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What’s Not to Love about FOSDEM, CHAOSScon and State of Open Con?

While a lot of our work on open source projects happens online, attending conferences provides a unique opportunity to meet the people behind the avatars. Getting to really know the people with whom you collaborate online every day is my favorite part of attending events. Over the past 20-plus years, I’ve learned so much – often over a meal or a drink – from my peers and met so many interesting people!

FOSDEM is the largest European open source event held the first weekend in February at a university in Brussels. The two-day annual event provides the community with a place to meet and learn about the latest developments in open source software at no cost. It’s organized entirely by volunteers with a core group providing the overall coordination of keynotes, main tracks and more and smaller groups focused on organizing developer rooms (like tracks).


The “hallway” track at FOSDEM was a great place to start and catch up with friends and colleagues who do similar work in other companies. I then spent time in the Community devroom where I watched some great talks! In my session “Contributor Growth Strategies for OSS Projects,” I gave practical advice and suggestions for ways to encourage participation while avoiding some common barriers that prevent people from contributing to open source projects.

Recruited to do a surprise session modeled after the British TV game show “Just a Minute,”we gathered in the community devroom over the lunch hour. As a panel member, I received a topic I had to talk about for a full minute with no repetition, no hesitation and no deviation. It was a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to enjoy it!


Since FOSDEM brings so many open source folks to Brussels, several other “Fringe” events, like CHAOSScon and State of Open Con, pop up in and around the FOSDEM weekend to take advantage of having so many members of the community in one place. FOSDEM Fringe is one of the best parts of FOSDEM!


CHAOSScon Europe provides a venue for discussing open source project health, CHAOSS updates, use cases and hands-on workshops for developers, community managers, project managers and anyone interested in measuring open source health. The conference stems from the Linux Foundation project CHAOSS (Community Health Analytics in Open Source Software). CHAOSScon is one of my favorite events. I help organize it, so I might be a bit biased!

This year, we kicked off the event with an expert panel: “How to Use Metrics in Your Context,” with Ildikó Váncsa (Senior Manager, Community and Ecosystem at Open Infrastructure Foundation), Sean Goggins (Social Computing and Open Source Software Researcher at University of Missouri-Columbia), and me (VMware OSPO) as participants. We talked about metrics in the context of our work: Ildikó in relation to the Foundation, Sean as an academic, and myself working in an open source program office (OSPO). Our key takeaway was that using metrics requires careful interpretation based on your specific projects and needs, regardless of the context where you work.

Dawn Panel
Ildikó Váncsa, Dawn Foster and Sean Goggins

CHAOSS project workshops were offered in the afternoon. Since I already use Augur on a regular basis, I went to the GrimoireLab workshop, and I was excited and impressed by some of the improvements they’ve made since I last used the tool. They’ve made it much easier to manage data about people, including a better interface for merging duplicates and updating organization affiliation. They’ve also added some really robust network analysis capabilities that I’m excited to play around with a bit more!

State of Open Con

After FOSDEM, quite a few of us took the Eurostar to London on Monday to attend State of Open Con, organized by OpenUK. (Disclaimer: I am on the Board of OpenUK.) This was the first year for this event, which was focused on open technology, including not just open source software, but also open data and open hardware. Despite this being a first-time event, it was an amazing two days, and it was very well-attended! There were well-known speakers from a variety of big-name companies, governments and nonprofits, including Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. All the talks I attended were excellent! I kicked off the second day in the Legal and Government, Law and Policy track by talking about “Leading in Open Source, A Strategic Approach.” I focused on how to build a contribution strategy and plans that allow you to sustain your open source contributions over the long term.


As a celebration of the open technology community in the UK, OpenUK unveiled a photo exhibition of almost 40 UK leaders in open technology, and I was honored to be included in the exhibition. The entire event was a really great experience, I’m already looking forward to attending next year’s event!

Thanks to the volunteers!

FOSDEM, CHAOSScon and State of Open Con are organized mostly by volunteers (FOSDEM, exclusively) and they did a great job this year! A huge thank you to everyone who helped make these events happen!

If you weren’t able to make it, check back to the State of Open Con site for uploaded videos from the event.

Stay tuned to the Open Source Blog and follow us on Twitter for more deep dives into the world of open source contributing.


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