FSFE Summit 2016: See you next year in Eberswalde

Matthias during the opening

From September 2 through 4, the FSFE Summit 2016 took place at the BCC in Berlin, Germany. It was part of QtConand thus, multiple Free Software communities had the chance to meet and exchange ideas.

The audience thanked Cellini during the opening for organizing the summit

Just like at FOSDEM, a very important part for me was the social component at the summit. Meeting new people, talking to people I only know from mailing lists, seeing people again that I met at other events, and experiencing a sense of community that goes beyond what I can usually see at the local level, is a great experience and an amazing motivation to keep on going.

So when I arrived on Thursday, the first thing I did was join everyone from the FSFE office in Berlin for lunch. After that, I was allowed to work from the FSFE office a little bit to test a few more things for the blog migration. This is where I remembered that I had forgotten to sign up as a volunteer, but Cellini was kind enough to still let me do that and explain the basics of what to do.

André’s talk about translations…

Of course, I also saw some great talks at the summit. Cryptie and André gave a good overview of the new translation system that Julien set up and that is currently going through extensive testing by some translation teams.

…together with Cryptie





There was a very interesting talk about the anthropology of Free Software. When I find the time, I study philosophy (usually just by myself) and it was really nice to be able to ask a question about transcendentalism (Kant and Fichte) and get the impression that not only the speaker understands the question, but also large parts of the audience. Not that a question needs an audience, but it is nice to know other people may have thought about similar ideas because that also strengthens the sense of community.

Christian presenting the Plussy display

Christian, also a coordinator of the local group in Franconia, gave a talk about the Plussy booth attractor he designed and built and he had a chance to make one for the group in Frankfurt right after the summit.

The booth with some FSFE staff
A lot of merchandise…

The Plussy booth attractor was successful at the FSFE booth at the summit as well. Christian decided it would be nice to use it there and a lot of people came by to ask about it. Helping out at the booth was a really great experience as well. While I am not as good a salesman as some people with more experience (Cryptie), I immensely enjoyed talking to people and explaining Free Software and its terminology.

…at the booth

At the booth, i also found an upgrade for my Libreboot notebook: a wireless network card that supports both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz from Tehnoetic.

In between the talks, the BCC served really amazing food that not only looked awesome, but was also incredibly delicious. That is why a small group of us sat together over lunch after the talk about women in Free Software and we discussed how our communities can be more inclusive and how some communities are already doing a good job at that, but others are not as successful. I found it very interesting that in some countries, women are in the majority in IT jobs and the reason behind that appears to be a combination of economic pressure and remnants of the communist idea that women are workers as well and need to be just as productive as men.

Jonas talked about the history of the FSFE

On Saturday, the FSFE celebrated it’s 15th anniversary. There was an event at the BCC in which past and present presidents gave an overview of their work and shared personal experiences they had in the last 15 years. Jonas, the executive director of the FSFE also shared some interesting stories of his involvement. After that, we went on to C-Base for the actual celebration with food and drinks. Unfortunately, some people were missing from that celebration. I would have liked it very much if we could all have gotten together for this anniversary and celebrated our achievements. It would have been nice to talk to some of the people who insisted on having a local group in Franconia and speak about current developments in that regard. Sadly, that did not happen but perhaps we can meet again at another Free Software related event. Also at the party, there was an award ceremony [careful, link to non-free video site] in which so-called local heroes were honored for their contribution. It was quite an illustrious crowd with Guido Arnold for his hard work on a local group and in the education team, André Ockers for translating huge chunks of the FSFE website to Dutch, Simon Wächter for his work in Switzerland in general and his specific involvement in the Freedomvote project, Cryptie for her translations and volunteering and numerous booths, and several more people who do important work for the FSFE. I was also part of that group and I felt very honored, but also a bit out of place because even though I know that this was a selection of volunteers because not everyone can be honored, I always feel like I should do more for Free Software than I can get around to. Sometimes, there are even weeks where I don’t do anything and even when I am active, there is always someone else involved and there are very few instances where someone completes a task without help from others. That’s what’s nice about being part of a larger community and so I see this award as a thank you to the whole Free Software community and its many volunteers.

The two main organizers

Speaking of volunteering: That was a great experience as well. On Friday, we received a short introduction on how to present guests and how to host a room. The instructions were helpful and from my perspective as a volunteer, everything went smoothly. Of course I know that this was just my impression and for example Cellini might tell you a different story because at any given event of a certain size, there will be some last-minute changes or someone who does not show up or a number of things like that. However, everything was handled perfectly and especially Cellini did a great job of handling it all with a smile. That is also what Erik said about organizing the summit together with her. I am sure the two of them must have been incredibly stressed at times, but they never showed it and their hard work made the summit a great success.

Erik and Cellini at the feedback session

On Sunday night, after we had packed up the booth, we went out for dinner and drinks again, we complained about the terrible user interface of the ordering terminal at our table, and we generally had a lot of fun hanging out and sharing stories in a small group until the bar closed. Overall, I had a great time and as Cryptie put it, recharged my FSFE batteries. Now I am a bit sad that the party is over, but I guess that just makes me look forward more to a potential next summit. If we follow the advice of our communications officer Paul Brown, the next summit could be in a town such as Eberswalde which is close enough to a bigger city to make travel easy for everyone, but small enough that nothing ever happens there and so we would not compete with other events for press coverage. So with this idea in mind, let me say goodbye and see you next time, perhaps at an Eberswalde near you.

