FOSDEM 2015 - Recap

Hey all! This year I had the chance to travel to Brussels and attend FOSDEM 2015 as a sponsored Mozilla Rep. As you may already know, FOSDEM is the largest annual gathering of Free & Open Source Software developers, hackers, advocates and enthusiasts in Europe. Every year during the conference more than 5k people (yeap!) travel to Brussels to attend. It's amazing. So many FOSS-related people from all over the world in the same place. You get to meet good old friends, and also have the chance to meet some new folks who you might have known or been working with virtually but never actually met in person.

Friday 30/Jan
I left home in the morning and got the bus which took me to the Samos Int Airport. The total length of the trip was somewhat 45-50 minutes. Too bad there are not very frequent bus lines traveling to/from the airport. I arrived there about 2 hours before my flight, which is good (and also safe).

When it was time, I boarded the plane and within 45 minutes I had already reached the Athens Int Airport. My next flight to Brussels was again something like 2 hours ahead, but thankfully as a frequent traveler I've become an expert on that particular airport so I had no trouble finding some entertainment until the next boarding time.

Anyways. That flight had a total length of approx. 2hrs 45 minutes. I arrived in Brussels in the afternoon and took the train from the airport to the central station. Thankfully I've been to Brussels again, so I already knew my way around and had no issues using the public transportation. The hotel was also within walking distance from the station, which was a good thing. I checked-in, but obviously spent little time in the hotel; I went outside and met the other Mozillians that had arrived earlier that day. We had dinner together. Then it was time for the famous FOSDEM beer event in Delirium, which is a must. Delirium offers a very large variety of beers and in fact it has won a Guiness world record for that. Unfortunately, some of us couldn't stay that much late since we were assigned with booth duties for the next day.

Saturday 31/Jan
Time for FOSDEM! Had a good breakfast in the hotel and along with Christos we took the bus to ULB. It was so much crowded, full of people attending FOSDEM as well. Surprisingly, there seemed to be a detour and since there was no information provided in English we found out about it the hard way. Anyways, we got out in another stop and had to walk for a very few minutes in order to reach the university. Along with the other Reps and Mozillians we set up the Mozilla booth. It was time for Firefox OS Devices and the famous Mozilla Swag.

Fabulous Mozilla Reps at the Booth (photo by Daniele Scasciafratte)

We had a lot of Firefox OS devices, including (but not limited to) Flames, Geeksphone Peaks and Keons, Flatfish Tablets, Alcatel One Touch Fire and ZTE Open C handsets. I had also brought an APC Rock board with me, running Firefox OS and hooked up on a large LCD Screen (thanks Ziggy), which I hope it was a great asset and a major attraction to the booth. A lot of people were so much interested in it and kept asking questions, which I was happy to answer.

We, the Mozilla Reps, were there on the booth to represent Mozilla, to promote our mission and our vision for the open web, to answer questions, to distribute swag and to engage with the participants in general. Thanks to our Firefox OS devices we were able to run both technical and non-technical hands-on representations as well. The booth was so much full of people and busy that day.

After the first day of FOSDEM came to an end, I returned to the hotel completely exhausted. I was actually feeling sick and tired and tried to take a power nap before heading to the mozilla community dinner. I could also barely feel my feet from the pain (been standing all day). After the dinner I couldn't resist and headed straight back to the hotel to sleep, but I was actually forced by Tim Maks and Stephen to have a beer with them in the hotel lobby :P

Sunday 01/Feb
I slept well the previous night (I needed to) and reached ULB alone for my booth shift that day. It was apparently snowing that morning, though it was not that strong and it didn't last enough.

On Sunday we had the Mozilla dev room which, from what I had heard, was filled with people. Other Reps took care of managing the dev room, as I was assigned to the booth for the second day as well. Our tasks at the booth were the same as the previous day. Though there were a lot Mozilla fans busy attending the dev room, I'd say that this didn't bring down the number of people stepping by the Mozilla booth at all. It was crowded, like the previous day.

Panos Astithas presenting at the Mozilla Dev Room (photo by Christos Bacharakis, CC BY-NC-SA)

During the breaks between my booth shifts I had the chance to visit other project booths, together with Zacharias who was also attending FOSDEM as a Fedora ambassador. And to grab some awesome swag from my favourite projects, of course!

People started packing booths around 5pm. A bit later we packed our booth as well and distributed the remaining swag among us, mostly community members that are planning future events and such. FOSDEM was over. We headed for the hotel and then went on for a last dinner for the sponsored Mozilla Reps. And as it has become a tradition most of us made sure to spend some time in Delirium as well prior to returning back to the hotel. That night Delirium was packed with fellow Greek free and open-source software contributors and developers; there were more than 20 people I would say. Glad to have had so many Greeks there.

Monday 02/Feb
Woke up late in the morning and had breakfast. Along with Elio and fellow Mozilla localizers from Italy we went for a city tour and did some sight-seeing. Took some souvenirs and local chocolates and stuff. Later that day along with Elio we took the train from the central station and reached the airport to catch our flights (seperate ones) back to our homes. My journey didn't end up here, however. Upon arriving to Athens I had to wait for like 5 hours for my flight to Samos (too bad there aren't any frequent flights going from/to Samos). But finally I made it back home, completely exhausted though. As far as I remember, I had a very nice 14 hours sleep afterwards (haha, yeah, that's a lot) in order to replenish energy lost at FOSDEM.

So happy to be part of the Mozilla Reps at FOSDEM for the second consecutive year. Many thanks to ReMo for sponsoring me.

In total, I spent 6 hours on the Mozilla booth on the first day and about 5 hours and something on the second day. During these 11+ hours I never stopped engaging with attendees. I was speaking with people all the time. And as I expected, most of them were asking the same type of questions, which I had no trouble answering, but you know it was tiring to repeat the same answers over and over again. I'm going to make another blog post with frequently asked questions at the booth and the answers I was providing as a Rep.

To be honest, I've had so many experiences from running booths for many years (5+), and I can say with confidence that the FOSDEM booth is not that easy to survive. It's exhausting. But I'm so happy that during my booth shifts I concentrated at what I do best and put a lot passion and effort into spreading ideas and open products I really much care about. And that gives me confidence and motivation to carry on.

Another great FOSDEM for sure and looking forward to it next year. Cheers :)