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Report from the 2019 FSFE Community Meeting in Bolzano, Italy


This year's FSFE Community Meeting took place from Friday 15 November to Saturday 16 November 2019 as part of SFSCon - an annual Free Software event in the city of Bolzano in South Tyrol, Italy. As in previous editions, embedding our community meeting in another event gave us the opportunity to meet different parts of our own community as well as to connect with people from other communities.

On Friday, SFScon started officially and the NOI Techpark transformed into the interim capital of Free Software with talks and booths. Of course, the FSFE booth was also part of it and the booth team commandeered the whole area by installing a balloon chain and putting up posters. The rumours that the booth team gave away free pizza (not as in freedom) to gain more attention, are highly exaggerated, though.

The FSFE pizza lunch
Free Pizza (not as in freedom) lunch at the 2019 FSFE Community Meeting at SFScon. Photo by Patrick Masson

On Saturday we held many talks about software freedom, some of which were recorded by the SFScon team and are available to watch online. For instance, "Free Software and Open Standards in Tourism" by Patrick Ohnewein, "Challenges with Free Software Business Models" by Björn Schießle, and "Putting AI back into people's hands", and many more you can follow up with via our community event's page where you can also find their respective pdf presentations.

Patrick Ohnewein on FS in tourism
Patrick Ohnewein captivating the audience with how Free Software and Open Standards help the tourism industry. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Bjoern Schiessle presentation in Bolzano
Björn Schießle on why it is important for large organisations to invest in Free Software innovations. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Vincent Lequertier on people controling AI
Vincent Lequertier on how people can take the control over Artificial Intelligence back in their hands. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When the FSFE track and the Community Meeting started, the FSFE added another facet to the event with a variety of other talks, such as one on what MicroG is and what lies in its future, by Marvin W . In his talk, Marvin gave an overview of the Free Software replacements for Google services on Android that are available. In his session on sustainability of software, Erik Albers spoke on why it is important to preserve software heritage, as well as how communities and Free Software licensing help achieve that. In his talk "Free Software legal licenses 101", Carlo Piana introduced to the attendees, why it is important for them to have a license when developing Free Software and what the consequences of improper licensing could be. The FSFE's current intern Bonnie Mehring called out for support and actions from citizens to write letters to local administrations as part of our "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign.

Marvin W on MicroG
Marvin W wows the public with what MicroG is and its future prospects. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Carlo Piana 101 FS licensing
Carlo Piana explains why Free Software licenses are necessary. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Bonnie Mehring on writting letters
Bonnie Mehring says we need more publicly funded bodies to sign in the "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

At noon, the SFScon officially ended, but the FSFE Community Meeting continued throughout with talks about FSFE's involvement with the Next Generation Internet projects, where Gabriel Ku Wei Bin and Lucas Lasota presented the Open Calls the initiative launches and the licensing consultation they do for the participating software projects. The FSFE's coordinator for Zurich, Gian-Maria Daffré aka Giammi shared how the Swiss team was running the Freedomvote campaign for the Swiss elections. The aim of this tool is to increase not just citizen participation, but to also get the political candidates more involved and in touch with their constituencies. The FSFE dedicated an article to it back in October, which can give extra insights.

A nice part of the event was the more spontaneous activity sessions. One major part there were the lightning talks, of course, where the spotlight was taken by Christian Busse's input about European science and research benefitting from Free Software. A great energising session was the one where we encouraged all audience members to take the mic and briefly talk about their favourite Free Software. If you are curious to deploy more useful Free Software applications on your devices, some of those mentioned at this session were SuperTuxKart, KiCad, AntennaPod, and the Fedilab-App.

It is great to think of how far our movement has come over the past 35 years, especially as we face new challenges on a regular basis. Another productive session was when the audience split up and chose topics for breakout sessions, which included topics such as what kind of events the FSFE should organize or be a part of, Freedomvote in France, further steps for our REUSE initiative, and an on-the-fly system hackers meeting to improve the Jabber server to handle images in multi-user chats in future.

As always, at these community events, there was plenty of time for exchanging ideas outside of the official sessions and for socialising. Our booth team was busy answering questions about the FSFE's position on certain issues, about our work, and more general Free Software questions. Of course, they were also busy selling merchandise and distributing informative materials.

The FSFE Community Meeting stand in Bolzano
The FSFE Community meets SFScon visitors and answers their questions. Photo credit: SFScon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The evenings we spent dining together and debating important issues, sometimes late into the night, powered by amazing food and desserts, delicious fresh mountain spring water, and Hops smoothies from Bolzano.

The FSFE Community Meeting dinner
The FSFE Community enjoying each others company over local food and drinks. Photo by the FSFE

On Sunday, part of the community explored the town of Bolzano and its historical sites together, and put a relaxing ending to a great event. A big THANK YOU goes to everyone who helped organise the event and to everyone who participated! We are very much looking forward to seeing even more of you in 2020.