FOSS Backstage 2022 — A True Community Conference

Attending the FOSS Backstage 2022 conference on "Community, Management & Compliance In Open Source Development" was a real highlight for me:

  • A conference
  • About Open Source
  • In Berlin
  • In person!

I fondly remember the first edition in 2018 (YouTube Archive, Flickr Photo Archive) which actually helped with my Open Source work at DB Systel. Given the ongoing COVID pandemic, the conference was very small, with only about 60 people attending in person and 200 additional remote participants. That, and the conference location in a co-working space, gave the event a very intimate and personal feeling. More like a true community meet-up than a polished commercial event.

The 2022 edition put the major focus on major Open Source related initiatives and community topics, but it didn't talk much about the practical sides of Open Source compliance, e.g. the OpenChain Project. I spoke with the organisers about that, and they indicated that future FOSS Backstage events will again showcase best practices and help companies to be good Open Source users.

The conference will soon make slides and recordings of all talks available.

My Impressions

These topics made a special impression on me:

Merzedes-Benz FOSS

I met a senior representative of Mercedes-Benz (or Daimler) at the FOSS Backstage in 2018 and we had a very interesting chat about the requirements for Open Source policies, mostly from a legal/compliance perspective. Back then it sounded as if the company was very guarded about Open Source. In 2021, just 3 years later, they have a a FOSS Competence Center under their CIO, a FOSS manifesto and they employ a FOSS ambassador and community managers.

And in 2022 Mercedes-Benz FOSS Ambassador Dr. Wolfgang Gehring talks openly about Open Source sponsoring, a topic which typically doesn't come first in the list of priorities. While Wolfgang couldn't disclose the amount that his company donates to OSS projects, the fact alone is already a major achievement for a big corporation in Germany. They are also early adopters of GitHub Sponsors and use that to pay out some of their funds.

I am deeply impressed and with Mercedes-Benz a lot of success with their future Open Source work!

The Sovereign Tech Fund of the German Government

In recent years there is a new trend to see Open Source tools and libraries as part of our critical software infrastructure. Major security issues like Heartbleed and Log4Shell helped a lot to make everybody recognise the problem. Thomas Fricke talked about the ongoing efforts of a group of very dedicated Open Source people to work with the German government on establishing the Sovereign Tech Fund. This would be the first time ever that public money would go to support important Open Source projects! And even more amazing, this is not only a stop-gap measure, but about creating a sustainable software ecosystem.

Again, this is an impressive development and was considered unthinkable just a few years ago. I can only hope that this and similar projects will be successful.

Open Source Project Lifecycle

Several talks addressed the topic of unpopular changes or even leaving an Open Source project: Richard Bowen talked about the end of life of the CentOS Linux distribution and Florian Gilcher talked about leaving his leading roles in the Rust programming language. As I also stopped to play an active role in the Relax and Recover project, their talks also touched some of my thoughts.

The U.N. on Open Source

Heath Arensen, Director of Open Source Programs at the UN Foundation’s Digital Impact Alliance, talked about Open Source technologies and principles being the base for a lot of their work.

I am really happy to hear how these organisations embrace Open Source.

Thank you Forto

Finally I would like to thank my employer Forto for sponsoring this conference. Forto was the only Berlin-based company to sponsor. I'd like to call out to all other Tech companies in Berlin to go and check your Open Source adoption, your policies and your ability to sponsor Open Source projects and communities.

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