I spent last weekend in Tempe, Arizona, at FUDCon, the Fedora Users and Developers Conference. For the less technically adventurous among our GeekMom friends, Fedora is a distribution of Linux, the open source operating system. If you’re not familiar, you can learn more at fedoraproject.org.
A BarCamp-style unconference
FUDCon is an unconference, BarCamp-style. In this meeting method, attendees suggest sessions (they in general are also volunteering to lead them). They give quick pitches for their talks, and everyone votes on which sessions they’d like to go to. The winners are compiled into an agenda. You can get an idea of how the FUDCon sessions were put together through the conference wiki.
You might think at a conference with “developer” in the title that everything is very technically focused. But FUDCon has sessions even for beginners and contributors who couldn’t write a single line of code–projects like Fedora need designers, documentation writers, marketing, etc. So here are some highlights from a few of the non-technical sessions I dropped in on.
The anthropology of open source communities
There are certain talks that you see over and over again when you go to open source conferences, but this was (refreshingly) a new one on me. As a part of her anthropology master’s degree in 2009 and 2010, Diana Harrelson did a study on the Fedora community over the course of two releases. She was interested in the motivations of Fedora contributors, the foundations of an open source community, and in making recommendations on how to sustain and grow that community.
Open source in education
This session was a great example of how things can turn out in a unconference. Four people had thrown out ideas for education-related talks. In the final conference schedule, they were combined into one session. On the up side, you get to hear a lot in an hour. On the down side, someone who might have prepared to talk for 45 minutes now has to cram that content into 10-20. The good news is that they were all from people whose work is well documented online, making it easy to share with you:
- Máirín Duffy on how to introduce middle school students to open source
- Chris Tyler, an instructor at Seneca College, on intoducing open source to college students through a course called SBR600, Software Build and Release
- Sebastian Dziallas and Mel Chua, both a part of the Teaching Open Source community, with recommendations and ideas for open education
OK, a little technical stuff too…
After all, it is largely a developer conference. A lot of great stuff is going on in the Fedora community right now, and if you’re of that inclination, I hope you’ll check some of these out:
- Dan Walsh — IRC transcript of his talk on writing SELinux policy
- Susmit gave a lightning talk looking for support for Fedora Medical
- Florian Festi and James Antill — IRC transcript of their talk on AppStream and 10ish Things You Didn’t Know about Yum
A definite shortage of moms
This won’t be a surprise for any of you in the tech industry, but I think there’s a good chance that I was the only one at FUDCon who would qualify as a GeekMom, and it’s not for a lack of geeks. Out of nearly 200 attendees, I counted ten women.
A lot of other people in a lot of places have debated the lack of women in open source and in technology in general, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole here. But I will say that there’s definitely room for you in the community, and that you are welcome. You don’t have to know how to hack code. Software communities need non-programmers too. If you’re interested in getting involved, from any point of view, here are a few links to get you started:
- Anyone can find open source alternatives to software you already use
- Here’s how to get involved in the Fedora community
- For the technically inclined, read “Ready to be an open source contributor, but don’t know where to start?”