From May 19-20, 2018, the local open source community in Tirana, Albania organized the fifth year of Open Source Conference Albania (OSCAL). For the fifth year, the Fedora Project participated as a sponsor of this regional conference. OSCAL focuses on topics of software freedom, open knowledge, free culture, and decentralization. It attracts a range of international speakers and sponsors to a mostly local Albanian audience.
What we did at OSCAL 2018
The Fedora Project and its contributors were present in multiple areas of the OSCAL experience. Fedora took part to encourage the growth of the local Fedora community, support the efforts of existing Fedora Ambassadors and contributors, and introduce different technologies that make Fedora unique.
Fedora organized a booth and held a release party to commemorate Fedora 28. Several contributors delivered talks and workshops during OSCAL. Additionally, several Fedora contributors delivered talks and workshops across both days of the conference.
Fedora organized a booth at OSCAL, along with other open source projects. During both days of the conference, Fedora contributors met and engaged with conference attendees and other open source project contributors. The Fedora booth consisted of contributors from around the world, which was a powerful way to show the diversity and size of the Fedora community. Amita Sharma, Anxhelo Lushka, Bee Padalkar, Brian Exelbierd, Jona Azizaj, Justin W. Flory, Mariana Balla, Michael Scherer, and Renata Gegaj participated as representatives of the Fedora Project at OSCAL.
The community booth allowed us to have personalized conversations about the Fedora Project’s goals and objectives and about our community. We fielded questions about the technology in Fedora and described how Fedora innovates through our existing Objectives – Fedora Modularity was a frequent topic. Our contributors also had conversations about the Fedora community and how to make first steps to get involved.
Celebrating six months
Jona organized a release party event on Sunday. For one hour, we held an informal community meet-up over a specially designed Fedora 28 cake. Before cutting the cake, all Fedora contributors introduced themselves to the room and we explained different components of the Fedora Project and the community. Justin also explained the mission and objectives of Fedora.
After the introductions and presentation, we cut the cake and broke into smaller groups. This was a chance for conference attendees and anyone interested in the Fedora community to meet us and have conversations about the project. Even after the hour ended, the cake and conversations moved outside to the hallway. Our fellow party-goers and Fedora contributors shared contact information before cleaning up and leaving for next sessions.
Several Fedora contributors also participated as speakers. Below, you can find the speakers and their session titles:
- Amita Sharma: Importance of communication in open source communities
- Bee Padalkar: Introduction to machine learning (workshop)
- Justin W. Flory: Open Source 101
- Michael Scherer: Fedora Silverblue (ex Atomic Workstation) in practice
- Bee Padalkar, Renata Gegaj: Get paid to contribute to FOSS; Community meetup: Girls in open source
Speaking at conferences is an important way of developing presence. Fedora contributors were present as speakers for both days of OSCAL, and we were able to speak on various topics – many based off of experiences and knowledge gained by working inside of the Fedora Project.
Why does Fedora go to OSCAL?
OSCAL is a unique conference for the Fedora Project to take part in and attend. Fedora contributors participated in OSCAL to represent and advocate for the project and its community. Doing this had three primary impacts for Fedora as a participating organization: encouraging growth and development of the local community, supporting the efforts of local Ambassadors with an official presence, and introducing different technologies that make Fedora unique.
Developing the local community
In western Europe and the United States, free and open source software has existed for nearly 40 years. In Albania, the free and open source software movement is young and still discovering its focus. Overall, there is less awareness of free software and open source communities. Yet, that doesn’t mean there is little interest: the Open Labs Hackerspace is a local hub of open source activities and the Tirana municipality is turning to open data and open source. Open source is playing a bigger role across different areas of Albania.
Fedora’s presence supports the growth and development of the local community. Our personal conversations with OSCAL attendees builds awareness of the Fedora Project and other open source communities close to Fedora. It encourages local technologists to turn to open source solutions at school and at work. Several conversations revolved around attendees trying to incorporate open source solutions like Fedora into office workstations to stay ahead of innovations in the container world. Others focused on ways to make a first contribution to the Fedora community. The diverse participation of speakers from around the world at OSCAL is an encouraging and valuable part of strengthening the local community in Tirana.
Additionally, the “Girls in Open Source” community meet-up hosted by Bee and Renata was a step further to connect female attendees with the wider Fedora and open source communities. Bee and Renata introduced different women role models holding technical and non-technical leadership positions. After, the conversation shifted to the attendees in the room and their interests. Bee, Renata, and other contributors shared projects and resources to help connect the open source newcomers back to the projects. It helped generate interest and motivation to get involved and contribute to the Fedora Project. The impact of community meet-ups like these is establishing relationships with conference attendees in a more personal and meaningful way than listening to a talk. It gives a large, intimidating project a face and creates a pathway for someone to get involved with the help of a mentor.
Supporting local Ambassador efforts
For nearly five years, Fedora Ambassadors have organized many events at the Open Labs Hackerspace in Tirana. Anxhelo, Jona, and Mariana are members of Open Labs and take part in Fedora as Ambassadors. Together, they continue to organize release parties and community meet-ups at the hackerspace. They also work closely with other members to help them start their open source journey in communities like Fedora. Fedora’s participation and presence at OSCAL is a direct way to support and encourage events beyond the length of one weekend.
Fedora Project contributors may visit from around the world for one weekend, but the events and community work happening in Tirana continues around the year. By participating at OSCAL, we build on top of the work of local Ambassadors by offering greater exposure to Fedora’s mission, our goals, and our community. Not only does it strengthen the foundation laid by local contributors, but it encourages and motivates local contributors to continue the work they are doing.
Introducing different technologies from Fedora
Lastly, participating at events like OSCAL enables Fedora to have wider outreach about some of the lesser-known but interesting aspects of the technologies and objectives going on. The current three Objectives demonstrate other ways Fedora innovates and provides exciting solutions for complicated problems. Many people at the booth were interested to learn about Modularity. In some conversations, local developers were familiar with the pain of deploying applications with different software versions, and Modularity provided an interesting way to address and solve that problem.
Additionally, OSCAL was an avenue to talk about new work like Team Silverblue. Michael Scherer introduced Silverblue, how it is different from a traditional operating system workstation, and pointers on how to get started using and giving feedback to the developers.
Participating at OSCAL gives us a platform to engage with local communities and developers in areas outside of the traditional sphere of influence of the community. This paints a picture of the Fedora Project community with an impression that goes past two days.
Thanks OSCAL friends!
A special thanks goes to the organizers of OSCAL for hosting a great range of international speakers and topics of importance and interest. Another thanks goes to Bee and Renata for organizing the “Girls in open source” community meetup and Jona for organizing the Fedora 28 release party. Additional thanks and appreciation goes to Brian for his support as Fedora Community Action and Impact Coordinator.
Lastly, more thanks goes to Amita, Bee, and Jona for organizing a Diversity & Inclusion team hack session on the Monday after the conference. This was a valuable opportunity for the D&I team to work through existing tickets and tasks. To read more about the D&I hack session, read Amita and Bee’s event reports on their personal blogs.
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Original article title: Fedora Community Blog: Building community at Open Source Conference Albania (OSCAL) 2018.
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