FOSDEM finished a few hours ago and I’m almost literally fusing with the couch from where I’m writing this, bad body posture and all. It’s the best I can do.
I presented the latest project I’ve been working on, node-firefox, at the Mozilla track today. I was screencasting my talk but there were mechanical difficulties (namely the VGA plug disconnected), and Quicktime went bananas with the resolution change, so you’ll have to wait until the recordings for 2015 are published to watch the talk. By the way, kudos to Ioana Chiorean for her well researched introductory notes for each speaker. She never ceases to amaze me
It was really challenging to give this talk because there was people getting in and out of the room all the time, other people speaking out loud, and others playing games on a tablet (with sound effects!) and it was all so distracting that at some point I said something like “sorry, I’m really distracted”. I don’t know if that’s a “speaker faux pas“, but it was the truth! Ahhh! At least neither my live demos or Nightly crashed, so there’s that
I will write a post on node-firefox soon–probably for the Mozilla Hacks blog.
I spent most of Saturday finishing code + the talk so I only had the chance to watch a few talks by other Mozilla colleagues, and they were really interesting. Probably my favourite was Marco Zehe’s plea for rethinking the way we approach accessibility: it should not be an afterthought or a “nice to have” feature, it should be built-in from day zero. And it’s not only about blindness, it’s about motor impairment, cognitive impairment, color blindness… It’s not only about being able to “tab” between elements, but also about being able to understand their meaning. So many things we take for granted! We need to build for the people, but I feel we need to change our front-end culture of chasing the shiniest and nicest framework in order to get there.
I also wasn’t really thrilled about getting into the event itself. I found on Saturday that it didn’t have a code of conduct, or rather, it had a “social conduct policy” that verged on the antisocial:
The FOSDEM organisers were surprised to hear that harassment is a common problem at open source conferences around the world…
For an event this size, I expected them to have a code. I didn’t even bother to check! Even more, Mozilla is supposed to not to sponsor or attend events without a Code of Conduct. This was really disappointing. A year ago, I decided to never attend another conference without them. And there I was in Brussels and with a talk on my hands. What do I do? Do I just give up or just go ahead and do it?
I decided to do it anyway.
I sometimes go to places I don’t really feel like going to, so that someone else won’t feel like they’re the only one “not man”. It helps normalising the fact that women do exist in this field. It also puts a strain on me, but I want to think/hope that it will be less straining over time, as more and more diverse attendees join me.
Then on my way in, there was a group of Spaniards discussing out loud how German women are or not attractive. I’m highlighting “Spaniards” here because I am a native Spanish speaker, and I can be pretty sure there was no “misunderstanding” or cultural barrier here. I perfectly understood what they said. And when I hear that, I start wondering if they’re going to be discussing the rest of women they see at the event, the type of thoughts that are going through their minds, and that makes me uncomfortable.
Walking down the halls, I got those looks I hadn’t got in a few years—more specifically, since I stopped attending heavily sexist demoscene parties: “Oh, a woman!”. My colleagues that attended FOSDEM before had assured me it was a great event and it was all OK, but they are all men and their perception surely doesn’t include getting treated as an anomaly of sorts.
Thankfully, many attendees have called for a proper code of conduct. FOSDEM has replied, in a convoluted way, what many interpret as “we will have a code of conduct”:
Code of Conduct, message received. Booklet statement not evolved for 3 years, our way of handling issues has and will continue to improve. #
Some other attendees had made a fool of themselves declaring that CoC are not needed and “women are actually not interested in technology and engineering”. Pau, your behaviour is a good reason why women won’t apply to speak at FOSDEM. Have you stopped and considered that perhaps, maybe perhaps, women have less opportunities to change plans on a month’s notice and that’s why they can’t attend? Gah…
This “incident” aside, I had difficulty enjoying the event because of its busyness. The fact that it was all free and open for anyone to attend meant there was A LOT of people around, and while there were limits on the number of people inside a room for security reasons, there was no limit on the number of people circulating or just being on the halls. It was noisy and hot and damp, and as we say in Spanish “it smells like humanity” . So if you have issues with crowded places, perhaps FOSDEM is not a place you want to be in.
I certainly won’t go back until they sort out their Code of Conduct and inclusiveness issues.