Thursday 5 August 2010 by Bradley M. Kuhn
Conferences are often ephemeral. I've been going to FLOSS conferences since before there were conferences specifically for the topic. In the 1990s, I'd started attending various USENIX conferences. Many of my career successes can be traced back to attending those conferences and meeting key leaders in the FLOSS world. While I know this is true generally, I can't really recall, without reviewing notes from specific conferences, what happened at them, and how specifically it helped me personally or FLOSS in general. I know they're important to me and to software freedom, but it's tough to connect the dots perfectly without looking in detail at what happened when.
Indeed, for most of us, after decades, conferences start to run
together. At GUADEC this year, I had at least two conversations of the
What city was that? What conference was that? Wait, what
year was that?. And that was just discussions about past
GUADECs specifically, let alone other events!
For my part, after checking my records, I discovered that I hadn't been to a GUADEC since 2003. I've served as FSF's representative on the GNOME Advisory Board straight through from 2001 until today, but nevertheless I hadn't been able to attend GUADECs from 2004-2009. Thus, the 2010 GUADEC was somewhat of a reintroduction for me to the in-person GNOME community.
With fresh eyes, what I saw had great impact on me. GNOME seems to be a vibrant, healthy community, with many contributors and incredible diversity in both for-profit and volunteer contributions. GNOME's growth and project diversity has greatly exceeded what I would have expected to see between 2004 and 2010.
It's not often I go to a conference and am jealous that I can't be more engaged as a developer. I readily admit that I haven't coded regularly in more than a decade (and I often long to do it again). But, I usually talk myself out of it when I remember the difficultly of getting involved and in shepherding work upstream. It's a non-trivial job, and some don't even bother. The challenges are usually enough to keep the enticement at bay.
Yet, I left GUADEC 2010 and couldn't see a downside in getting
involved. I found myself on the flight back wishing I could do more,
thinking through the projects I saw and wondering how I might be a coder
There must be some time on the weekends somewhere, I
Fact is, I've got too many other FLOSS-world responsibilities and I must admit I probably won't contribute code, despite wanting to. What's amazing, though, is that everything about GUADEC made me want to get more involved and there appeared no downside in doing so. There's something special about a conference (and a community) that can inspire that feeling in a hardened, decade-long conference attendee. I interact with a lot of FLOSS communities, and GNOME is probably the most welcoming of all.
The rest of this post is a random bullet list of cool things that happened at GUADEC that I witnessed/heard/thought about:
The change in GNOME 3 schedule is bad for me, but it's clearly the right thing for GNOME, so I support it. That's representative of the “all for one” and selfless attitude you'll find in the GNOME community.
That's about all the random thoughts and observations I have from GUADEC. The conference was excellent, and I think I simply must readd it to my “must attend each year” list.
Finally, I want to thank the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my travel costs. It allowed me to take some vacation time from my day job to attend and participate in GUADEC.
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