Building a Decentralized Internet movement at FOSDEM

Last week-end was held the FOSDEM 2017 event, like every year at the ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles), which where hackers from all over Europe gather to discuss about technology and free and open-source software. The entrance is free (donations are welcome), the event is run only by volunteers and it is really amazing.


Romain (Cozy Cloud employee) and Doubleface (Cozy community member), during their FOSDEM talk

I have been involved with FOSDEM since 2002 (15 years ago![1]) where a Mozilla Devroom has been existing since then. Now that I focus on Internet Decentralization and Free/Open Source software on the server, I have decided with 2 hackers, Taziden and Bram, to ask the FOSDEM organizers to provide us with a Decentralized Internet Devroom. And they did! We ended up with a great schedule covering the following topics:

All talks have been recorded and videos are already available except 2, so go ahead, click on the links above and watch the videos! I’ve taken a few pictures too.

The good: participation and quality of talks

Overall, the whole Devroom was a tremendous success: everybody was heavily involved in making it a success, starting right on time and even better, finishing on time, with super interesting content and promising contacts being made. There is little doubt that a movement is building itself, considering the amount of interest we had from both candidate speakers and attendees (see below).

The bad: selecting talks

We received too many talks during the Call for Papers period, and we struggled to put as many of them as possible in just the 8 hours that we had for the Devroom, knowing that few people show up at 9AM on Sunday morning and many people need to leave FOSDEM on Sunday before 5PM for their journey home. So we decided to shorten the time slots to 15 minutes or 30 minutes, which means 10 minutes and no questions for the 15’ slots and 20 minutes of talk plus 5 minutes for questions for the 30 minutes slots. We ended up cramming 13 talks into the 8 hours we had, but were sorry to leave out too many promising talks due to time constraints

The ugly: room capacity vs attendance

I was concerned that the first talks, starting at 9AM on a Sunday morning — coming after a night of Belgian beers testing — would not get a lot of people in the seats. How wrong was I! The room was completely full right from the start and we had people waiting in line hoping to get a seat (for security reasons Devroom organizers are not allowed to welcome more people than seats). More than 60 people were waiting outside all day long, for more than 1 hours in some cases. I surely hope that the amazing success of the Decentralized Internet Devroom of 2017 will allow us to get a significantly bigger room next year, to increase the scope and impact of the Decentralized Internet movement!


A part of the line during the day: more than 60 people waiting to get inside the Devroom. Many gave up because waiting was a bad use of their time


[1] My brother designed a Pac-Man-like Mozilla T-shirt for the event