In the first weekend of February, me (Evrim Öztamur) and Sergey Khalil embarked on an exciting journey to FOSDEM’s 2024 edition to witness the current state of free and open-source software. This marked our first foray into the annual event, which celebrated its 25th milestone since its birth in 2000.

What is fosdem

FOSDEM, which stands for Free and Open-Source Developers’ European Meeting, has established itself as the premier conference of its kind in Europe. Considering that the term open-source was truly coined in 1998, FOSDEM is one of the frontrunners of the open-source community too and remains to be one of the driving factors of it reaching the mainstream. FOSDEM is free to attend, hosted annually since then, and is a community icon.

Fosdem’s mission

The chief goal of the event is bringing free and open-source developers, which normally interact with each other through the intern, face-to-face. Throughout the weekend the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) campus hosts 951 speakers, 880 events, and 67 tracks which cover almost everything you can think of:

Programming languages from JavaScript to Perl, infrastructure from networking to automobiles, hardware from Intel to RISC-V, Linux and other operating systems from kernel to user space, and hobbyists working on Game Boys to scientific calculators. It would make a very long list to go through the entire massive scope of this event, so check out the schedule at your own risk!

Our Nerd Experience

Our experience during these two days can best be described, in my opinion, as an open day at the nerd university, where glancing through the list of scheduled talks gives you the same childlike curiosity and excitement as walking through a candy store. For us newbies, the entire experience of not only exploring the wide variety of talks and interests, but also putting the faces behind our most beloved projects was absolutely incredible.

Although not having the opportunity to visit everything (without the use of a Time-Turner like in Harry Potter), we managed to attend quite a few cool talks. Here are some of our highlights:

highlights and learnings

Despite the impossibility of attending every talk, we managed to catch some truly insightful ones:

  • So you think you know Git with Scott Chacon

    Scott Chacon, one of the co-founders of GitHub and currently working on GitButler, was a delightful exploration of Git and ways to improve your workflow. One very handy new option is the git push --force-with-lease command that will essentially check that what you last pushed is still what’s on the server, before it will force the new branch update. No more accidentally nuking your remote with your downstream!

  • You too could have made curl by Daniel Stenberg

    Daniel Stenberg, the creator and maintainer of curl, talked about his experience in bringing one of the most widely used open-source software projects (currently on about 20,000,000,000 devices across the world, and Mars!) to its success. Daniel kindly reminds us to treat our projects seriously, not divide our attention, and give them time to grow. You could indeed have made curl, and it’s really just a story of determination.

  • The State of Funding Free & Open Source Software by Kara Sowles

    Kara Sowles from GitHub’s Developer Relations team, brought to our attention the foundations of how open-source projects make (or usually don’t make) money. She discussed the challenges faced by the maintainers of the fundamental software infrastructure of our world, and how we can progress forward. (Hint: donate to your favorite open-source projects and encourage your employers to do so too!)

  • Finding the Path Forward to Defend our Software Right to Repair by Bradley M. Kuhn

    Bradley M. Kuhn from the Software Freedom Conservancy, discussed the ethics of free and open-source software, and their work for establishing the right to repair, improve and reinstall software. He focused on the importance of our ability to control the software on our devices and what we can do as developers to encourage the proliferation of FOSS for our rights.

Beyond the code

We left out the more technical discussions for brevity, but the mentioned talks are highly relevant to the broader developer community. We urge everyone to get involved in the open-source community, which goes beyond just coding and maintenance.

join us next time

We found FOSDEM to be an overwhelmingly positive experience, thanks to the passionate individuals present. We’re excited to return next year and hope to see you there in Brussels!

Met ervim sparren over fosdem?