The last Akademy I attended was in 2015, in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain. I skived off Berlin 2016, when I was burned out working as a consultant at Quby, and again Almería 2017, when I was struggling with the Krita Foundation’s tax problems. But this year, we could afford to go, and Akademy is in Vienna this year… And I’ve always wanted to see some works in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum — Cellini’s Salt Cellar, Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion, Cranach’s Saxon Princesses... Things I’d only ever seen in books.
The combination of Akademy and Cellini, in short, was irresistible.
We came up by train from Deventer on Thursday; we took the long, scenic route along the Rhine — unexpectedly, I had thought we had booked for that fast, boring, tunnel ridden ICE stretch instead. We, that is, me, Irina and Valorie.
On our arrival, Valorie went to the A&O, where most KDE people went, and Irina and I went to our “apartment”. We like to dine out, but we also like to cook, especially if we’re somewhere where supermarkets carry things that we cannot get in the Netherlands. So, an apartment. Well, City Center Hoher Markt is not really that kind of apartment. Three sparsely furnished rooms, ours with torn and dirty sheets on the bed, and filthy rugs on the floor shared one sparsely equipped kitchen where it would be impossible to cook.
We actually left the apartment four days early to move into a modern hotel near the hauptbahnhof, so we could get clean sheets, clean towels, and bearable room temperatures.
Pity about the great little bakery at the ground level of the block, where they provide the most amazing coffee and really fresh Viennoiseries.
Next day, Friday, we woke up around six in the morning, or rather, got up, having had no sleep. Too warm, the air fetid with tobacco smoke and burnt frying fat, we decided to get up, get out and walk about until the bakery opened. Like I said, that coffee was amazing.
From there we wandered around a bit, came across the Donau Canal, thought it was the Donau, and that the Donau was rather overrated, realized our mistake, walked around some more, saw some picturesque sights and discovered that Vienna, unlike, say London, is really quite walkable.
It is a lovely city! If I were a resident, I would perhaps advocate a name change to Chantilly, because everything looks like it’s been smothered in architectural whipped cream and meringues. (After all, what’s a name change or two? Been there, done that, got the kimageshop mailing list.)
People are friendly, and they do not insist on speaking English! So we could exercise our German, compare what we’re used to with with what is usual here, and, which is useful, get some excellent coffee while having the totally erroneous feeling we’re blending in.
Vienna, in fact, is so walkable that we arrived at the KHM at nine o’clock in the morning. That’s an hour early, so we went to sit in the Hofburg Garden, cool down a bit, and watch some people in grey suits sit on whitish horses.
The KHM is awesome. First we got a huge glass of sparkling water with fruit juice in the Museum cafe, then saw the most amazing works of art, then had a great lunch, then went on to see more works of art, until my eyes were bubbling and we just had to leave.
Fortunately, the Akademy pre-reg event was imminent.
My first impression was one of shock: had I grown old and forgotten all those familiar people? Had those people grown so old, or rather, young, that I could no longer recognize them?
Realization soon dawned: this is not only a spectacularly well-attended Akademy, but we have a host of first-time attendees! Later, from a show of hands in the main auditorium on the first day, it really looks like about half of us are here for the first time. That’s just so awesome…
The food at the pre-reg was excellent: dainty, portable, tasty, varied, filling. The beer was nice, the wine generously measured, the meetings with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years, heartening.
Saturday and Sunday are the conference days proper, with talks and keynotes, while the rest of the week is hacking and birds-of-a-feather sessions. Keynotes are, at Akademy at least, meant to broaden the attendants’ horizon, enlarge their frame of thinking and make them consider the wide, wide world. This year’s keynotes did that for sure.
Saturday’s was all about how a small band of brave people have the foresight to start collecting information now to support the transition of North Korea to a country under the rule of law. The country led by a man who was so warmly met by the current president of the United States is a place where atrocities are so normal that it’s almost impossible to feel shocked, instead of just soul-weary. Dan Bielefeld, in a very understated, collected and impressive way gathered the threads for us, and made it clear to everyone that this just cannot and will not endure.
Sunday’s keynote by Claudia Garad was, in a way, closer to home, but also really inspirational. In “W for Welcome” she explained how the Wikipedia community works to make contributors welcome. This ties in quite neatly, of course, with one of the three Goals of KDE: privacy, usability, onboarding — goals that adorn all our lanyards! (Those lanyards were designed by Kenny, and are awesome.)
For me, Akademy isn’t so much about presentations, though there were some very cool ones, like Paul Brown demonstrating KDEnlive in a very engaging way — and why don’t we have more presentations showing off how to use this or that KDE application? It’s not like even a majority of KDE people present here have any clue about, say, Krita…
The VVave presentation was a bit unique in that it was about one person booming their project — and I think we need more of that! That sort of confidence was also expressed by Nate’s talk: the first time in many years since I’ve heard someone in the free software community urging us to disdain the Moon, or Mars, but reach for the stars.
But, for all of that, for me, Akademy is about the conversations, the meetings, figuring out how share knowledge and making sure we all go home a bit smarter, deeper, wiser — and more engaged than we arrived. That’s even more important than the presentations.
I’ve had wonderful talks with many people, I’ve been able to sit down twice with Eliakin, who did a succesful Summer of Code project with Krita last year, I have met Inge again, my one-time business partner and KOffice/Calligra compatriot — and much-missed friend.
We’ve just had two days of Birds of a Feather sessions. And the KDE e.V. AGM, of course. KDE e.V. is the backbone of the KDE project and community. The yearly general meeting, however, is usually characterized by unbearable tedium. This year’s proceedings were different: all the interesting bits, that is the reports, were given in public, during Akademy, and only the most boring bits, the legally mandated bits, were to be gotten through during the AGM. The goal was twenty minutes. The goal was not met, not by a country mile.
For me, tomorrow is KHM day again, with maybe a side dish of Belvedere, or some strolling about town. Thursday, we’ll have a training in fund raising that will take all day. Timely too, because we want to do another Krita fundraiser in September! And on Friday, we’ll take the train to Würzburg, where we’ll take the train to Arnhem, where we’ll take the train to Deventer, where we’ll discover whether our house still has a roof. It has been said that there have been storms and rains in the Netherlands…