FOSDEM survival guide

TL;DR: It was my first time at FOSDEM and it took some time to feel comfortable, this post may help newcomers.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spoke at FOSDEM this year. It was my first time there (in the whole Europe, btw!) and it took some time to get used to the way the event goes. This post will show some tips that may help FOSDEM newcomers and maybe some veterans as well.

What is FOSDEM?

FOSDEM is the Free and Open Source Developers - European Meeting. Long story short, it’s a big self organized event that happens in Brussels every year since 2013.

The conference has many Devrooms organized by volunteers with a predefined schedule guided by topic. Aside of that are the main tracks, that are some unique presentations happening in some big rooms.

The whole event survives from donations and some sponsors, but it’s not organized by a company (like OSCON, for example). There are many volunteers that work hard to make it happen.

How it works

The conference happens at the Université libre de Bruxelles, using some buildings of the university.

Map of FOSDEM buildings

All the tracks are spread across these buildings. Depending on where you are, you have to reserve some time to reach the other building. It is not so far, but may take 10 or 15 minutes depending on your location.

Think about the time it will take on the transition in case you want to watch as many presentations as possible. Also, plan ahead your time to be at the room because it may be full when you get there…

FULL rooms

FOSDEM is chaotic. It’s is a good and a bad thing at the same time.

Conferences like these, organized by the community for the community, are the kinds of events I really like. They tend to be chaotic, but it means people are free to do whatever they want.

They can walk through the university and watch whatever they want. FOSDEM publishes a big schedule with information about all the presentations happening across all rooms and you may create your on schedule. I did it before going but forgot to consider the time between buildings and the “FULL” rooms.

The "FULL" sign

There are some limits that need to be respected, one of them is the number of people inside the room. When the room is fulfilled with people they add a “FULL” sign at the door and nobody is authorized to enter. It make sense, but is really annoying for newcomers.

When planning your schedule, plan to get to the room at least 15 minutes before it starts.

TIP: instead of jump between many rooms, it’s a good idea to choose one or two and stay there for 2 or more presentations. It will guarantee a spot for you in the room.

My schedule did not consider the time walking between buildings and the full rooms, so… could not enter in 4+ rooms I wanted to be in.

Lunch

There are some food trucks there. They do not give you a receipt (in case your company is refunding your travel, you may need it), so be prepared for that.

It tend to be crowded at peak hours (noon, maybe?), try to get something to eat before or after. But be warned that it is almost always crowded. :)

The conference don’t have any breaks, if you want to eat something, you will have to decide to not watch a presentation and use the time for it.

Parties

They have a pre-conference party at Delirium. The bar is closed for conference members only (they ask some tech questions to get you in :P). It is not a huge place to have everyone in, so it will be really crowded and hot there. Almost the same amount of people will be chatting and drinking outside of the bar as well.

After the first day of conference, there is a second party, usually in a hacker space in Brussels.

Presentations

Always read the presentation description. Some of them has “click bait” (attend bait in this case?) title, sometimes not intended. I attended to one of them about a language development. I was expecting something about the day-to-day of the language development and what features are planned for the future. Unfortunately, it was not what I (and many people in the room) were expecting. It was about the metrics and dashboards of the language contributors and features.

In this case, it was not probably not intentional, but almost 50% of the room left before the presentation ended.

Conclusion

FOSDEM is a great event, I really enjoyed it! I would like to have received these tips before, so I would have planned my day better.

Hope it helps the 2018 FOSDEM attendants. o/