After being at the booth at FOSDEM 2017 and in light of upcoming
FOSDEM 2018 let me raise a discussion about what we are actually doing
at the booth there.
At the last FOSDEM we had a number of T-shirts available as swag. And
the process looked as follows:
Whenever person stopped at a booth for the moment, he/she was
approached by the Fedora Ambassador with a question "Do you want a
Fedora T-shirt? Register an account and sign for a Fosdem badge to get
The person signs in right there from a phone or laptop, gets a T-shirt
and goes away.
While we get some Fedora "users" from this approach, I think it is
(Please don't take it as a personal offense, it is the approach
itself, not the Ambassador who manages it :) )
So let's stick to the goal: the reason why we host a booth at a
conference is to show that we exist, and that we are a good community
worth joining. The reasons (at least my reasons to join) are:
1) always something interesting happens,
2) generic upstream-oriented attitude - we are doing something for
every one, not just for our project alone.
So our presence at the conference should somehow reflect that.
Being Ambassador staying the whole day at the booth talking with
random strangers is quite hard. So when you get tired you want to
switch to some auto-pilot mode, when you don't want to think anymore
and just stick to some formal rules, like "sign in - get a t-shirt".
But this is not why we are there. This mode actually damages the
We shouldn't commercialize it, thus we shouldn't behave like a
mindless marketing crowd who's goal is to collect "links to
customers". We are community who works together and who talks about
our work. That is the primary option, swag, Fedora account, badge -
these are all funny, but completely optional things. Remove them - and
there still be Fedora booth worth visiting.
Thus, my suggestion:
* don't aggressively promote the Fedora Account or badge. You can
explain what it is, but never start conversation with the "Sign in!",
never force anyone to sign in, unless he needs to report a bug or
smth. This builds the respect and trust.
* don't consider number of sign-ins as a measure of success, get personal.
Specifically for T-shirts: Year ago at FrOSCon we had a pack of "Proud
Fedora User" T-shirts. When it came to distributing them, we need a
way to identify people which get them, so that we don't just throw
them away for nothing.
At Fosdem the Fedora Account registration was used for that. But at
FrOSCon I did it differently. I simply asked the person "Are you a
_proud_ Fedora user?" And guess what, I always get an honest answer,
which works as a good conversation starter. We had a lot of fun then,
without any enforced "T-shirt requirement" and any commercialization
of the process..
* be ready to talk technical (or better say "real", design,
documentation,.. whatever works for you). Don't be the
swag-distributing robot. Have your interest.
For example I've recently made a LED light blinking on a raspberry pi
- this is super easy to be honest, but it is awesome and I can talk
about it :)
* When you are tired - get a break. Have you time to visit a talk or
two. Get involved in the topics in other booths. Be part of the big
crowd. We are not just Fedora, we are part of much bigger community.
And we don't have to force them to be Fedorians to work together :)
Usually there are quite a lot of Fedorians at FOSDEM, I think we can
make it easier to join the booth, if we will be more open about
joining. For example let's have a schedule printed at the booth and
let people randomly running around to sign on sight for particular
time slots - hour or two of booth work. I think it would be nice
experience for some of those Fedora users, who don't have time or
desire to commit to the entire event. Let them sign for just a
particular hour - it would be easier for them to participate, it would
be easier for others to find them.
And this would make Fedora booth the default meeting point.
Generally, Fedora is not to sell, it is to be part of, or to collaborate with :)