Zeno's Notes

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FOSDEM 2011

Here is my late FOSDEM report. The nice thing is that all the guys have already written their reports, so I can link to them ;-).

First of all, it was a really great and crowded event. There were around 5,000 participants, and there was a full and interesting schedule. The organization was superb.

On the train to Brussels I gave the slides a final polishing, and prepared release 0.10 of the MyMediaLite recommender system library that I was about to present at FOSDEM. 

It all started on Friday with the beer event at Café Delirium, which is a nice beer pub in the center of Brussels. I wanted to meet the MoviePilot guys there, but the place was too crowded to find them. Instead, I spent most time talking with Alan and Patrick, two researchers from University of Cambridge, who attended FOSDEM to present Dasher, which is a one-handed text input method that uses probabilistic language models for input suggestions. Alan had a nice demo program on his mobile phone. The two are members of David MacKay’s group. MacKay is a physicist who is well-known for his work on sustainable energy, if you do not know him yet, read his blog or even his book about the topic. And, for me even more interesting, the group is also working on machine learning, so we had plenty of topics to talk about. So after meeting the guys the book Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms is high on my reading list (I even got it from the library already …).

The actual event started with a keynote by Eben Moglen (see also this) about how political liberty depends on technology, followed by a talk on the LLVM compiler framework by Chris Lattner.

Afterwards, I was mostly in Data Analytics Devroom (photo, more photos by Nicolas Maillot), which was really stuffed. So I gave my talk on MyMediaLite in front of a rather large audience, something which I am not really used to at academic conferences. I finally met Benjamin and Jannis from MoviePilot, although there was not really a lot of time to chat (there were almost no breaks between the talks).

There were many interesting talks in the Data Analytics room, among others one about Clustering with Mahout by Frank Scholten. It was a nice introduction to clustering, but there is one thing I do not understand about the Mahout guys: Why always those small examples!?! If I have a collection of 20K documents, there is no reason for having the overhead of a distributed computation. It would also be nicer to impress the audience by being bold and really showing off big big data examples that you cannot tackle on a several years old laptop …

Here is a list of available slide sets (I will try to complete this list):

Someone took videos, which will hopefully be available at some point in the future.

Sadly, I missed some very interesting talks because I went to the Mono Devroom to see the talk about the new Mono garbage collector, and then I did not get back into the overcrowded Data Analytics Devroom.

At the end of the first day, I visited the Perl booth and went to have dinner with about a dozen Perl people, which was a really nice experience. Claudio took some nice pictures of that.

On Sunday, I spent most of the time at the Perl Devroom. Highlights were a talk about a new ncurses module (with really impressive demos) by Damien Krotkine, the presentations about the Dancer web microframework (cool logo, by the way; slides) and Moose object system (slides) by Sawyer X, as well as Gabor’s talks about Perl 6 (during which I ported a recommender algorithm to Perl 6; interesting experience, will blog about this soon) and Padre. I missed Franck Cuny’s talk about SPORE, but here are his slides.

The atmosphere was positive, and particulary the Dancer crew made a really energetic impression on me. Sawyer X wrote two posts about Perl and Dancer at FOSDEM. I guess I will prototype the webservice interface for MyMediaLite, and possibly a web-based demo. But let’s see. 

I was happy to get to know personally some of the Padre developers that until then I only know via IRC and e-mail: getty, el_che, burak, szagab, szbalint, and Dirk (hope I did not miss anyone).

Overall, a really good event, it is definitely worth going again next year.

Filed under FOSDEM community congress energy freesoftware machine_learning meeting mymedialite opensource padre perl perl6 presentation sustainable talk dancer perldancer moose modern perl