July 29, 2013

Thirteen Years of GUADEC

GUADEC (pronounced GWAH-DECK), is GNOME’s annual European conference, and is the main GNOME event of the year. With the 14th GUADEC about to start, we decided to revisit some conferences of the past, and take a look at the origins of the event.

GNOME’s annual European conference was first envisioned in the early days of the GNOME Project when a number of contributors, who had until then only been connected through the internet, decided that they should meet in real life. With diligent fundraising from various Free Software companies in the United States, Germany and France, the organizers managed to raise enough money to sponsor around 40 of the core GNOME developers to meet in Paris, France, for four days. That first GUADEC conference occurred in 2000, and it has been held every year since.

The very first GUADEC, held in Paris in 2000

The very first GUADEC, held in Paris in 2000

Since that first event, GUADEC has grown from strength to strength. The conference brings GNOME contributors and enthusiasts together from all over the world, and gives them an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas. It attracts several hundred software developers, users, artists, and representatives from businesses, governments and education. Presentations are given by leaders, spokespeople, volunteers and motivated developers on a range of topics including development techniques, new features, plans for the future, and ideas on technology and culture.

Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions and hackfests were added to the conference schedule in 2008, and have become a permanent fixture. These sessions provide contributors the chance to work together and devise development strategies and techniques. The conference is a community event, and is organized each year by a team of local enthusiasts. Each year, groups are able to apply to host the next event. Bidding is currently underway for GUADEC 2015.

To date, there have been 13 GUADEC conferences. Each event was held in a different European city. GUADEC has visited Paris (2000), Copenhagen (2001), Seville (2002), Dublin (2003), Kirstiansand (2004), Stuttgart (2005), Vilanova (2006), Birmingham (2007), Istanbul (2008), Gran Canaria (2009), The Hague (2010), Berlin (2011) and A Coruña (2012). This GUADEC will be held in Brno, Czech Republic, a bustling university town and home to major offices from a wide variety of technology companies including IBM, Motorola, Honeywell and Red Hat.

GUADEC is a serious occasion, and is a place where important discussions happen. It is not however just a software conference. GUADEC offers the chance for contributors who work together over the web to get together, have fun and socialise, and it lets people catch up with old friends, as well as make new ones.

Over the years, GUADEC has accumulated a number of annual traditions. An annual football match is a regular occurrence, as is the presentation of the GNOME “pants” award. In GUADECs gone by, it was typical for GNOME contributors to form a band that would play (sometimes well, usually not so well) at one of the conference social events.

One of the outings of the GUADEC band (Copyright Jesús Corrius, CC BY)

One of the outings of the GUADEC band (Copyright Jesús Corrius, CC BY)

For a time, the annual GUADEC ice cream eating contest was the stuff of legend. On one memorable occasion, this was somewhat unwisely organized to occur in conjunction with a boat party, which ferried brave GNOMEies up and down the Bosphorus strait as they attempted to finish whole tubs of frosty goodness in record time.

One of the GUADEC Ice Cream Death Match competitions (Copyright penguincakes, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

One of the GUADEC Ice Cream Death Match competitions (Copyright penguincakes, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

And, of course, GNOME’s annual event would not be complete without the project’s notorious sense of humor. This often leads to mischief…

Never trust someone else to write your slides for you (Copyright Allan Day, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Never trust someone else to write your slides for you

Here’s to GUADEC 2013