OSCAL 2016: A role model for community events

This year, I had the honor of being invited to give a talk and workshop at the “Open Source Conference ALbania” (OSCAL) in Tirana, again.
It was simply amazing. Again.

Over the years, I’ve attended many conferences of this kind – as speaker, as well as a visitor.
Yet, the OSCAL-experience from 2015 was quite outstanding in my memory – so my expectations to meet were even higher this year ;)

Community events need the right atmosphere:

Firstly, it’s amazing how well the voluntary team of organizers takes care of the speakers:
They’re not only incredibly nice, friendly and helpful wherever they can, but they just made every single one of us feel appreciated, welcome and being looked after.
It was the most amazing “all-awesome-feelaround-package”, even including pick-up from the airport, and a nice goodie-present with local delicacies.

Maybe it sounds strange to mention this, but this is a community event. Not a trade-show. (Although, there are business opportunities and networking connections to be made there too, of course)

I’ve seen other events like this, were the organizers had not understood that they’re mostly dealing with volunteers (also on the speaker side), who put a lot of their spare-time into this. I’ve been to events where they made you feel like a solicitant. Like you had to serve the organizers and be grateful that you were “allowed” to contribute.
This makes you feel bad – and in consequence, it makes people less interested, less cooperative, less open and greatly reduces the interest of participating next time.

The OSCAL team understood this, and managed to create a great event, where participants as well as contributors felt great:

This encourages people to embrace the ideas of Software Freedom even more, as it generates a great atmosphere where people want to ask, participate, communicate, collaborate and exchange themselves about ideas, projects and visions.

A wide range of interesting subjects:

The conference itself was well-organized, with multiple tracks of presentations, workshops and even “birds of feathers” (BoF) rooms, where participants could arrange ad-hoc meetings or working-groups on different topics.
The selection of topics covered a wide range of interesting subjects – ranging from programming, office or audiovisual – to graphics design.
The FSFE had an info-table with information material, and me standing there, offering additional information where needed.

Tech: Not only a male thing!

Something else thing that makes OSCAL special, is that the male/female ratio seems to be the inverse of what you usually see in our western world:
Just like last year, there were at least as many girls as guys!
Many of the girls there are studying computer science, programming or other subjects – and they’re having great fun.
Check out the speakers list, to see for yourselves.

Usually I keep hearing that “technical stuff is only interesting for men”, or even worse: “women can not understand these things” (and even some female friends of mine believe that).
OSCAL not only proves that this is complete nonsense.
At other “nerd events”, I’ve seen that girls might feel uncomfortable: Not only, because they stand out as rare exception, but also because some guys seem to not take them fully seriously – or even say inappropriate things to them…

So, OSCAL also stands out as a role model here again, when you see how people respectfully interact with each other – regardless of their sexual gender.
Therefore, I’d encourage the rest of the world to learn from Tirana how gender-equality is done better :)

After spending only this short time there, I learned that Albanian people will always find a way to make things happen.
You emerge in a world and atmosphere where you feel that anything is possible, if you envision it – and this again attracts and inspires others.

Looking forward to OSCAL 2017! :D

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