Make Your Own Personal Banner for I Love Free Software Day

For this year’s I love Free Software day on February 14, I decided to design a couple of banners with a heart theme. Well, actually it wasn’t originally meant that way, but it was an idea for a different campaign and the heart shape was popular enough to make it into it’s own banner.

So you want to have your own banner?  It’s easy:  Just download one of the following SVGs, paste an appropriate photo of you into the file in Inkscape, an amazing Free Software vector graphics editor, select “Object” -> “Lower to bottom”, change the text and name, and you’re done.  You can then select “File” -> “Export PNG image”, click on page, set the size you want, and click on “Export”.  Now you have an image you can share with others.

Here are the files:

The files without any names (the ones that say “Jane Doe”) and without personal pictures are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. It’s ok to only attribute in the metadata and if that gets lost on some platforms, that’s ok. I encourage you to share changes with others, but I cannot enforce it because I want you to be able to relicense the banners with your name and image under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License; this is what the banners with personal images or names here are licensed under.  Feel free to share those on any platform, but you may not change them so you cannot make statements on behalf of the people named or depicted.

Here are some example banners (you can share those) that we set up in our local FSFE group:

banner christian

banner Christianbanner Florianbanner Florianbanner florianbanner Florian

By the way, the 1s and 0s in the heart shape spell “FREEDOM” in ASCII. Really nerdy, huh?

FOSDEM 2016 – Meeting with Friends from Around the World

When I arrived in Brussels on January 29, 2016, I very quickly started thinking that this trip might be more difficult than I had imagined at first. I realized my French had gotten so bad over the years that I stood in the wrong line for 20 minutes and then, the gentleman who helped me had to resort to using English to explain to me what I actually needed to do. I then proceeded to get lost on my way to have lunch with the FSFE group from Linz at Fin de Siècle.

Having great food and good company cheered me up and after a stop at a nice coffee place, that served wonderful Japanese green tea, prepared exactly to the point, I ended up at the apartment I was going to stay at for the next two days. I was greeted by our host Mauricio and he had turned his apartment into a wonderful meeting place for everyone with lots of nice food and beer. He took great care of everyone and we all had a good European Coordinators Meeting there.  After that, there was a party of course that was a lot of fun.

The next day started with a lot of rain, so by the time we arrived at FOSDEM, I was completely soaked, including my shoes.  There’s hardly anything I dislike more.  However, plenty of great talks more than made up for the disgusting weather.  I heard Francis Rowe‘s talk about libreboot and Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton, who develops hardware that respects your freedom (not yet certified). Both of these endeavors are becoming more and more important so we can still use hardware in freedom when Intel and AMD have both abandoned us altogether.

Tom Marble interviews Richard Stallman

Tom Marble interviews Richard Stallman

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to attend any talks in the GNU Guile devroom, but the Legal and Policy Issues devroom was a pretty big highlight.  Not only did they have an interview with RMS on Sunday, they also had some great talks about the distribution clause in the GNU GPL, about dependency management and licensing information, about legal strategies for commercial ventures, and about copyleft for the next decade.  In between talks, I had the chance to talk to Bradley M. Kuhn of the Software Freedom Conservancy and one of the organizers of that devroom.  The final talk I heard in this devroom, was the interview with RMS on Sunday which was interesting as always and I enjoyed the auction of the adorable, adorable GNU a lot more, knowing that I already have one.  It went for 342 Euros, by the way and this would have blown my budget by a lot.

RMS and the adorable, adorable GNU

RMS and the adorable, adorable GNU

The most important thing about FOSDEM turned out to be the FSFE meetups.  Whether it was chatting with people at the FSFE booth, going out with others, or the evening/night at the Brewdog, it was all immensely enjoyable.  I had a great time getting to know Christian and Max a bit better on the train, meeting Matthias for the first time, seeing how Erik led the ECM, and debating finances with Reinhard.  Talking to Matija, Cryptie, Alessandro, Marc, Polina, Simon, and many others who are from all over Europe, really made the FSFE feel like a European team of computer activists.  It was also great to suddently stand next to and talk to a legend in the Free Software world like Werner Koch, developer of GnuPG and one of the founders of the FSFE, even if it was a bit embarrassing at first because I didn’t recognize him immediately.

FSFE booth at FOSDEM

The FSFE booth at FOSDEM

Hanging out at the FSFE booth was also fun, yet dangerous with all the tremendously attractive merchandise there.  Not having blown my budget at the auction of the adorable, adorable gnu, I was on a quest to find something I could spend my money on. On Saturday, Polina had made me realize on how wonderful the FSFE hoodies are, so I had to go check them out at the booth on Sunday.  Cryptie supported my craving for merchandise and made sure to sell me as much of it as possible.  :-)   No, seriously, she tried to stop me, but she presented everything well and I had a hard time resisting. I have to say the FSFE shop does not do the black hoodies justice.  It’s not that the presentation there is bad or anything, but if you get the chance to see them for yourself, you immediately realize how remarkably soft they are and of what great quality they are.  They are all made in a fair-trade process because the FSFE cares about treating people right in general, not just when it comes to computers.  Needless to say, I went home with a bunch of stuff, including a new hoodie for my wife, so we can now sport the same look.

merchandise at the FSFE booth

all the glorious merchandise at the FSFE booth

All in all, I immensely enjoyed FOSDEM, making new friends and experiencing different cultures.  By the way, I left Brussels the same way I got there—by getting lost on the way to my tram. However, this time, i was able to ask someone for the way in French and understand the answer.  I am looking forward to going to FOSDEM again next year and hopefully, I will see some of the people I met again soon.

A big thank you to everyone who helped organize the FSFE related events and an especially big thank you to Mauricio, our wonderful host for the weekend!