Zalando @ FOSDEM

Why FOSDEM is not your average conference

photo of Paul Adams
Paul Adams

Engineering Lead Search & Personalization

Posted on Feb 22, 2018

Why FOSDEM is not your average conference

I could get cheeky with semantics and point out that the “M” in FOSDEM stands for “Meeting”. But I’ll play nice and focus instead on the specifics of the event itself. FOSDEM has been running since 2001. In that time, it has grown to become the open source community event for Europe. Over a two-day event, thousands of attendees descend upon the ULB in Brussels to attend what is, in reality, a collection of conferences.

A Conference of Conferences

The “primary” FOSDEM conference is constructed from keynotes and “main tracks,” of which there are eight. So it’s already pretty big. In addition, there are the “Dev Rooms”; independently curated mini-conferences on specific topics ranging from geospatial, to retrocomputing, to virtualization. For the FOSDEM newcomer, the choice can be daunting.

Once upon a time, I did my part for open source by introducing the world to my personal FOSDEM survival guide. The “Law of Limited Participation” continues to be my personal FOSDEM mantra: Don’t go to talks. If you insist on going to talks, especially the more popular talks, I highly recommended actually attending the slot before your choice to ensure you get a seat. Otherwise, you might still be queuing when the speaker you want to see has already started taking questions.


Speaking of talks you really wanted to see…

Zalando Speaks at FOSDEM

Zalando did not come here to play. At this year’s FOSDEM we presented three talks on a wide variety of topics:

Every Zalando talk was “sold out”. We care about giving back to open source at Zalando and teaching others about the work we do; our open source projects are an important aspect of that. It was great to see so much interest! (Thanks for queuing for so long, folks!)

Perfecting The Imperfect

FOSDEM is not a conference. I’m not about to brand it “unique” but I certainly do not know any other event like it. As it has grown (and it’s grown fast!) the organizers, the volunteers, the sponsors and, most importantly, the attendees, have grown with it.

Attendance is free. The content is of a high quality. The attendees are as much part of the experience as the speakers. The beer is cheap (the Club Mate is expensive). The fries have mayo. O’Reilly sells books. Debian sells t-shirts. Everyone has stickers.


I was proud to see Zalando be a visible part of FOSDEM's crazy mix this year and, as we ramp up our voice around open source in 2018, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can contribute to this event in 2019.

Come work with people like Paul. Have a look at our jobs page.

FOSDEM video music by