Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely my personal views and opinions. These do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of any company or project that I am (or have been) associated with.
Back in 2019 (around 3.5 years from this post), I blogged that Sangoma Doesn’t Get Open Source. The post generated a decent amount of discussion and later that year, Dan Jenkins and I sat with Bill Wignall and made commitments about future conferences, handling “open source,” and stopping FUD.
I left AstriCon 2019 with an optimistic and positive outlook for the future.
After AstriCon 2023, I’m doing my best to not be pessimistic… but there is no optimism whatsoever.
To quote The Princess Bride (as one should)…
Let me explain… no, there is too much…. let me sum up. Inigo Montoya
Let me sum up
Back in 2018, Sangoma announced their “transformative” acquisition of Digium. This acquisition resulted in Sangoma “owning” (among some other entities) both FreePBX and Asterisk. Sangoma likes to say that FreePBX is the “the world’s most popular open source IP PBX” and Asterisk is “the #1 open source communications toolkit.”
With AstriCon 15/2018 happening so closely to the announced acquisition, it made sense for Sangoma to dispel any concerns/rumors dealing with Asterisk, FreePBX, and Digium. David Duffett presided over a panel of senior employees to talk about the future.
It is clearly the premier event in the world today for this part of our industry, with attendance approaching 1,000 people, dozens of speaking sessions from amongst hundreds of submitted abstracts, and a full exhibitor floor. I’m very excited about this year’s event, and as we work hard at bringing our two companies together, I’d like to take this opportunity to assure the community of our commitment to these critical open source projects that mean so much to the communications world. Bill Wignall, CEO Sangoma re AstriCon 15/2018
Funny enough, within 4 years… no one from that panel remained at Sangoma:
- David Duffett was let go early in 2019
- Matt Jordan left telecom and moved to the west coast; he now works at some small book store.
- Matthew Fredrickson left for Meta and is now on to even better things
- Tony Lewis and Bryan Walters are now with Clearly IP
After AstriCon 2019, I felt more optimistic and posted the update (mentioned above), citing such actions as making Jared Smith the Vice-President of Open Source Community Development; Jared left Sangoma in 2020.
Covid disrupted in person conferences and there were some virtual AstriCon events since 2020, however the community aspect of the conference, such a big part of AstriCon, was very much missing.
In June of 2022, Sangoma announced that AstriCon would be co-located with ITEXPO. I expressed my concerns, remained hopeful, and tried to lower my expectations in order to be pleasantly surprised.
Spoiler alert: I was not pleasantly surprised.
After attending AstriCon 2023, I found myself extremely disappointed. Not just disappointed with the conference, but also in the lack of effort from Sangoma towards AstriCon itself.
Fewer people attended AstriCon 2023 than previous AstriCon events.
I have no idea on the “official” Sangoma numbers for AstriCon, but many talks had less than 50 people (including Sangoma employees in the room). Very few developers attended.
The best count I could make during the beginning of the event: 100 (give or take).
Unlike previous (in-person) AstriCon events, AstriCon 2023 provided all talks in a single track. I’m not calling this out as a negative; many open source RTC conferences (Kamailio World, ClueCon, etc.) also have a single track.
This said, in the past AstriCon generally offered multiple tracks with simultaneous talks; offering the participant options to best suit the information desired.
Unfortunately, having a single track means that a speaker “no show” becomes very noticeable. AstriCon 2023 had multiple speakers not show up for their talk.
In most conferences, a moderator introduces a speaker, helps keep track of time, keeps participants updated with conference information, and helps set the tone of the event.
AstriCon 2023 had no moderators at all.
When speakers did not show for their talk, generally one of three things would happen: (a) nothing, (b) someone from Sangoma saying “next talk will be in an hour/etc.”, or (c) an unannounced schedule change.
The unannounced schedule change allowed the conference to have less “dead air,” but also resulted in confusion and disappointment. For example, lets look at Joshua Colp’s E911 talk.
Joshua Colp is the Asterisk Project Lead and an all around good guy. His E911 talk was definitely on many people’s “must see” list and was certain to have a full-packed room. To fill the no show, the E911 talk was moved without notice resulting in many people frustrated that they missed the talk.
Now, this “no win” situation simply comes from poor planning and lack of communication. Here, to keep the conference running smoothly, Joshua moves his talk and avoids additional dead time (this wasn’t the first no-show for the event). But, that same good deed goes punished by those people (who had no interest in the scheduled talk and instead made plans for the talk’s scheduled time) being upset that they missed the talk.
Of course this is made worse, since…
Sangoma Did Not Record Talks
Sangoma made no recordings or live streams of AstriCon presentations. There is no excuse for this.
Dan Jenkins and I were promised that future AstriCon events would be recorded (and put on Asterisk’s YouTube channel) when we talked with Bill Wignall in 2019. As an aside, Bill Wignall departed Sangoma shortly after AstriCon.
In today’s world, not providing a recording or streaming of a presentation is nothing short of laziness. Every other open source conference provides recordings. Every other open source conference provides a livestream.
As I stated, there is simply no excuse for this. It demonstrates a complete lack of care/concern of the community and absolute lack of appreciation for the speaker (who is not paid and covers all costs to attend the conference).
In the past, AstriCon helped strengthen the community with networking and social events. Additionally, since the venue generally was a hotel, many impromptu events took place throughout the event. This year, Sangoma provided the following events for the Asterisk/FreePBX community:
ITEXPO provided a welcome reception the day before AstriCon as well as an expo reception in the Expo Hall on the first evening of AstriCon. These were not structured and were ITEXPO events.
Asterisk/FreePBX Workshops at AstriCon
In the past, AstriCon helped foster learning with workshop. This year, Sangoma provided the following workshops for the Asterisk/FreePBX community:
Prior to Sangoma’s acquisition, AstriCon was one of the premier (if not the premier) Open Source VoIP/RTC conference. Large (global) attendance, big name sponsors, packed expo, fun events, big production, many tracks, etc.
The best part? Community. Hands down. Long term friendships formed. Community strengthened. AstriCon excelled at getting people engaged… even those that normally don’t specifically do well in social circles. AstriCon remained an open, friendly, and accessible conference.
Of course, you also benefited from an extreme sharing of knowledge. Great talks from experts taking the time to explain their work, tricks, and techniques so that you can do great things.
AstriCon greatly contributed to my involvement in the open source VoIP/RTC community and I remain grateful.
This gratitude is what makes the following statement very difficult to write:
Unless Sangoma drastically changes their approach, the AstriCon you miss will no longer exist.
When you look at Sangoma’s dedication to open source, you can look no further than the front page of their website where you will find no mention of Asterisk or FreePBX. You will find one mention of “open source;” a simple link at the bottom of the page in the Resources section.