Memorable Mini DebConf India 2011 tour of Kerala for last 3 days

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:12 pm by Pirate Praveen

It was a great event. I liked the small turn out 12 on first day ~20 on second day and about 12 on third day, because it meant we could make it interactive and ensure every one folllowed each step.

The highlight of the event was that it was a zero budget event. MES College of Engineering provided us lab and hostels, every one paid for their own travel and food. I hope to see more such events – small interested audient, less burden on organisers, more interaction and effectiveness. Instead of less big events, let’s start doing more small events.

I really liked the enthusiasm of the participants and we made sure those who completed a step helped others to complete. We proceeded to next step only when every single person completed each step. This is something I usually focus on wherever I take classes, but it is not effective with big audience. That is one reason I like small audiences. Normally only the brightest gets to follow everything and those who have less exposure feels left out. This time even if one is smart and completed a step, he/she has to help others if they want to move on.

First day we focused on different problems and complaints people have about Free Software and GNU/Linux. Instead of normal focus of a Free Software event on features of Free Software, we focused on what is not working in Free Software. Our focus was not in selling Free Software to the audience, but to make sure Free Software will become popular if we fix these problems. Normally audience just have complaints and speaker is always defensive. Here audience had to analyse the problem with the speaker, find out the root of the problem, and plan how to fix it.

One common complaint we always here is about dependencies and software installation. So we focused on two parts to solve that problem. First was lack of good internet connection, so apt-on-cd and keryx needs to be popularised. Second one is having to install from source. We concluded that once all software is available in a repository this problem will go away. So we decided to package all available Free Software. Starting with popular software that is in demand. We also figured out it will need many more packagers too. So if you want to help out, join our packaging effort. We have online packaging sessions every Saturday. Those who learned packaging, consider teaching it to others.

Food was really good, I was happy to get puttu (rice steam cake), beef curry and ghee rice. Lime juice was very good too, I miss it in Pune, where most places give old lime 🙁 We stayed in their hostel. Bhushan, Abhishek and Ranjan came from Magalore standing in a train! Their enthusiasm cheered up everyone. I planned my vacation around these dates so that my travel expense would not be an issue. We missed Pavithran as he had fever and could not come.

Second day we had more people joining. This rarely happens in any conference, most of the time people drop out after first day. Last year we had a tough time manging a crowd of about 200 on the first day, but almost half of them did not turn up on second day. First day I explained debian release process and I made sure every on understood the process by asking each of them to explain it. I was happy to see most of them got it. Second day I asked Sajjad to summarise discussions on first day and explain release process. He did a pretty good job of explaining various concepts. Sooraj’s explanation of dependencies by taking example of average depending on sum and division was very good.

Then Jishnu started explaing control file and we asked every one to refer debian new maintainer’s guide. The whole day was spent on creating these files. Most of them were not used following a document and doing it themselves. Many times I have to ask them to read the document again when they make mistakes. Most of them made mistake about standards version, they used upstream version. Explanation of sections is a bit mis leading in new maintainer’s guide and most people ended up choosing main. I explained it and asked them to read the whole paragraph. I felt new maintainer’s guide could be improved a bit. We will try to send some patches.

Over enthusiasm resulted in a few RFPs being filed for lekhonee-gnome. We told them just create a text file, but many already sent RFPs! I told them how to close a bug and all of them closed it. Though it added a little bit of noise to BTS, I hope it has helped in the long run, hopefully these over enthusiastic folsk would help close more bugs!

We skipped copyright file as many wanted to leave. We just created a blank file for copyright and moved ahead with changelog and rules. Both these files caused bit of problem with formatting. Many did not have dch installed and they eneded up figuring out extra space or character causing error. Whitespaces instead of tab caused rules file breakage. We fixed all of them and I was happy every one had a working deb at the end of the day. First day we were explaining anatomy of a binary package most of them saw the control file, I think it would have been a rewarding experience for all of them when they opened up the binary file and saw their names inside it.

Third day was coordinated by Vasudev Kamath online. I had to leave for Sujith’s marriage. I have to mention about Sajith sir here. It was really encouraging to see a lecturer sitting through the whole session. I was happy to meet Raju sir after a long time. I remember two of my previous sessions at MES. I am sure we will see more contributors from MES. Anish and Sooraj had come from Thiruvananthapuram. Manu was running around fixing proxies all the time. I was happy to meet to aethiests there – Aneez and Nakul. Aneez was calling me agnostic 🙂 I remember few more names – Shuvaib, Jasir, Muzafir, Jamal, Sunaiba. If you don’t see your name here, sorry, please shout your name as a comment 🙂 Overall it was a really memorable experience. Now looking forward to Mini DebConf India tour stops in Mangalore, Pune and Ahamedabad.

Update: Jishnu told me there were about 12 students on third day. Ershad complained that I missed his name 🙁 Ershad was playing with GNOME 3 release party balloons with every one and took pictures too. He has uploaded photos on diaspora and facebook, I will link it here once I get net access on my computer (now using my mobile and wifi sharing is too slow that only ping works and even that takes 5000-6000 msec for response).