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22. August 2014

Mirror, Mirror: Trek Convention and FLOSS Conferences

It's been a while since I did any blogging, but that doesn't mean I haven't been doing anything - on the contrary, I have been too busy to blog, basically. We had a few Firefox releases where I scrambled until the last day of the beta phase to make sure we keep our crash rates as low as our users probably expect by now, I did some prototyping work on QA dashboards (with already-helpful results and more to come) and helped in other process improvements on the Firefox Quality team, worked with different teams to improve stability of our blocklist ping "ADI" data, and finally even was at a QA work week and a vacation in the US. So plenty of stuff done, and I hope to get to blog about at least some pieces of that in the next weeks and months.

That said, one major part of my recent vacation was the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention, which I attended the second time after last year. Since back then, I wanted to blog about some interesting parallels I found between that event (I can't compare to other conventions, as I've never been to any of those) and some Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) conferences I've been to, most notably FOSDEM, but also the larger Mozilla events.
Of course, there's the big events in the big rooms and the official schedule - on the conferences it's the keynotes and presentations of developers about what's new in their software, what they learned or where we should go, on the convention it's actors and other guests talking about their experiences, what's new in their lives, and entertaining the crowd - both with questions from the audience. Of course, the topics are wildly different. And there's booths at both, also quite a bit different, as it's autograph and sales booths on one side, and mainly info booths on the other, though there are geeky T-shirts sold at both types of events. ;-)

The largest parallels I found, though, are about the mass of people that are there:
For one thing, the "hallway track" of talking to and meeting other attendees is definitely a main attraction and big piece of the life of the events on both "sides" there. Old friendships are being revived, new found, and the somewhat geeky commonalities are being celebrated and lead to tons of fun and involved conversations - not just the old fun bickering between vi and emacs or Kirk and Picard fans (or different desktop environments / different series and movies). :)
For the other, I learned that both types of events are in the end more about the "regular" attendees than the speakers, even if the latter end up being featured at both. Especially the recurring attendees go there because they want to meet and interact with all the other people going there, with the official schedule being the icing on the cake, really. Not that it would be unimportant or unneeded, but it's not as much the main attraction as people on the outside, and possibly even the organizers, might think. Also, going there means you do for a few days not have to hide your "geekiness" from your surroundings and can actively show and celebrate it. There's also some amount of a "do good" atmosphere in both those communities.
And both events, esp. the Trek and Mozilla ones, tend to have a very inclusive atmosphere of embracing everyone else, no matter what their physical appearance, gender or other social components. And actually, given how deeply that inclusive spirit has been anchored into the Star Trek productions by Gene Roddenberry himself, this might even run deeper in the fans there than it is in the FLOSS world. Notably, I saw a much larger amount of women and of colored people on the Star Trek Conventions than I see on FLOSS conferences - my guess is that at least a third of the Trek fans in Las Vegas were female, for example. I guess we need some more role models in they style of Nichelle Nichols and others in the FLOSS scene.

All in all, there's a lot of similarities and still quite some differences, but quite a twist on an alternate universe like it's depicted in Mirror, Mirror and other episodes - here it's a different crowd with a similar spirit and not the same people with different mindsets and behaviors.
As a very social person, I love attending and immersing myself in both types of events, and I somewhat wonder if and how we should have some more cross-pollination between those communities.
I for sure will be seen on more FLOSS and Mozilla events as well as more Star Trek conventions! :)

Von KaiRo, um 17:09 | Tags: community, FOSDEM, Las Vegas, Mozilla, Star Trek | keine Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

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