Debconf'23 was one of the most anticipated events held last September in Kochi, Kerala, India. The annual conference of Debian brought together experts and newcomers from almost all areas of free and open-source software. The event provided a golden opportunity for people involved in the world of free and open-source software to hang out with the individuals who build the software they use. For me personally, this included meeting 13-year-old Rudra Saraswat, the creator of blendOS and the current maintainer of Ubuntu Unity, as well as veterans like Till Kamppeter, who is referred to as the father of printing in Linux and the current manager of OpenPrinting.
The event began with DebCamp, an informal hacker week where participants ranging from newcomers to veterans arrive a week before the main event to conduct code sprints on their projects. During this time, the Video team sets up various live streams for the event. I arrived on the last day of DebCamp, and by that time, most of the setups were nearly complete. The event was hosted at the Four Points by Sheraton Kochi Infopark, marking the first time the conference happened in a hotel rather than a university.
After DebCamp, the main event, DebConf, commenced. By this time, almost all registered participants had arrived and become familiar with their surroundings. Even though I arrived a bit late to DebCamp, I had the chance to meet many participants from the Noisy Hacklab and attend the room party that took place on the last night of DebCamp. The event officially started at 10:30 AM on Sunday, September 10, with an opening speech by Sruthi Chandran, followed by an introduction to the continuous Key-signing Party. You can find the full schedule and the video stream of the event here.
Cheese and Wine Party
Due to state laws and alcohol licenses, the scale of the cheese and wine party, especially the wine part, had to be significantly reduced. The tradition of this party allowed participants from around the world to share their native wine and cheese varieties with each other. Cheese was actively sorted and cut in the dining halls. After the formal events and sessions for the day concluded, the courtyard was filled with different varieties of cured cheese and delicacies from around the globe. We were able to explore foreign treats as well as local snacks that were also present at the table. To make up for the absence of wine, the team arranged various imported and locally available wine, as well as liquor for the attendees. Fresh tender coconut also opened up possibilities for different cocktails.
On Day 4, the Daytrip began. I had chosen the option with the highest demand, which was Trip C, the Houseboat Cruise at Alappuzha. This trip garnered a rapid influx of participants since it was the only one where you could sit back and relax for a day, compared to the other trips that involved trekking, walking, or kayaking through the city or jungle. The trip started at 9 AM, and we returned to the hotel around 7 PM.
Upon returning from the daytrip, we received the devastating news that Abraham was missing from his kayaking group. Despite collective prayers, we learned the sad truth that Abraham, who was in charge of the kayaking group, got caught in a whirlpool while swimming and was found dead after several hours of searching. The Debian family was shattered by the loss of one of their own. Friends and family who had just spent time with him a few hours earlier couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he was gone. Abraham had a deep love for Free Software and was an influential figure in the FOSS community, especially in Kerala. The Debian community met Abraham’s family to offer their condolences. All the talks and events, including the conference dinner, were canceled, and a silent hacklab was reserved for mourning the loss.
The talks resumed as scheduled on Saturday. The DebConf Group photo was taken outside the Anamudi Hall in the afternoon. DebConf 23 was coming to a close. Lightning talks featured tools like extrepo and the current status of PHOS. Japan, South Korea, Romania, Germany, and Portugal presented their bids for hosting DebConf 25 in your city. You can watch the video about the bids here. The event concluded with a closing speech by Akash Santhosh, who presented various statistics and data about DebConf ‘23, including network usage and financial information.
DebConf ‘23 had a deeper impact on our lives than we ever imagined. As mentioned earlier, the event was akin to a Comic-Con for free software enthusiasts. The people we interacted with and the technology we explored expanded our horizons in ways we didn’t think were possible. The fire to reach more students and introduce them to free software was fueled by every interaction at the event. DebConf underscored the importance of community gatherings in the world of free software. If you’ve read this far, make sure to apply for every free software event you come across, whether organized by local colleges or big corporations. The opportunities you encounter in these events are unparalleled. And at least once in your life, attend a DebConf to experience the Debian community.