Last weekend, I visited Oberhausen to participate in OpenRheinRuhr, a well-known Free Software event in north-western Germany. Over two days I was part of FSFE’s booth team, gave a talk, and enjoyed talking to tons of like-minded people about politics, technology and other stuff. In the next few minutes you will learn what coat hangers have to do with flat irons and which hotel you shouldn’t book if you plan to visit Oberhausen.
On Friday, Matthias, Erik, and I arrived at the event location which normally is a museum collecting memories of heavy industries in the Ruhr area: old machines, the history and background of industry workers, and pictures of people fighting for their rights. Because we arrived a bit too early we helped the (fantastic!) orga team with some remaining work in the exhibition hall before setting up FSFE’s booth. While doing so, we already sold the first tshirt and baby romper (is this a new record?) and had nice talks. Afterwards we enjoyed a free evening and prepared for the next busy day.
But Matthias and I faced a bad suprised: our hotel rooms were build for midgets and lacked a few basic features. For example, Matthias‘ room had no heating, and in my bathroom someone has stolen the shelf. At least I’ve been given a bedside lamp – except the little fact that the architect forgot to install a socket nearby. Another (semi-)funny bug were the emergency exits in front of our doors: by escaping from dangers inside the hotel, taking these exits won’t rescue you but instead increase the probability of dying from severe bone fractures. So if you ever need a hotel in Oberhausen, try to avoid City Lounge Hotel by any means. Pictures at the end of this article.
On Saturday, André Ockers (NL translation coordinator), Maurice Verhessen (Coordinator Netherlands) and Niko Rikken from the Netherlands joined us to help at the booth and connect with people. Amusingly we again learnt that communication can be very confusing the shorter it is. While Matthias thought that he asked Maurice to bring a iron cloth hanger, Maurice thought he should bring a flat iron. Because he only had one (surprisingly), he asked Niko to bring his as well. While we wondered why Maurice only has one cloth hanger, our Dutch friends wondered why we would need two flat irons ;-)
Over the day, Matthias, Erik, and I gave our talks: Matthias spoke about common misconceptions about Free Software and how to clear them up, Erik explained how people can synchronise their computers and mobile phones with Free Software applications, and I motivated people to become politically active by presenting some lessons learned from my experiences with the Compulsory Routers and Radio Lockdown cases. There were many other talks by FSFE people, for example by Wolf-Dieter and Wolfgang. In the evening we enjoyed the social event with barbecue, free beer, and loooooong waiting queues.
Sunday was far more relaxed than the day before. We had time to talk to more people interested in Free Software and exchanged ideas and thoughts with friends from other initiatives. Among many others, I spoke with people from Freifunk, a Pirate Party politician, a tax consultant with digital ambitions, two system administrators, and a trade unionist. But even the nicest day has to end, and after we packed up the whole booth, merchandise and promotion material again, André took the remainders to the Netherlands where they will be presented to the public at FSFE’s T-DOSE booth.