Debconf10

August 16th, 2010

Debconf10 ended a week ago, and I’m only now finding some time to write about it. Funny how it works that way sometimes.

Anyhow, the summary of Debconf has to be: this is one amazing conference. Despite being involved with Debian for years, this was my first Debconf. I often go to one conference a year that my employer sends me to. In the past, it’s often been OSCon, which was very good, but Debconf was much better than that even. For those of you considering Debconf11 next year, perhaps this post will help you make your decision.

First of all, as might be expected from a technical conference, Debconf was of course informative. I particularly appreciated the enterprise track, which was very relevant to me. Unlike many other conferences, Debconf has some rooms specifically set aside for BoFs. With a day or two warning, you can get your event in one of those rooms on the official schedule. That exact thing happened with a virtualization BoF — I thought the topic was interesting, given the recent shifts in various virtualization options. So I emailed the conference mailing list, and we got an event on the schedule a short while later — and had a fairly large group turn out to discuss it.

The “hallway track” — conversations struck up with others in hallways or hacklabs — also was better at Debconf than other conferences. Partly that may be because, although there were fewer people at Debconf, they very much tended to be technical people whose interests aligned with my own. Partly it’s probably also because the keysigning party, which went throughout the conference, encouraged meeting random people. That was a great success, by the way.

So Debconf succeeded at informing, which is perhaps why many people go to these things. But it also inspired, especially Eben Moglen’s lecture. Who would have thought I’d come away from a conference enthused about the very real potential we have to alter the dynamics of some of the largest companies in the world today by using Free Software to it’s greatest potential?

And, of course, I had fun at Debconf. Meeting new people — or, more commonly, finally meeting in person people I’d known for years — was great. I got a real sense of the tremendously positive aspect of Debian’s community, which I must admit I have sometimes overlooked during certain mailing list discussions. This was a community of people, not just a bunch of folks attending a random conference for a week, and that point underlined a lot of things that happened.

Of course, it wasn’t 100% perfect, and it won’t ever be. But still, my thanks to everyone that organized, volunteered, and attended Debconf. I’m now wishing I’d been to more of them, and hope to attend next year’s.

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