Reading up about news around the IITJEE 2011, I came across this piece where the ‘Super 30 guy‘ praised the changes being brought about this time…and then makes a curious statement saying he made an appeal to “reduce the number of conceptual and analytical questions” to make coaching institutes less of a deciding factor. I thought the whole point of such questions was to take the emphasis away from mechanical ‘solving numericals’ that used to happen earlier.
Why is such a supposedly prominent educationist (he probably deserves that title by now) saying something so counter-intuitive? Could it be that there’s a disconnect here again between rural and urban India? The private-school-going middle class students want analytical questions, whereas students from rural areas might want more numerical questions as it involves, to put it in a way, less parsing of English language to understand and attempt a question.
Feel so out of touch with what’s going on in India these days. First, “Who’s this Anna chick, then?” and now I find out from one my Code Warrior juniors that the IIT JEE was conducted last weekend – and I had no idea! To be honest, ever since I’ve come to Singapore I have given up any pretence of trying to stay on top of national news. If you think about it, I need to be following national news for India, UK, and Singapore as all three directly affect me; I just don’t have the patience any more to do so. (There used to be a time when I read two newspapers daily, cover-to-cover.)
It was ever thus: a world divided into those with the mental capacity and attention span required to read and digest the day’s news, and to understand the importance of doing so — and the perpetual children: the proud morons who say things like “I’m not interested in politics” (despite being mortgaged to the hilt) or ask “why should I care about stuff happening in countries thousands of miles away?” (despite those being the countries that own all the debt).
OSSCamp Delhi was held at NSIT Dwarka on 5-6 September 2009. OSSCamp is an unconference on open source software, technologies, and ideologies, one of the largest events related to open source in India. Even as I was travelling by Delhi Metro to NSIT Dwarka on the morning of the first day of the event, I met a guy from NSIT who was going for the same. (He figured I might be heading there too since I was wearing the ILUG-D t-shirt.) Met Kinshul Sunil outside NSIT’s administration building; he works as a community manager at a company called OSSCube, which is in the field of open source software development / training / support. Kinshuk oversees a lot of the organizational details of the event and even with this being a community-driven event a lot of credit must be given to him for managing the event so well. Was handed a name tag; designed by Yadu Rajiv. (Yeah, I know it looks like a name tag for a Rage Against The Machine concert, but they probably don’t use name tags.) Also met other people at the start of the day – Mohak Prince, Sachin Khosla, Ankur Sethi, Apoorv Khatreja, Udit Agarwal, Triveni Yadav, Sanchit Gulati, Anshu Verma.
By 10-10.30am (of day 1) we had quite a respectable crowd of 142 people (I kid you not) assembled in the NSIT Delhi auditorium. The event kicked off with Kinshuk giving a short introduction to OSSCamp. Lalit then urged audience members to give jadoo ki jhappi [which made Lalit (in?)famous] to each other and we had a small-scale free hugs campaign going on for a while (only a handful of the audience participated). The talks started in earnest then. I won’t be going into the details of the talks since they have already been live-blogged on the NSIT CSI society blog – check it out for a short summary of sessions held (a few held at the end of day 2 are missing).
During the sessions, what Mohak Prince and I noticed was that every speaker mentioned licencing, but didn’t go further into nitty-gritties. We had quite a few first-timers to open source this time who seemed thoroughly confused by this talk of licenses, so we both decided to give a session on Creative Commons licenses. Unfortunately, NSIT administration hadn’t given us permission to set up a WiFi network, and their own WiFi network had been shut-down ever since Ankit Fadia had scared the living daylights out of NSIT faculty, post 26/11 Mumbai attacks. We both were trying to find a presentation to aid our talk so we borrowed a laptop with a Reliance data card from someone and searched out a suitable presentation. We scheduled the session post-lunch.
