FOSSBackstage Awesomeness

Meme image from Princess Bride, featuring Indigo Montoya saying: "Let me explain... no there is too much, let me sum up."

FOSSBackstage in Berlin this year was AMAZING! The quality and importance of the talks to the FOSS ecosystem was surpassed only by the interesting hallway and after conference discussions. Having recovered from jet lag, I figured I’d better start writing down all the contacts I met and collaboration ideas we thought of before I forgot them!

What is FOSS Backstage?

FOSS Backstage is where leaders and advocates in the FOSS ecosystem – especially community leaders, OSPO staff, and even government policy types get together to learn from each other. The producer Plain Schwarz does a great job, and also hosts Berlin Buzzwords and FOSS Security Campus, and they really understand the ecosystem. Slides and videos are posted in the weeks following the conference.

Tracks include Governance & Community, Security, Legal & Compliance, Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability & Funding, and Growing Open Source. This year also included as separate day-long FOSS Backstage Design, which creates a space for UX and design engineers to talk about how to work in the FOSS space – a strategic need for sure.

Awesomeness Listing, Partial

There was far too much in the 2+ days I was there to capture, and I have a list of videos to watch of talks I really wish I could attend! But there are some definite themes I noticed this year in meeting people and thinking about the larger FOSS world, especially in terms of long-term social, fiscal, and ecosystem sustainability of the open source software that powers our world.

  • The ways governments think in the EU versus the US. There are far more interesting government contracts on a broader scope of activities in the EU, and some government agencies, especially in Germany, were highly aware and focused on FOSS. It’s not just the Sovereign Tech Fund, Prototype Fund, and some of the governmental changes in software development policy that were showcased in talks, it’s the very way people in Europe think about partnering between governments, companies, and communities (and SMEs, to tie things together).
  • The slow but steady focus on sustainability, especially financial and social sustainability of the people & maintainers writing FOSS components. Many conferences have a sustainability track; the talks at FOSS Backstage were deep, thoughtful, and really insightful about the complexities.
  • How much of a collaborative and fun hackerspace culture Berlin has! It’s in the excitement of FOSS contributors talking about bigger projects, and in the actual spaces and places to code and hack. I was lucky enough to get a tour of c-base from a member there, and the energy and really detailed design and story of the space is something you can’t find elsewhere.
  • How many interesting non-code projects there out there that I want to work with! FOSSBackstage, similar to CommunityOverCode (nee ApacheCon), is a conference for the communities around open source, not necessarily the code of open source. I often find code is easy, but people are hard – and far more interesting to work with on projects that help explain what open source really means.
  • While the number of new funding or grant programs is still growing too slowly, it was eye opening to see some new funding groups. Doubly important is seeing how insightful these groups are in terms of focus, and in real research into the most effective ways to get funding out there. NGO, governmental, and even corporate funding is a huge space that will be growing for years to address ecosystem stability and sustainability issues.
  • Governments in the EU also think about regulations differently! There wasn’t as much CRA and PLD discussion as I expected, but it was still a large shadow over many conversations. It was fascinating coming from the US, how normal it felt to the EU about having governmental policies involved in fundamental open source work. It was also sobering seeing that we still don’t truly know if “NO WARRANTY” in our open source licenses still has a meaning in the future CRA world.

And a dozen other ideas that will have to wait for a future blog!

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Briefly, Shane is: a father and husband, a friend, a geek, a Member and director of the ASF, a baker, an ex-Loti, a BMW driver, a punny guy, a gamer, and lifelong resident within the 495 belt. Oh, and we have cats.

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