Has it really been 19 years since I attended my first FOSDEM? Really this was the first FOSDEM as the first edition was called OSDEM. In 2000 I received a phone call from Raphael Bauduin: is O’Reilly not interested in attending FOSDEM? Didn’t you read my email? Oops! That was the beginning of a 13 year relationship.
For the first few FOSDEMs I had to carry chairs and tables – and God knows those tables were heavy. That happened on Friday evening before the meeting at the Roy d’Espagne. Saturday morning, up early to set up the O’Reilly table. Never had time to make a great display as the selling started as soon as I opened the first box of books. Going to lunch – no time. Going to the bathroom – difficult. The organisers were so kind: they always gave me a lot of coffee and food, and when it was not the organizers it was the attendees. Sunday evening was the next challenge – on one’s knees to pack the books, clean the floor etc. I have some great pictures of the professional broom, which was about 60cm wide. My biggest worry was whether UPS would come and pick up the few boxes of books left. I usually sent between 50 and 60 boxes and returned a maximum of 10. At the end the place was clean and the university could resume its duties on Monday morning.
A good weekend, the table is 99% empty. I must have selected the right books!
I met a lot of friends during those crazy weekends, often having dinner with the Perl guys on Saturday night, eating a lot of ribs somewhere else…. I must admit that the trip back to the UK was very quiet – nobody talked. We were happy but dead.
Can you go to FOSDEM without meeting Richard Stallman (not my preferred person but I am sure he did a lot of good for Open Source)? He was there for almost every conference. I also remember taking Tim O’Reilly one year who managed to break his arm on the Friday evening, so we spent most of the night at the local hospital. No fun!
I also met lots of O’Reilly authors who came just for the conference or to give a talk: Rasmus Lerdorf, Philip Hazel, D J Adams, Miguel de Icaza, Dave Cross, Brian King, Peter Hintjens and many, many more.
I also learnt some Belgian French – nonante, septante etc. What I liked best: the feeling of community, the growth, the oomph, “we’re all in this together” – german, french, italian, british, bulgarian, spanish, greek scandinavian and many more – you name it they were there. What did I not like so much: the weather, either rainy or snowy but always cold.
My biggest regret: I NEVER SAW THE FOSDEM DANCE AT THE END OF THE SHOW.