Re: [ FOSDEM 2010: Distribution Miniconf]

From: Wouter Verhelst <>
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2009 13:38:04 +0100

On Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 11:35:50AM -0700, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 10:01:38AM +0200, Wouter Verhelst wrote:
> > Executive summary: there will not be a Developers' Room for Debian at
> > the next FOSDEM (nor for any other distribution, for that matter), but
> > instead there'll be a "distribution miniconf" that we'll be able to
> > participate in. They still need to flesh out the details on that one,
> > though, and input is requested.
> I, for once, think this is a bad idea, at least in the "extremist" form
> (i.e. no devrooms at all) it has been presented. I surely agree that
> having only devroom was bad and that FOSDEM can push a lot for
> cross-distro collaboration this way. Nevertheless, devrooms were also
> offering an amazing service to distro, and the argument that distros
> have their conference anyhow is not convincing (Debian has one per year,
> and alternate it around the world, having the additional devroom in a
> fixed place once per year was definitively a plus; other small distros
> do not have their own yearly conference, etc.).

That is true, but it certainly is not the only argument; nor, as I
understand it, the most important one.

As Debian's main contact to FOSDEM, the most consistent story I've been
hearing over the past few years is that FODSEM is just too popular for
its own good, and that there is too little space to accomodate all the
devroom requests. FOSDEM cannot move to another venue (typical
conference venues would either be prohibitely expensive or just not big
enough; and other campuses of the ULB do not have lecture hall the size
of Janson where keynotes can be held); and having 270+ talks in two days
is already going to be insane enough that adding more is not necessarily
a good idea anymore.

In that light, while I'm not extremely happy about the proposal to ditch
individual devrooms myself either, I personally feel that I cannot in
good conscience say that this proposal is bad unless I can come up with
an alternative that addresses this fundamental problem. To do otherwise
would be to yell that "$PET_PROJECT MUST HAVE A DEVROOM AT FOSDEM!!!1!",
and would only be selfish.

Therein, of course, lies the problem.

There aren't that many solutions to a problem of devroom shortage. You
could pick a few projects at random, and deny the request to other
projects. This is basically what's been done the past few years; except
that "at random" was defined as "you were here in the past and didn't
make such a mess of things that we'd rather try someone else this year".
You could lump two unrelated projects together and ask them to try to
make the best of things. That's what's been done with the "Debian/Free
Java" devroom back in 2004, and I can't call that an unconditional
success (basically, we just time-shared the room; the "shared talks"
period, which was intended to be for subjects of interest both to Free
Java and Debian people, was a complete failure, with talks that turned
out to be of real interest to neither group).

The only other solution that one could think of is that you try to lump
projects that *are* related together, and hope that the
cross-pollination produces something positive. Perhaps just dropping all
distributions into one devroom isn't the best way to accomplish that,
but it is better than the alternatives: rejecting mandriva and gentoo,
still rather important distributions last I checked, just because you
haven't got the space.

> If I'm not the only one feeling that way, I think we can try to make a
> more reasonable proposal to the FOSDEM organizer: having the devroom
> *and* the cross-distro meeting room. That can be coped with a simple
> room: if you want a devroom for your own, you should participate in the
> cross-distro room *as* *well* filling a number X of slots.

Given the above, and given that this would involve one "shared" devroom
*plus* a single devroom for each and every distribution, I can't agree
that this is "a more reasonable proposal".

However, I cannot really come up with a better alternative. You could
say "create a few devrooms of related distributions", but there already
has been a CentOS/Fedora shared devroom, and the other distributions
that have had devrooms at FOSDEM in the past (OpenSUSE, Debian, Gentoo)
are sufficiently different from eachother that lumping two or more of
them together in the same devroom isn't necessarily going to be better
than just lumping all distributions together.

I think that, given the context, Pascal's proposal really is the best
one, perhaps with the added condition that, say, there should still be
some time alotted for talks that really are distribution-specific,
alongside the time alotted for distribution-agnostic talks.

The biometric identification system at the gates of the CIA headquarters
works because there's a guard with a large gun making sure no one is
trying to fool the system.

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Received on Wed Oct 28 2009 - 13:48:29 CET

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