FOSSAsia 2017

Seven years after attending my first FOSSAsia in Ho Chi Min City, I was able to join again this year! The difference is amazing - the conference has grown to be one of the largest open source events in Asia, with more than 200 speakers over three days across 13 tracks and now hosted in Singapore.

The conference is entirely open source and volunteer-run, which is really neat. Kudos to the organizers for putting it on, which is a huge amount of work. The focus on free and open source software and tracks on relevant topics like AI, Bitcoin, and IoT combine to make a great collection of people to put in one place for a weekend.

Mozilla didn't directly sponsor this year, but instead sent some of our Tech Speakers who had talks accepted and myself. We were seven people from six countries, speaking about VR, WebAssembly, Web-RTC, security, IoT, AR and more. Big thanks to Bob Reyes, Diky Arga Anggara, Noritada Shimizu, Santosh Viswanatham, Shah Mijanur Rahman and Trishul Goel for speaking at the conference and putting in a bunch of hours at our table every day.

The number of speakers was enough of a presence to earn us a table in the exhibition hall, so we took advantage of the opportunity and demo'd A-Frame VR and AR on mobile devices for all three days.

The response was fantastic - lots of people having their first VR experience of any kind, and everyone was mindblown that the demos were built using web technologies, running in a browser, and on a mobile phone.

FOSSASIA 2017

After three days of rapping with everyone who came by the booth, here are a few impressions:

  • Most people, developers included, haven't strongly engaged in VR yet. If you assume everyone is doing it, you're probably in the VR industry and you're wrong. I've been demoing VR at conferences for the last couple of years and I always ask if people have tried it before and the answer is usually "no". VR may be in the limelight in tech news, but the on-the-ground experience says it's still very early days.

  • A-Frame has excellent name recognition. This conversation a lot: "This was made with a JavaScript library called A-Frame." "Oh, A-Frame!" "You've used it?" "No, but I've heard of it and it looks awesome!".

  • Almost nobody was talking about bots.

  • Almost everybody was talking about AI and machine learning.

  • People are still asking us about Firefox OS.

Conference

What I liked:

  • Great crowd. It really feels like a practitioners conference where people are learning reciprocally.
  • Talk topics are really good. Very little fluff on the schedule. Great mix of interesting and practical topics. Good job by organizers here.
  • Excellent conference website and apps. They're writing their own FOSS event management stack, and it seems pretty great so far.
  • Communication from organizers prior to the event was really good. Combination of emails for important things, and Google Group and Slack for general communication really worked well.

What I'd like to see next year:

  • Speakers should not have to pay for tickets.
  • Need a venue that's centrally located, easier to navigate and that lets attendees focus on the conference.
  • Singapore already has lots of events, and is famously expensive for hotel and venue space. To make a truly pan-Asian conference, should move around to different cities.
  • The schedule was changed at the last minute without warning to speakers, causing some to miss their talks. Need to lock the schedule down, and communicate changes very clearly.
  • Day two and three each have 15 tracks! I'd prefer to see a smaller and more focused set of tracks.

Social, Photos, Whatnot

Our Talks

Huge thanks to Engineers.sg, who recorded almost all of talks. The complete set of FOSSAsia 2017 recorded talks is here on their website.

THANKS FOSSASIA!

FOSSAsia 2017 Group Photo