Our own Fernanda Weiden, Systems Administrator, Load Balancer Jedi, Network Sniffer, and all around Free and Open Source Software Champion, was kind enough to send us her thoughts on fisl 2008, the premier Brazilian Free and Open Source Software conference. fisl 2008 was held last week in Porto Alegre.
Last Saturday was the last day of a three day conference in Brazil called International Free Software Forum (or fisl, as it is called by its closer friends). Google participated as a sponsor, and I participated by helping to organize Google's participation and, personally, helping the Program Committee, which I am member of.
I believe numbers say a lot about such an event, so let's check them: more than 7400 people, more than 400 speakers, 21 countries, 258 sessions. The conference center was always full, the sessions as well. During my Google Summer of Code&trade talk (the only session I managed to attend), more than a half of the audience were new to the conference, which is great news. The community is receiving new blood, which is something really important to us, and something we have been working for a while to get. The time when a Free Software/Open Source conference was full of old friends is gone. We are upstream, everywhere, with everybody!
The conference had no delays for the sessions, there were problems to follow the conference over the internet in the first day, but the problem got solved, and we had more than 20 thousand unique IPs connecting to the "Free Software TV" (TV Software Livre) to follow fisl. It was great to meet so many Summer of Coders and I shared the microphone with them during my talk. The room was full and I got lots of questions. People gave me good feedback about it later on (even though we had so many problems to get the projector to....project!).
Besides the 257 sessions of the main schedule, there was a Programming Arena, a competition that challenges the participants to solve bugs in existing Free/Open Source Software projects, and also develop new software that will be useful for the community. The final challenge was to build an ODF reader for Maemo, software used in mobile platforms. The code will be published soon, and the hackers got geek gadgets (mobile phones and Internet Tablets) from the Nokia Institute of Technology as prize.
"May the source be with you....and you...and you...". This was the message you could see everywhere, which means people loved our swag! Google distributed many t-shirts to the people participating at the conference, as well as very nice mugs, and an impossible-to-count number of stickers.
For the next year, there is already plan for a Kernel Development and Smalltalk miniconfs. The idea is now to get all this energy and motivation focused on development.
One of the things that makes me like this conference so much is the fact that it is fully organized by volunteers, me being one of them. A team that decreases in number every year, but a team who really keeps up with the work of making the largest and best Free Software conference I've ever been to. The conference is already over, but all I can think about is "what are we going to do next year?". I still can feel the energy. fisl 10, for 10 thousand. That's how it will be :)
Many thanks to Fernanda for sharing her experiences with us!