it’s the people who come to us and complain about what other projects are doing who are the concern. Many’s the time people have walked up to me to complain about Project X or Y, thinking to have in me a sympathetic ear to conspiratorially trade gossip.

Actually? No.

We understand that there is competition for users and developers in the FLOSS world. But making gains at the expense of others is not the way to go. At the end of the day, FLOSS is about collaboration. Bad-mouthing people and projects ius just a fast way to close doors, not open them.

Plus, if you’re complaining to us about how another project is doing, how does that help the other project? They will have less of a chance to improve. If you have already tried to talk to them, try again. Escalate the issue. Get an answer. Try every avenue before giving up.

If this does not work, then move to another solution. Be ready to explain what it is you need as clearly as possible to the new project.

FOSDEM is, if anything, all about choice. Make you own, but never at the expense of others.

Photos by Brian Proffitt and Tuomas Kuosmanen.

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About Brian Proffitt

Brian is a Senior Principal Community Architect for the Red Hat Open Source Program Office, responsible for community content, onboarding, and open source consulting. Brian also serves on the governing board for Project CHAOSS, a metrics-oriented approach to ascertaining community health. A former technology journalist, Brian is also a graduate lecturer at the University of Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @TheTechScribe.