02 February, 2015

FOSDEM 2015

FOSDEM was crazy.
ownCloud booth between Diaspora and Tor

Regulars know it always is but it somehow managed to surprise me still.

The ownCloud booth was pretty much continuously swamped with visitors and even with 3-4 people there almost all the time, we could barely talk to everybody who had questions - let alone approach people who might have. So, sore feet, but still a blast. My biggest regret is that I barely left the booth to check out other projects I love. Luckily, ownCloud was flanked by awesome projects!

Diaspora, Tor, KDE, openSUSE...

I had a chat with the Diaspora folks at the booth next to us and greatly look forward to the upcoming release. They had a nice flyer-y paper which also included some development stats with the number of active contributors and such, a very useful thing to have so you can quickly see how a project is doing. Diaspora had a hard time since the crazy start, but things are picking up again and 66 people contributed to this important project over the last year.

I only visited the KDE booth a few times for a chat and to check out the new t-shirts (we brought a bunch of the 'old' style t-shirts with us and Ovidiu brought the new ones), not much different from openSUSE. I did talk to the usual subjects and met Douglas. Great to hear the merger of Factory and Tumbleweed is working out very well.

The Open Build Service continues strong and it was interesting to hear some thoughts on a conversation with Debian developers. They are (finally?) also working on reproducible builds, being bitten by some of their processes. I mean, if you become a Debian developer, you're nearly root on all the build systems and have a lot of fun with all the supported architectures. Compared to the robust, transparent processes and easy dealing with multiple architectures and different distribution versions on OBS - it seems a pointless struggle to me. It's not like OBS is evil, proprietary code, nor obscure and barely maintained! But I guess change is hard in such a bureaucratized organization.

Oh, and I look forward to the openSUSE Conference in den Hague! There is good progress with the organization of the event. Perhaps some Debian core developers should participate and have a look at OBS before Lennert solves the problem in a way that makes packaging irrelevant ;-)

Tor - darn, despite standing next to them, I didn't have time for a good conversation and I'm glad some FSFE friends walked past our booth or I wouldn't have known about the FSFE's upcoming valentine campaign I hope we can participate in!
marketing material package assembly

ownCloud

I mentioned our booth was busy. Wow. We have been creating some marketing materials and this was a bit of a test run. I send out materials in envelopes, and I thought - "let's bring 8 packages and see how they fit. Those left can be taken by the other team members to other events."

Result:
  • stickers were out (from all packages!) by 3PM on Saturday, flyers on Sunday morning. I need to re-assess the configuration of the packages.
  • The developer and user flyers are not easily (or at all) identifiable as such. And the usage of red on the developer flyer triggers people to grab that one first. Looks like my education as psychologist failed me here, I should have known!
  • Everybody who had a look at the user flyer could tell me what ownCloud was about - the contents are good.
  • People are baffled by the fact that a PHP app that runs on a Raspberry Pi can scale to +500K users at universities or organizations like CERN. We can explain this better!

So, both in terms of organization and contents of the marketing materials, some good ideas on improvements.

Besides the materials, the conversations were mostly 'the usual': incredibly up-beat. Of course, nothing is perfect but the vast majority of visitors was very positive and enthusiastic about ownCloud. Over half had it running and was curious about the upcoming release, while the other half either already knew about it and was planning to play with it, or was very delighted to hear what it was as they had been looking for a way to get out of the proprietary file storage world.

... rulez

I swear, if the average citizen was anything like the FOSDEM visitor, the ownCloud user base would be twice the size of the proprietary clouds combined already... Of course, the world isn't like that and ownCloud is has to overcome some hurdles still.

Then again, if you see the recent announcements like OpenCloudMesh, universities and public research institutions around the world are diving all-in on ownCloud. At FOSDEM, two staff members from the ULB IT team (where FOSDEM takes place) came by the booth to share they were experimenting with ownCloud for staff and students and I talked to many employees and owners of a variety of companies busy testing or deploying ownCloud.

With the quickly growing number of ownCloud providers, perhaps the future for ownCloud (and data ownership for consumers and businesses alike) lies in such deployments, rather than people running their own servers. This is already a huge decentralization compared to everybody on one of the 4 or 5 clouds from Google and friends, which would help our privacy and security.

If things continue like this, the number of 2 million ownCloud users will have to be revised up to triple that before 2016 is here. I'd welcome that!