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Luc Verhaegen

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FOSDEM, and the SuSE bus. [Feb. 6th, 2014|06:16 pm]
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When i was still at SuSE, Localhorst would rent a Ford S-Max, and stuff it to the brim with openSuSE kit and swag and drive to FOSDEM. I usually was tolerated on board as well, with my sportsbag full of DevRoom kit, provided i sang along to the radio, and didn't mention burger-king. Everyone at SuSE either made their own arrangements, or everyone was stuck on a flight from Nuremberg to Brussels (which was quickly dubbed "The SuSE-Bomber").

After the massive and rather counterproductive layoffs after FOSDEM 2009, SuSE tended to organize a bus for its own employees. And from what i heard, it was a pretty good solution. Imagine a load of happy geeks, from a place in the world with the best beers, stuck on a bus. It made the whole event seem like a school trip, but one where some beers were actually allowed. And, since there usually was tons of extra space on the bus, a load of ex-SuSE guys got to hitch a ride as well. The result was that a lot of SuSE employees visited FOSDEM, and got to catch up on things with some ex-SuSE guys and generally start doing what conferences are for from the second the bus left Nuremberg. Since busses are cheap, this really was a perfect solution, and everyone was happy.

I never took the bus. For FOSDEM, I want to arrive in brussels around suppertime on friday, and leave monday around midday (when the alcohol of the previous night has worn off a bit). The bus tended to arrive around suppertime as well, but would leave again around 19:00 on sunday. Also, i tend to run a devroom and have at least one talk. I need those 5 hours of peace on the train to prepare my talk. But I heard good things about the bus, and that it all was great fun and a bit of a community event before (and after) the big community event.

This year, however, things were different. For a long time, apparently, nobody from the OpenSuSE team was really bothered with FOSDEM. This i find truly amazing, and a really bad sign with respect of where SuSE and openSuSE is apparently heading. From what i have heard, there was always a bit of a plan to get a bus, but it was unclear where the budget would come from, and no-one took any action. I also heard that two weeks before the event, SuSE employees were asked whether they wanted to go to FOSDEM. Now if you do this 2 weeks before the event, with people who often have a wife and kids these days, most will already have made other plans. Then, if you also state that those people who might be interested, also need to have some travel budget left over, and need to get approval in a few days time, you of course only get a handful of people who end up going to the biggest open source event of the planet. I heard the number 8.

8 people from SuSE went to FOSDEM. An absolute disgrace for what once was the leading european linux distribution.

Here is an idea: why not make the bus a community service from the start? Why doesn't OpenSuSE sponsor a bus, one which starts at nuremberg, and perhaps stops in Frankfurt-Flughafen (so some people can grab a smoke and empty their beer-filled bladders), and then continues on to Brussels? Give the SuSE employees 4 weeks early notice to get their seats reserved (which gives them an incentive to think about FOSDEM early on), and then make seat reservation open to anyone who wants to go visit FOSDEM and lives near Nuremberg or Frankfurt? You can even hand the community members a bag of SuSE swag and a frankonian beer.

SuSE would not only do something good for their own employees and makes it easier on them to visit FOSDEM. They would actually sponsor FOSDEM and help boost their openSuSE community.

I am actually surprised that this has to be said, and that idea hasn't been spawned from within the OpenSuSE team itself. But here you go. Now make it happen for next year.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sysrich
2014-02-06 05:34 pm (UTC)

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Hi Luc, I'm Richard Brown, openSUSE Board Member and also a SUSE Employee (recently hired).

For the previous 2 years, I was 'the guy' who arranged the openSUSE presence at FOSDEM, covering all the community aspects I could (booth, etc), and working with SUSE (incl. the openSUSE Team and other openSUSE contributors who work at SUSE) to make FOSDEM a really successful event for our project.

You're right, this year, SUSE did not arrange a SUSE-bus, which is something they have done every recent year until this one. It wasn't ideal, but I don't think it was due to lack of interest by SUSE, the openSUSE Team, or other openSUSE contributors who work at SUSE. It's something everyone tried to make happen to the last minute, but it just wasn't to be. It's something I hope the company does better next year.
But your number of '8' is incorrect, I'm not entirely sure how many SUSE employees were there, more like 12, probably more. We had employees from Germany, France, Spain - we don't just have staff in Nuremberg. I believe in many of those cases, those employees travel was sponsored by SUSE, so you could argue the company probably spent more money on FOSDEM this year than in previous years when they did the bus :)
SUSE certainly spent a great deal on all the new merchandising for openSUSE, which was launched at FOSDEM this year..
Just as importantly than that though, openSUSE is an *open* project and we had at least another 8 of our community members involved in the openSUSE presence at FOSDEM

So, you're right, the SUSE-bus/bomber is a great thing and I hope it comes back for next year, but I think we did a pretty darn good job this FOSDEM regardless, I enjoyed it at least.
[User Picture]From: libv
2014-02-06 07:19 pm (UTC)

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12 is still a rather pathetic number.

I am quite aware of the global mix of SuSE, but i am also quite aware that, since the Attachmate acquisition Nuremberg is the main location, followed by prague.

SuSE would do well to execute the plan i just outlined. They should even do a separate bus from Prague. Just rig up a registration system, publicize when the bus(ses) leave and where, and see the openSuSE community grow.
[User Picture]From: sysrich
2014-02-07 09:12 am (UTC)

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"SuSE would do well to execute the plan i just outlined"
Oh don't get me wrong, I agree, I think SUSE (the lower-case u is no more) would do well if they did something like this. I'm certainly going to suggest it

I just wanted to straighten the facts out there about openSUSE and FOSDEM - it's one of the most important events, we know that, and I think having 20 people plus the launch of our new merchandising shows it - doesn't mean we can't do better and suggestions like yours help.

BTW, a little aside, while I was at the booth, a young fellow from Germany came up and asked if anyone was heading back in the direction of 'Southern Germany' - I think he ended up getting a lift from some SUSE guys who were driving back.. the spirit of the SUSE-bus is still here, even if the physical bus was missing this year.
From: (Anonymous)
2014-02-10 04:24 am (UTC)

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The bus could even have magnetic banners on the side and back that won't wreck the paintwork of the hired bus.
This could advertise OpenSuSE/SuSE and FOSDEM, so some of the hire cost could come from the advertising budget.