I didn’t make it to FOSDEM last weekend.
This time I could perfectly well have done so: there was nowhere else I had to be, no deadline I was pressed to meet, no travel difficulties. No such excuse. I just didn’t go.
My loss. Certainly in terms of who I didn’t meet (old friends and new), what I didn’t learn, how my mind didn’t get stimulated, what projects and ideas haven’t excited me. Damn.
So what kept me away? Obviously it’s that bit harder work than higher-budget conferences. The venue is a bit hit-and-miss, with some of the rooms being quite an ordeal. On the other hand, the big lecture theatre with the keynotes and the smaller ones where most talks happen are perfectly good, the room with the “lightning talks” (always a good default place if there’s a time when you have nothing scheduled) likewise, and the better project rooms are good for a session – at least when there’s something in that limited space of interesting but not too overcrowded and stuffy.
No, what really put me off was the prospect of once again running the gamut of the smokers. The stench of it in the lobby and corridors, exhibition space and coffee area, coupled with the crowds that prevent getting from A to B on a single breath. The good reasons to go to FOSDEM are at an intellectual level, but the feeling of a descent into filth when I think about going is overwhelming at a basic, Proustian level.
On that analysis, I may never go again. That’s sad.