Lunch took a long time to arrive. It was ordered from some big dhaba (oxymoronic term, I know) called Apni Rasoi or something which is apparently quite popular in Dwarka. Post-lunch the number of attendees reduced drastically, so I decided to postpone the Creative Commons session to day 2. Clearly, there is some such thing as a ‘free lunch’ at least at an unconference on open source – and that was what some seemed to have come for. Although I wouldn’t blame them entirely for wanting to leave, since some of the talks in the morning had nothing to do with open source. On of the highlights of the day was a video conference with Bryan House of Acquia on the future of Drupal 7, but could not be carried through because of low bandwidth issues (we had to switch to text chat and then eventually call it off). What else would you expect on a Reliance data card? After a session on indie game development by Yadu Rajiv, we wrapped up for the day.
Day 2 started off late as it was a Sunday. (I was stopped at a Metro checkpoint for carrying a ‘walkie talkie charger’.) When I arrived at the venue at around 10.15am there were just a handful of people – almost all of them speakers who were schedule to give presentations that day. By 11am though the crowd has swelled in number to around 90 people; quite respectable for second day of an event. We had people from Adobe too to give presentations on Flex and BlazeDS – open source software released by Adobe (!!!) – and those were some of the best designed presentations by far. Students in the audience were given free (as in beer, not speech) licensed versions of Flex Builder. I think it’s a good start by companies such as Microsoft and Adobe to take some initiatives in interacting with the open source community and we shouldn’t be too cynical about it.
Lunch was better on day 2 as we had pizza from Domino’s. While placing the order we had also asked them to provide ketchup sachets. The lazy asses thought “Why bother buying so many ketchup sachets when we can ‘solve’ the problem in one go by providing a 2-litre ketchup sachet”. I didn’t even know that they made 2-litre ketchup sachets! Hilarity ensued, or rather, didn’t since we sent that back. We had a working lunch with presentations continuing while the audience wolfed down pizzas.
Mohak had to give an exam that day, so I proceeded with the talk on Creative Commons licenses on my own. The presentations I used were made by other people and released under a Creative Commons license; you can view / download Creative Commons Spectrum of Rights here (courtesy Neeru Paharia) and What is Creative Commons here (courtesy Creative Commons Australia; I used the latter to show an overview of various CC licenses). I initially planned a short session of 15-20 minutes only, but the audience was quite interested in the topic and a ‘doubt-clearing’ session on the basics of Creative Commons licensing meant that my session stretched on quite a bit longer. I was happy to note that at least some people were interested in licensing or using Creative Commons licensed works.
One of the most charming things about an unconference is the ‘two-feet rule’: if you don’t like a talk, use your two feet and walk out of the room any time you want. At any given time, you’ll find at least a few people hanging out at the nearest cafeteria having a chat on pretty much everything under the sun. Had a quite a bit of that at this OSSCamp too. Must say that I enjoy this informal interactions a lot! Mohak had also joined us by this time after finishing his exam and joined in on these informal chat sessions.
Bryan House’s video conference had been shifted to day 2 but eventually had to be cancelled again due to low bandwith issues. I had another session towards the end of day 2 – a quiz on open source. Mohak Prince, a community volunteer for Mozilla pitched in with Mozilla merchandise (laptop stickers, tattoos, badges); Shayon Pal from Linux For You pitched in with a few copies of LFY magazine; Sachin Khosla pledged a .in domain giveaway courtesy Digimantra. And thus, we had goodies to give away as prizes for every answer. Some got the prizes out of sheer guesswork, some got them because they knew the answer; mostly though it was because they Google-searched the answers. :p Anyway, it’s an unconference so we didn’t mind. Click here to download OSSCamp Delhi 2009 Open Source Quiz presentation that I gave at the event.
Soon, it was time to pack up. I still had one Linux For You magazine which hadn’t been given away to anyone in the quiz, so we decided to make it a ‘give-away’, literally. Here’s a video of me as Santa Claus, minus the beard and the ho-ho-ho ‘giving away’ an LFY issue.
We had a customary group photo session after that. As I browse through these pictures on my laptop (I will be uploading the full set of pictures soon; currently my Internet connection is down and I’m posting this via GPRS), I feel a bit sad about the fact that this will be last unconference that I will be attending in India for a while. Over the past one year, I’ve made such good friends and got to know some great people through the string of such events that I have attended. The amount of enthusiasm that community members at these events show is simply amazing. I shall certainly miss the buzzing energy of upcoming unconferences!