Fosdem

It's the time of the year where the Free and Open source folks flock to Belgium.
It's FOSDEM time!.

I was lucky enough to have a couch to sleep on and some friends to hang out with.
They live or lived in Brussels, they know the right place to eat, to drink, to take touristy pictures, the whole shebang.

I was personally going there for the social aspect of it.
So as planned, I didn't went to many talk.
Instead, I met new people, people I haven't seen in a while.
I purposely didn't spend the whole weekend running around.
You need to sneak your way in full rooms one time out of two if you chain talks.
That said I did attend a few.

The Ntimed talk was really relevant with the leap second happening this June 30.
This was a reminder that under the rather calm surface, the FOSS oceans are as tumultuous as ever.
The FreeBSD talk down the OpenBSD, but not as much as they talk down the *Linux and yet not as much as they talk down MacOS.
It's easy to miss it if you are not partisan in such debate.
It is more difficult to miss, when you are getting a lot of grievances as a maintainer in one of those other *nix.

I was also really keen to see the UX/UI for Open Data talk from @hollielubbock.
It was really nice, I only wished it could have last longer.
Some really great example on what kind of dataset call for what kind of visualisation.
The meme generator is a good laugh, yet a clever way to look at art.

She also made a point about how museums started off as someone's house filled with stuff.
Back then, there wasn't a carefully planned narrative.
Owners were not curators, it wasn't about trying to guide you through a crafted experience.
A website or an API in that regard is quite similar. You make your own story, you only can connect the dots.

Other crucial insight provided by this presentation: the need for clear and simple interface, the need to let the users draw their own conclusions.
That piece of otherwise dull data, should now be a way to inspire.
It should empower the users to do something.

I wasn't surprise to hear that going forward, open data might be a requirement to obtain public funding in the UK.
It makes a lot of sense, considering that museum and gallery are largely financed by citizen.

I also tried to talk people about Open Food Facts.
I think the general audience of FOSDEM is our audience.
They don't need explaining on the 'why'.
Some even knew about the project, which is a positive sign.

Most people were genuinely interested. Few people even told me that they built or tried to build similar project. The main issue they faced was one of technology (quite ironic from a tech crowd). They all tried to do it before the ubiquitous availability of smartphone.

I had quite a good angle to approach the crowd, to get the conversation started.
We've came up with a bit of a theme for fosdem "Open your beer and meet Open Food Facts".
The goal was to get as many new beer in the database as possible.
I'm not aware of a set goal, but I think we didn't go as far as we could have.

The tactic was simple: stay around the bar and engage with people. I looked for people with a beer at hand and asked if I could scan their beer.
Yes, it does sound weird, so I got a few raised eye-brow.

Once you explain what you are doing, how it works and why you are doing it, people open up and are keen to let you their beer.
Then they start asking questions: success!

It wasn't always easy, since the app requires data.
One problem was network, or the lack thereof under the amphitheatre.
There wasn't any working wifi or cellular network.

It is difficult enough to get people attention with that kind of approach. It is extra hard when you need to run outside to access Internet and come back to finish your speech.
Overall people were nice and patient, so it wasn't a big deal, but not optimal.
Beer wise, FOSDEM is not to be ashamed.
To finish the day, I went and see the bar staff.

I asked if I could see their selection, even if it was the empty ones. I have to say they were very VERY helpful.
They took some time to find all the different empty can so I could scan them and take picture.
There was quite a selection of beer and club mate there.
The less popular choices were sourced directly at the bar itself.
Some were registered before FOSDEM and other were entered their favourite ones during FOSDEM (shout out to @lucaa). It didn't take long to have the whole offering of beverages in the DB.

Overall, everyone I talked to about the project was happy to get a stickers or two.
Some went and talked to their work colleagues, some went on social media to tell the world how they liked the project.
The only missing piece, one that most people asked me, is a lightning talk