I spent most of last week at FOSS.IN/2009 in Bangalore, India. I've been to this conference every year since 2003, and have been speaking there every year since 2004. It is, with good reason, one of my favourite developer conferences, with a lot packed into five days.
One of the best things about FOSS.IN are the workouts. The thing about FOSS projects is that developers are often located around the world and seldom meet each other. Conferences are where you get that face time, and sometimes that's the best time to fix those nasty bugs that need many eyeballs. That's what the project workouts aim to enable. Projects from around the world get space, time and bandwidth to hack. It's also a good time to draft new developers onto the team and give them the initial hand-holding to turn into full-fledged devs. I don't have the actual numbers, but there were an astounding number of people hacking at FOSS.IN/2009. When they ran out of table space, I saw several groups just sit on the floor and hack. It was also good to see some of my old projects under new hackagement.
The conference wasn't just limited to software though, there was also an OpenStreetMap mapping party, a hardware hacking session, GSM protocol analysis, Wikipedia hacking, Nokia's new Maemo devices, a high speed photography BoF, and a heck of a lot of music.
From what I heard in the hallways, every session rang positive with the audience. As with most conferences, there are often several interesting sessions running in parallel. The few that I managed to attend were high quality. Mozilla Labs hacker Anant Narayanan had some good sessions. During his talk on Jetpack, the audience hacked up a few jetpacks of their own. APC and dotGNU hacker t3rmin4t0r's talk on libjit was very insightful.
The three keynotes I could attend — by Harald, Mrinal and Milosch were all different, but covered the true nature of the hacker spirit, which is what this conference is all about. Harald spoke about his work on opening up technology domains which have not traditionally been open to opensource developers. Milosch covered hardware hacking, followed by a workout to teach anyone how to hack hardware. Mrinal's talk was about ROS - a Robot Operating System and the associated robots that he's been working on.
Just before I got on to my flight for Bangalore, Atul told me that my talk had been upgraded to a keynote. Apparently he did the same with all the other keynote speakers. They were a hard act to follow, and I hope I did justice to the slot.
In the end, barring a short bout of panic, I enjoyed FOSS.IN this year, and learnt a few new things. Will I be back next year? You bet!