Field report from GNUnify 2008

As promised earlier, here’s a quick round-up of the event.
I spent the entire two days on 8th and 9th (of February, 2008) at GNUnify 2008. I did not have any specific talks to attend and went more to find out for myself about all the good stuff that I have heard till date about this event. Sayamindu had come down (he had a talk on OLPC) and so on Day 1 of the event we started a bit late and gate crashed into Brian Behlendorf’s talk related to 10 things about Open Source. A fairly straight forward talk introducing Open Source to the hall full of students it also had the old dogs indulging in some back seat fun.

Came out of the talk during the break and bumped into Harshad who informed that the install fests (which included Fedora – Runa had passed along Werewolf CD media earlier) were going on in full swing and there was more crowd than earlier years.

From there on went to listen to what Alolita wanted to tell the students about “Building a Successful Open Source Community“. She took the age old fable about blind men and the elephant to compare the community with an elephant. Taking examples from the Ubuntu and MySQL communities, she concluded that these communities seem to “get it” as to what it takes to create vibrancy and uptake. The short version: the community is like a large elephant and it is up to the individual contributors to strive to become a mahout. It was a bit of a let down for me since I did expect some focus on “content” communities rather than only “software communities”. There is an existing corpus of work on “software communities” which have explored possibly all possible points of view, and, talking about creating a community of content and putting emphasis on authoring might have been more pertinent. The post talk Q&A pushed forward interesting insights from Saifi (TWINCLING Society).

Took a sneak peek into Amit Karpe’s talk about getting Edubuntu on the HCL laptop (MyLeap) – there was a fair crowd attending it so chose to wander about looking into various other talks and meeting up with friends and general goofing around like egging Aditya to balance his flowers.

Lunch over we trotted into Niyam’s talk on “Design“. Niyam was unaware that his picture was snapped and it appeared on the front page of DNA newspaper. Exhorting the students to strive to make the world more chic and sexy, Niyam took us through the “user’s perspective” in software design.

Skipped Prakash Advani’s Linux on the Desktop talk to see folks fiddle around with the XO. Sayamindu’s “it is not a laptop project but an education project” talk got off to a start with the usual questions of “do you have the laptop with you” and hence the talk was peppered with discussions about contribution, usage model and the inevitable curiousity about the hardware.

At the end of the day it was the usual chilling out session at the campus canteen.
Arun Khan and Valsa Williams catching up after Day1Alolita, Karunakar and Amit Karpe

On Day 2 Runa also came along with us and co-incidentally we ended up attending “What Being Open Source Really Means“. Moved on to Anant’s talk on Mozilla Prism – an alpha technology (as he said) but fairly cool to contribute to and enhance. Friji was playing around with the XO before her talk explaining how to setup an internet radio station. After all this we moved on to the LCIN BoF Session which had nearly all the girls from the volunteer team sitting through the presentation and offering to take up tasks – awesome coolness. Barkha came down all the way from Mumbai to be part of this and she took down notes and stuff before heading home – 10+ hours of travel for attending an hour’s worth of session. Some pictures from the event:

The GNUnify PosterVijay (chief photographer)Barkha smiles at a good BoFKenneth Gonsalves talks on Django

Here’s a happy volunteer with LinuxChix and GNOME Swag. Some observations remain – the event did seem to have somewhat overpowering presence from the only sponsor (the newspaper insert mentioned the Moblin initiative more than anything else and there was more to the event), the talks selected could be aimed more at ensuring that students get coached into contributing – this year they did not seem that way. However, no praise is enough for the untiring volunteers who were all eager and helpful to ensure that not a single speaker felt uneasy.

UPDATE: Patricia Clausnitzer has kindly translated the above page into Belarusian and made it available here. Thanks Patricia.