I've just spent the weekend at FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Developer's European Meeting) in Brussels, and it was every bit as invigorating as last year. There's something very special about such a well attended event where the vast majority of people are contributing their time and considerable expertise free of charge out of love. It can't help but rub off, even on non-developers like me.
However the most interesting thing I found is that several open source projects are now making special efforts to engage with non-developers. Whether it's in the fields of design, usability or marketing, several projects are now realising that their product can benefit from a more diverse skill set. I've written about Ubuntu in the past, and now Drupal has hired not one but two usability gurus and MediaWiki is hiring for a Usability Initiative.
Furthermore, Mozilla are starting a new design initiative called the "Creative Collective". What sets this apart from the other projects is that creatives are expected to contribute for free. And they've done it in the past, e.g. for t-shirt design projects. How did Mozilla drum up so much support from designers? Through branding and marketing. Many designers embrace Firefox to such an extent that designing Firefox t-shirts is a form of self expression. And the results are terrific.
Anyway, back to FOSDEM itself! I was mostly interesting in the Mozilla and Drupal tracks, and both projects are making great strides.
Mozilla in fact is now imagining what life might be like in 2060! Obviously no-one can predict what the web or world will look like then, but they're going to follow a "clear conceptual map" to get there, based on helping users to study, copy, modify and share. Incidentally, it's worth pausing for a moment to see how far they've come already. In 2003, Internet Explorer had ~99% of the market share. In 2008 that figure has dropped to ~68%, with Firefox taking ~21% of the share. And that's even with most standard PC builds coming with Internet Explorer pre-installed. Amazing, really!
As for Drupal, it was useful hearing about the progress they're making towards Drupal 7. But the best session for me was one by Emma Jane Hogbin, who lives some 200 miles North of Toronto. She operates a sort of Drupal club, for small businesses within 100 mile radius, for whom she runs several web sites based on near-identical principles. Economies of scale (think: bulk security updates) means she can provide a valuable service at bargain prices, and she brings all these business owners together for a Drupal night once a month or so, to see each other's websites and form friendships. Inspirational. She's uploaded session notes and answers to questions here.
Anyway, that's FOSDEM over for another year. I'm going to miss the quirky, geeky humour:
...not to mention the crazy beers...
..and Brussels was gorgeous as always!
Finally I can't end the post without thanking the organisers and staff. As ever they did an amazing job, didn't ask for any money, and every single one of them deserves a huge amount of credit for a job well done. Thanks guys!
UPDATE 9/2/09: Oops, forgot to mention that there's an album of photos up on Flickr.