FOSDEM 2018: the talks I followed

FOSDEM

As promised, here is my post about the talks I managed to attend at FOSDEM this year. I must say that I was interested in only two talks when I went through the schedule, and both were part of the Community devroom. It was sort of expected for me, as I am currently not active in software development. But when I entered the Community devroom (after a long queue!) I decided to stay for a few more talks, that proved interesting and thought-provoking.

The first talk I followed was “What community can learn from marketing”, by Matthew Revell. My take home message is manyfold:

  • Marketing and  FOSS community management differ on a few but crucial fundamental principles. Therefore it makes sense to apply marketing’s lessons learned only when the core principles of FOSS projects are respected.
  • Marketing has done great work on the analysis side. Applying its tools to a free and open source projecs can help refine its goals and target userbase.
  • Similarly, marketing puts a lot of importance into planning future development. This attention can prove useful for FOSS projects too.
  • Matthew has been careful in wording his talk with variations of “if you do X, Y will likely happen” rather than “you have to do X”. It helps me filter the possible actions according to their consequences instead of following a protocol.

Then it was the turn of “You’ve Got Some Explaining to Do! So Use An FAQ!” by Simon Phipps and Rich Sands. It was great to listen to them unwind the topic together, with ease and humour! Here are the messages I brought home:

  • FAQs are great to showcase the project’s ideas, and are going to be read and tested by the developers, who will inevitably ask the project to make clear and precise statements.
  • FAQs require the ideas and principles to be transparent to the reader. It must be clear to all project members, especially the leadership, that showing transparency builds trust, even if it is not always easy to do.

I moved to the large La Fontaine room for “Python 3: 10 years later” by Victor Stinner. I’m ashamed to say that I never learned Python 3 properly, and I was so surprised to read that this version is around since so long. The release strategy was not really made to push for the new major version, so a lot of production code has not been migrated. Given the growing amount of user-provided packages, and the multiple options for distributing a Python app, the actual drop of Python 2.x doesn’t look imminent, but hopefully will be done more easily than before.

Overall, I got the impression that more speakers than last time were mentioning empathy, and more in general the importance of positive human interactions in the softtware development environment. I think it helps including more people, first of all the users, in the discussions, especially in this time where software users are the majority of the population, and therefore represent a wide variety of personalities and backgrounds. I am hopeful for the future of FOSS, in any form it will take, if it will be considered part of human culture as a whole.

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Welcome to FOSDEM 2018! keynote – slides from the volunteer organiser
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