Telephone +44(0)1524 64544

FOSDEM Memories

Sprouting Up in Brussels

Thu Feb 5 12:35:00 2015


This is my first time at FOSDEM, that's pretty stunning considering that it is just across the channel from the UK. We have always presented a good reason for this, it normally coincides with returning after Perl Oasis and finding a schedule gap for two events at the year start has always proved tiresome.[1]

Ian and Tom in the Grand Place

Ian and Tom in the Grand Place

FOSDEM, for those not in the know, is an Open Source event that is held at the end of January/start of February in Brussels. It is likely the largest event of its kind and certainly the largest collection of Open Source Developers. Each year FOSDEM attracts in excess of five thousand attendees who gather to see new projects, meet old friends, share and collaborate in the wider open source communities.

Perl has always had a good presence at FOSDEM thanks to the ceaseless work done by Wendy and Claudio. Each year they organise the devroom and the Perl Merchandise stand at FOSDEM. Liz and Wendy manage to even bring the, extraordinarily impressive, Perl Library they own along to the event.[2]

Fosdem Signage

Fosdem Signage

So this year we decided to come to FOSDEM and to bring a number of staff along with us. Matt took the opportunity to do a talk, Ian, Errietta and Tom wanted to meet with some of the open source community projects they knew.[3] I wanted to come along to help Wendy with the merchandise stand, to experience FOSDEM and to see Larry talk in the main building.

On the Stall

I spent the majority of Saturday on the merchandise stall with Wendy, Jens and Sue. Between the four of us we were able to talk to, and answer to a greater or lesser degree, all of the queries of the people who came to the stand. One of the things to note is that there are people who approach a language stand to see what's new with that language, others may want to learn what it is and some to tell you the issues they have with it and to see how well you are surviving.

Perl Table

Perl Table

The language cultures in Open Source can often be a territorial place with people who are passionate about improving their language and therefore passionate in both their defence of, or issues with, their language and others. I was hoping to interject some lightness to those conversation that started with "I hate x because...' with replies such as, 'well heck that's a shame as it loves you.' I often accompanied this with a smile and a change of tactic by asking about what they did, where they came from.[4]


Wendy checking important details on the organisation of the Perl Presence

What impressed me about the Perl presence, and it was an easy thing to compare, was how well we represented ourselves. Both in the amount and quality of handouts, merchandise, advice that was available and how this related to other languages. I am naturally going to think that we did the best, I love what we do and the efforts people take so I sure am going to say that in the very least. However I had a number of people who commentated that we gave a good representation of ourselves, even those who came to tell me why they didn't like Perl, and I think as a community we have a lot to be proud of, especially the quality of our volunteers.

Perl Talks and Larry's Announcement

Because I spent all of Saturday at the Perl booth I didn't get to see the Perl talks in our devroom. This was unfortunate but I am hoping to watch them online later. However on the Sunday we had talks in the main track that I was able to see.

The largest auditorium at FOSDEM is in the Janson building it holds approximately 1,400 people. In 2015 Perl had two talks in the Janson building back to back on the Sunday afternoon.

Dana gave an excellent talk that went deep into the design choices and implementation of his number theory module and the choices that either restricted or enabled him in doing so.

Dana doing a talk

Dana on stage during his talk on Perl Number Theory

Larry made a rather special announcement during his talk. the talk had an excellent theme and was based on a wonderful analogy using Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit to represent Perl6 and Perl5 respectively. His announcement was that the Perl6 team will attempt to get a development release of version 1.0 available for Larry's birthday in September and a Version 1.0 release by Christmas. So it looks like Christmas 2015 was the Christmas that we were expecting all along.


Part of the Open Source phenomena[5] is that you build up friendships without ever seeing the person in real life. FOSDEM, like many other language specific events, allows you to meet these people in the flesh, sometimes physically see them, for the very first time.

FOSDEM has a very relaxed, I guess we could say Geek, culture. I saw some conversations start up on Twitter when I was already here about the code of conduct but I didn't have the physical bandwidth or knowledge of them to really comment upon this.[6] For the actual physical meetings I was a part of it seems very relaxed with people making good contact and having the kind of conversations you would expect at an event like this.

Ultimaker Stand

The Ultimaker Stand

I was surprised at how close knit it still felt eventhough most of the time I was looking at a sea of faces and a mass of moving bodies each wrapped in their own intimate conversations or bouncy party exuberance. This I can attribute to maybe a sense of belonging, it is probably down to a mix of shared cultural references of modes of thinking that allow the development of this sentiment.

I loved going to FOSDEM and I loved the food, drink and sights of Brussels. This may have been the first time I have been, but I very much doubt it will be the last.


[1] Well actually there are no good reasons for this we just never addressed the problem properly before.

[2] I cannot see how large this library is, it takes up two large bookcases and is probably in excess of four hundred and fifty books.

[3] These include open hardware people, OpenNMS, Firefox/Mozilla crew, Network admins and a slew of tech contacts who would be in the same location at the same time.

[4] I am often tired by the need to try and defend, I don't think we need to defend things. I think we need to listen. If someone has a problem, if someone has an opinion we should discuss that with them but we should also listen to them before we evaluate the value. We shouldn't just dismiss them even if we vehemently disagree or if they are wrong. We can enlighten.

[5] It sounds a little pissy but it is pretty much the only word that seems to fit for the whole thing.

[6] On speaking to some people they stated that the CofC will be revised for future years to reflect the fact that this is an expected minimum requirements for events.