Thoughts on FOSDEM 2008

I really have been disappointed quite a bit with my visit to FOSDEM this year. In fact, many of my observations might actually apply to Brussels as a whole, I really don't know.

It all started with arriving at Bruxelles Central station on friday, where the entire station was so crowded it took me ages to fight my way through the crowds. Then something like only the fourth idle cab driver was willing to actually take us to the hotel. The others for whatever reason didn't want to earn those 15 EUR. Aren't there some regulations forcing them to transport paying passengers?

Then, let's talk about the social event on friday. How can you hold such an event in a place that's about one third of the required size, and which has a music volume level that effectively prevents any form of communication. I left after about 10 minutes there, since there just was no point at all. One wonders what happens if there is a fire. Aren't there some kind of regulations of the max number of people you are allowed to cram into tiny places like that pub?

At the conference venue the problem seemed to re-occur. All the rooms are significantly too small. Combined with the lack of ventilation and the lack of a PA system it was not possible to stand more than a single talk in the devroom, before I had to get out to get fresh air.

Getting in and out of the DevRooms is also a challenge by itself, since the hallways are over-crowded and full of noisy and loud conversations. Opening the door for even a small amount of time is barely impossible, since that would expose the talk on the inside to the enormous noise levels on the hallway. Especially since the DevRooms don't have any PA system, it's already quite a challenge to understand the speaker inside the room. Somebody opening the door just completely kills the communication flow

The entire idea of putting up all the projects with tables in the hallways seems questionable to me. They do nothing but block the path for other people (also blocking emergency escape paths). Furthermore, cold air gets in all the time since many people have to use the doors in order to walk between the different buildings. It would make much more sense to keep the hallways for what they are: Ways where people walk between rooms. The project tables should be inside rooms. Those rooms would self-contain the noise generated by the tables, be more comfortable (warm, no wind) and keep the hallways free for people to walk on.

The same problem exists for the "BAR" where you get food and drinks. It's too small, too crowded, and absolutely not comfortable at all (cold wind coming in through the permanently open doors, ...)

And then consider the public transport "performance" on weekends. It took me regularly more than an hour for something that was a 2.6km distance between hotel and venue. That's quite ridiculous. Given how crammed those few trams are that actually run, it doesn't seem to be a shortage of passengers that makes them operate so few trains per hour.

All in all, I could not do anything else but to attribute FOSDEM 2008 as something like "the most inefficient event", i.e. where I wasted a lot of time for reasons stated above, rather than actually attending lectures.