FOSDEM 2024 - Summary and Insights of the Open-Source Conference in Belgium Brussels (2024-02-03):
As I stepped into the bustling crowds of FOSDEM 2024, the air was filled with an electrifying sense of community and excitement. This annual open-source conference, held in Brussels, had once again transformed into a melting pot of ideas, innovation, and collaboration. As a fervent supporter of open source, I couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation for the unique experiences that awaited me over the next two days.

The crowd was already aware of this event a long time ago and we heavily discussed and chatted on Twitter, Fediverse and Matrix. However, there're many people I've never seen in my life before, but almost talking everyday to them. Therefore, I had a shirt to recognize me easily and also to make some ads for the BSDCafe:
gyptazy BSD Cafe T-Shirt gyptazy BSD Cafe T-Shirt

The venue itself was a testament to the diversity and inclusivity of the open-source community. Housed at the Université libre de Bruxelles, FOSDEM brought together developers, enthusiasts, and experts from all corners of the globe. The sheer magnitude of attendees was awe-inspiring, a testament to the growing influence and relevance of open-source technologies.

One of the highlights of my FOSDEM experience was the eclectic range of talks and presentations. The conference featured a multitude of tracks covering everything from programming languages and cloud technologies to security and community building. The depth and breadth of knowledge shared were staggering, as luminaries from various projects and organizations provided insights into the latest trends and advancements in the open-source world.

The sense of camaraderie was palpable as I engaged in discussions with fellow attendees. Whether it was over a cup of coffee in the bustling corridors or during the Q&A sessions after a talk, the willingness to share ideas and collaborate was at the core of every conversation. The open-source ethos, which emphasizes transparency and collaboration, was not just a theme of the conference but a living, breathing reality in every interaction.

The diversity of projects showcased at FOSDEM was nothing short of remarkable. From established giants to emerging technologies, every corner of the open-source ecosystem was represented. Walking through the exhibition areas, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the passion and dedication that individuals and teams poured into their projects. It was a humbling experience to see the profound impact these open-source initiatives had on shaping the future of technology.

As the day unfolded, the community spirit extended beyond the lecture halls and exhibition booths. Birds of a feather (BoF) sessions provided an intimate setting for like-minded individuals to gather and delve deeper into specific topics. The informal and interactive nature of these sessions fostered an environment where participants could share their experiences, troubleshoot challenges, and forge connections that would extend beyond the conference.

One of the standout moments at FOSDEM 2024 was undoubtedly Benny Siegert's captivating talk commemorating the 30th anniversary (back in 2023) of NetBSD. As the audience settled into their seats, anticipation filled the room, and it quickly became evident that we were in for a treat. Benny, a seasoned NetBSD developer, took us on a journey through the rich history of this venerable operating system. His talk wasn't just a chronological account of milestones; it was a deeply personal narrative that conveyed the spirit and resilience of the NetBSD community over the past three decades.
NetBSD Fosdem 2024 NetBSD Fosdem 2024

What struck me most was the emphasis on the community's commitment to portability. Benny illustrated how NetBSD's design principles prioritized clean code, clear interfaces, and support for a wide range of hardware architectures. This commitment not only contributed to NetBSD's stability and versatility but also fostered a community culture that valued inclusivity and collaboration.

At this point I really like to quote Benny:

    "iproute still uses the same commands as it did 20 years before in #NetBSD, why not?!"

I think especially this quote is a remarkable reason why so many people love BSD based systems over the volatile Linux ones. However, as the journey through time continued, Benny seamlessly wove anecdotes of technological advancements and community milestones. From the early days of supporting a handful of platforms to the present, where NetBSD runs on an impressive array of systems, including exotic and obscure architectures, the dedication of the developers and contributors shone through.

The conference swag, adorned with logos and slogans from various open-source projects, was more than just a collection of items; it was a badge of participation, a symbol of belonging to a community that values collaboration and innovation. T-shirts, hoodies, and stickers proudly displayed the names of projects I admired, creating a sense of camaraderie among attendees.

The merchandise stands were not just about clothing and accessories; they were treasure troves of project-specific goodies. From intricately designed enamel pins to custom-designed mugs and even quirky plush toys representing beloved open-source mascots, the variety was both delightful and surprising. Each purchase felt like a small investment in supporting the projects that had enriched my professional and personal journey.
Illumos Fosdem 2024 Shirt Fosdem 2024 Shirt

The financial aspect of merchandise also played a crucial role in sustaining the conference itself. The proceeds from sales often contributed to covering the costs of organizing such a massive event, ensuring that FOSDEM could continue to be a free and accessible gathering for open-source enthusiasts worldwide. Also a big thanks to everyone who gave out shirts for free and special thanks to Thomas Merkel (who's also heavily involved in Illumos) for serving me my desired Illumos shirt in the right size! Of course I donated even he wanted to gift me! Buying a conference T-shirt or a set of stickers became not just a personal indulgence but a meaningful contribution to the longevity of the open-source community. So, please donate and help the community to build this awesome software for everyone - including you!

Jacob Duchniewicz commenced the talk by providing a comprehensive overview of OpenRAN, a paradigm that had been gaining significant traction in the telecommunications industry. He elucidated the fundamental shift from traditional, proprietary radio access networks to a more open, interoperable, and standards-based approach. As the talk unfolded, Duchniewicz explored the technical intricacies of Open RAN architectures. He discussed the disaggregation of hardware and software components, highlighting how this approach enables operators to choose best-of-breed solutions for different network elements. The implications for scalability, efficiency, and the ability to quickly adapt to evolving technologies were underscored, sparking a collective enthusiasm within the audience. This talk was a must have for everyone who's into 3GPP standards including 4G, 5G, VoLTE etc. The papers of the talk can also be found right here.

One of the most enriching aspects of attending FOSDEM 2024 was the invaluable opportunity to meet individuals face-to-face whom I had previously only known through the digital realm. The transition from virtual interactions to in-person meetings brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of the open-source community. The value of meeting these individuals in person extended beyond the exchange of pleasantries. It was an opportunity to delve deeper into shared interests, collaborate on projects, and gain insights that transcended the limitations of digital communication. The nuances of facial expressions, the passion conveyed through spoken words, and the genuine warmth of a handshake created a connection that no amount of online interaction could replicate.

As I reflect on the value of meeting new people at FOSDEM 2024, I am reminded that the open-source community is not just a collection of projects and repositories; it is a network of individuals driven by a shared ethos. The conference provided a platform to bridge the gap between the virtual and the real, fostering connections that will undoubtedly extend beyond the event itself. The friendships formed and collaborations initiated during those two days exemplified the transformative power of bringing online relationships into the tangible realm of face-to-face interactions. FOSDEM 2024 was not just a conference; it was a celebration of the vibrant, interconnected tapestry that is the open-source community.

The evening social events further solidified the sense of community. Networking opportunities abounded as I found myself engaged in discussions with developers, project maintainers, and enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds. The collaborative spirit continued to flourish, as ideas flowed freely and bonds were forged that would undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing evolution of open source. I'm always happy to see such free events like the FOSDEM and the Froscon and if course also many others. It was a great value for the community, for all participants and also for me. I'm thankful and happy to see you again next year!

Recordings of the talks can be found right here.