I have a few people in the Netherlands that I dare call my friends so when I found out that MuteMath was going to sing in Amsterdam, I bought a few tickets and took some day off to see them.
One of them had the wonderful idea to spend the weekend in Bruxelles and go to Fosdem, the biggest open source software gathering in Europe. I went there having really big expectations. Software conferences in Romania are sort of dull. And as usual it was disappointing. I should realize by now that it really does not matter the country or nationality, people are the same everywhere. Maybe they have more capable politicians, better roads but people are the same everywhere.
The event took place at Université Libre de Bruxelles and it was sponsored by RedHat, GitHub, OReilly, Google, Cisco, Colt, HP and MySQL. The presentations were quite short and the presenters were either unprepared either bad at it. The French presenters were the worst. Their English was so bad it hurt my ears. Some of them were really passionate about what they were presenting, but sharing their passion with the public was not among their talents.
The most amazing presentation I witnessed was Lars Vogels. He is the biggest contributor to Eclipse, and although my professional relationship with Eclipse ended more than an year ago, his presentation and demo was so good it genuinely made me desire to be an Eclipse contributor. I’m not sure if there were others that good, I mean there were 600+ in total, and I participated to … probably ten. It could have been eleven, but me and my friend were chased away from one of the Hadoop presentations because the room was full. The room was not full enough for the guy that entered behind us.
If that seems like a reproach for some misogyny, that was exactly what that was. Because my dear readers, Fosdem is a full fledged sausage fest. It was full of geeks or wannabe geeks, 99% males and a lot of them seemed strangers to basic hygiene products and practices. Also I assisted to 10 presentations, neither of the presenter was female. Which was kind of odd. In Romania, the IT domain is evenly distributed among men and women. And I have always thought this was the case in more evolved/civilized countries. And when I read articles about how women were organizing abroad in women programming groups and how they were sort of militating for womens rights in IT, I considered it it silly. Because for me in the domain I work in, in my country, there is not difference between a woman and a man programmer. I mean, shit, the focus is on the code, on the solution, not on what gender the programmer is. So Fosdem and other stories of my female friends working abroad made me aware about the fact that if I ever consider working as an IT specialist outside the country I will get to experience misogyny, sexual harassment and mean gender related jokes in the work place. And I will have to take it, because complaining about it won’t help my case. Because although the world is changing and people have become more opened to accept same sex marriages and transgender people, we are still far from accepting that we should not consider gender when we evaluate somebody’s capacity of doing their freaking job.
Anyway, Bruxelles is an interesting city, I liked it. But I don’t think I would be able to live there. I was amazed about how big the Université Libre de Bruxelles campus is. I sort of wish the university I studied at would have been as big and as great as this. But it is what it is, the past cannot be changed and I turned out pretty well in the end.
After my experience I can tell you for sure, that if I ever go to Fosdem again it will be as a presenter. And I will make my presentation interesting, fun and interactive.