Leaving Randa after spending a week there at the KDE Randa Meeting 2014 raises mixed feelings. I am really looking forward to coming home and seeing my family, but at the same time the week was so full of action, great collaboration and awesome people that it passed by in an instant and was over so soon. Carving a work week out of the schedule for a hackfest is not an easy feat, especially during summer school break, so the expectations were high. And they have been exceeded in all aspects. A lot of the credit for that goes to the organizer, Mario Fux, and his team of local supporters. The rest goes to the awesome family of KDE contributors that make spending a week on contributing to Free Software so much fun. And of course to the sponsors of the event.
Randa is a place that grows on you. As a big city dweller, I take pride in organizing my time like clockwork, and in fitting a gazillion things into one day. I sometimes pause when crossing the bridge to Friedrichstrasse station to enjoy the view, but only for a couple of seconds. Because I got stuff to do. As soon as I boarded the Glacier Express train from Visp to Randa, the last leg of the long journey from Berlin by rail, it became obvious that I was in a different place. The train travels slowly, so slowly that sometimes wanderers keep up next to it. Later I learned that it is known as the slowest fast train of the world. It makes up for the relaxed pace with the absolutely magnificent view of the Matter valley. The view of the mountains was so breathtaking it almost made me miss the Randa stop. I arrived at the guest house, boarded a small spartanic room and then joined the group of KDE folks that already had arrived. At first, there was still this nagging feeling that whenever I was idle for 5 minutes, it meant a lack of efficiency, and something had to be done about it. And then everything changed.
One day provided enough immersion into the monastery like setting to make the feeling of time ticking and the conveyor belt constantly advancing go away. That is the moment when I was made aware again of the amazing group of people that had gathered around me to work on KDE. Not just the fact that fifty people travelled halfway around the world to create software that is free, but also what kind of wonderful kind of people they are. The attendees were a mirror image of the KDE community at large – young and old, women and men, from dozens of different countries, with all sorts of beliefs, and a unifying passion to contribute to a common good. At a time when not a day passes without news about atrocities in the name of mundane details like the whose prophet is more prophet-like, imagine such a diverse group not just spending a week together without a minute of conflict, but devoting that time to build something, and then to give it away freely without discriminating by use or user. That is the spirit of Free Software for me, and it may explain why it means more than getting stuff for free.
So we went to work. The air was fresh, and there was no distraction (not even the internet, because it broke :-) ), and we spent our days alternating between coding, talking, eating, taking walks and sleeping. A number of “special interest groups” formed rather organically, to work on educational software, the KDE SDK, porting to KDE Frameworks 5, Gluon, KDEnlive, Amarok and the KDE Frameworks Cookbook. Every day at lunch, the groups reported on their progress. As it turnes out, the velocity of the team was quite impressive, even though there were no managers. Or because, who knows. There are plenty of blog posts and details about how the work progressed on the sprint page.
Speaking of lunch and food in general – a small band of local supporters catered to our every whim like coffee 24 hours a day and a fridge full of FreeBeer. With an incredible supportiveness and delicious swiss cuisine they helped to make this meeting possible. While they received multiple rounds of applause, I do not think we can thank them enough. Just like the work that Mario Fux does to organize these meetings is priceless. Personally, I am hugely grateful for their commitment, which made this meeting and the previous ones possible. And I very much hope that it will for the next one, and I will do my best to be there again. See you in Randa next year!