FOSSAsia 2024 in review

Last week I went to Hanoi for FOSSAsia 2024. This is an event that I’ve been attending for nearly 10 years, but this is the first time it’s been in Hanoi, and my very first trip to Vietnam.

Hanoi was fascinating. It was exciting to see a city, and a country, that I have read about my whole life, but never experienced in person. And of course it’s always an interesting experience to be somewhere where one is illiterate, and relies entirely on the kindness of strangers for basic communication.

It took 35+ hours to get to Hanoi – via Atlanta and Seoul – and with the date/time change between here and there, it was 3 calendar days getting there.

Traffic in Hanoi is an adventure. I posted several videos on YouTube, where you can get at least a glimpse of that.

The conference itself was pretty great.

The different focus at Asia tech events, from those in the US and Europe, is always a bit surprising. Not only the list of companies involved, but also the list of technologies that people are focusing on, always takes a bit to catch up on. This year, a huge focus was blockchain/web3 kind of stuff, with a LOT of content around Etherium and related projects. This is not something that I have paid much attention to, so there was a lot to learn.

The two best talks I attended were:

A short history of AI, by Harish Pillay. Going back to the 1950s, this talk showed how it’s all been steady progress over the years, and that the current buzz around AI/ML builds on the shoulders of earlier work.

Pretend it’s a movie, by Greg Brown. This was a very cool way to look at promoting your project as though it’s a movie, with a villain (the problems you solve) a hero (your project), a tagline, and trailer, and so on. This provides a useful new lens through which to look at how you might promote your project to a new audience.

I also gave my talk about how to give better presentations, which was fun, and seemed well received. I think they’ll be posting videos at some point, and I’ll put it here once they do.

On my last day in Hanoi, I went to Hoa Lo prison, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”,  where I learned a lot about the First Indochina War, and how the Vietnamese resisted the French occupation in the early 1900s.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the Train Street, where a train runs directly down the center of a street with businesses close on both sides. You can watch the train coming through in this video.