It’s monday morning, I have just walked the dog and got my coffee and I can’t stop processing all that I have seen and and learned during the Fosdem conference.

The Fosdem conference I a huge event organised in Brussels every year. It has over 500 sessions and usually over 5000 attendees. Each year I travel to Brussels with a group of friend and once we arrive at conference we each go our own way to enjoy the session we have chosen on our schedule or to wander around and talk to developer, visit the open source project stands or to grab a coffee and a Waffle.

The Fosdem User Experience

For some reason the conference is always planned during winter and the ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) is not known for its beauty. It’s visitors are a mixture of all IT Archetypes. Most are men and their approach to “dress to impress” is slightly different to what I am accustomed to. Rooms tend to be overcrowded, noisy and I still can’t get rid of the smell of Nerd. Attendees don’t mind queueing up for coffee, toilets and public keys (don’t ask).

However, each year I come home recharged and full of new ideas and that’s because of open source projects. Open source software requires a open source licence AND a community. An open source project without a community is doomed to fail. So one thing most attendees have in common in a desire to listen and be heard, interact, inspire and be inspired. On a day to day basis they already communicate a lot online and on the Fosem conference they get a chance of doing it AFK.

Some Fosdem15 highlights

Okay, so there are over 500 sessions on Fosdem so I can only write about some of the sessions I have attended. These are my highlights:

"Every Pixel Hurts"

Every Pixel hurts: Pablo Cúbico.

This was my absolute favorite. Pablo is both a designer and developer and introduced a realistic roadmap of introducing UX design on FOSS projects. I wish I had seen his presentation years ago. During his session I realised what I had done right and wrong in working on Moodle themes and UI’s.

presentation link

"Open UI5"

Open UI5: DJ Adams

In one of the Lightning talks (15 min talks) DJ Adams build an interactive website optimised of accessibility AND supporting RTL languages in 15 minutes while talking to the audience. It’s elegant, high quality, well tested and easy to use. I can’t way to try this myself.

examples of openUI5

Ultra: Steven Goodwin

Ultra is an ultra small (<64k binary), ultra fast, all-in-memory web server incorporating an in-built NoSQL datastore, a data processing language, SSI, multiple configurations, and logging.

I will probably never use ultra, evar. But I got inspired by the way Steven worked on his project. He build a webserver that is tiny, it’s one of the few projects that is small enough to do serious work, but small enough to be explained line-by-line in a talk!

presentation link


The Mozilla Devroom: Various speakers

Everybody knows Firefox, that’s made by Mozilla! is the open source giant creating awesome software and pushing the web forward.

The sessions shown in this devroom were on the future of JavaScript, Checking for Accessibility, building apps for the Firefox OS, HTML5, Encryption and more. The Mozilla room is usually packed and need bouncers at the room entrances for some of their talks. The most exciting talk for me was the one on App development for Firefox OS by Soledad Penadés. Hopefully this session was recorded and whill be made available on the site.

The Mars One mission: Ryan MacDonald


The closing keynote was on an actual (one way) mission to Mars. This not a joke but an actual mission. It does not have a cold war backing it like the Apollo mission had so funding is somewhat limited. However it does have some dutch investors and might be funded by media magnate Endemol. In 10 years we might be looking at Big Brother in space. The ultimate goal is to make Mars an inhabitable planet with an open source society.

A while ago I read The Martian by Andy Weir. A cool Sci-Fi novel on an engineer stranded on Mars. Ray MacDonald did not quit fit the picture I had in mind of the struggling NASA austronaut Mark Watney, the Martians main character. I am very sceptical on the Mars One missions success, but imagine what would happen if it succeeds. We could be watching at a space-station packed with advertisements and get to vote on earth which astronaute is our favorite. How cool is that?

Image Mars one mission: Artist’s conception of Mars One human settlement. Credit: Mars One/Brian Versteeg.

Image Odin Monkey: Credit to John Howard