Elections, candidates and questions

The final list of candidates for the GNOME Foundation 2009 Elections are out. The statement(s) from each of the candidates are somewhat shorter than what they used to be. However, given that it is as good a time as any to ask questions to the candidates, I figured a couple of them below (the appropriate forum has the questions already) would not be out of order:

  • What are the specific areas of the Foundation’s focus and strategy where you think you can contribute as a change agent ?
  • What, in your view, are the top 5 requirements (from a strategic perspective) of the GNOME communities/tribes/groups world-wide ?

As always, it would be an interesting year for the Foundation with lots of coolness coming up.

pem and the art of expense management

I was looking for an alternative to keeping track of expenses via a spreadsheet. Given that it isn’t too intuitive, the alternative was scribbling it on pieces of paper and then collating them when I have time.

Somewhere along the way came pem. This command line tool is elegantly simple to use. Having the developer nearby also means that I can “demand” features in the software. Prasad has blogged about his recent release. I just love the fact that it allows me to publish a simple report of expenses by category. Comes in very handy to produce a report for Max. I have been using it for a while to keep track of the “Community Architecture” related expenses that I am accountable for.

Highly recommended. By the way, this blog entry is being written with the offline client for WordPress called Lekhonee. If you have been using WordPress and, desired an offline client, give this a try. The developer could do with some feedback as well.

ps: Contrary to rumour, pem isn’t pjp expense manager ;)

A letter for Sayamindu

Dear Sayamindu,

It is good to see you blogging after a break. Now that you have got the rant off your chest, I hope you are feeling better. Catharsis does work.

You ask, somewhat rhetorically, as to why you should bother ? There are a lot of layers to that question really. Should you bother about coaching your peers and juniors in the “right” things ? Or, should you be bothered about the employment bits that make all the education and years spent so irrelevant ?

I firmly believe that you should bother. In fact, I hold on to the theory that you should get agitated enough to be bothered more than you are currently. There is no escaping the fact that the world is changing and, with it, the patterns of employment. Traditionally, Indian IT companies of the SWITCH and now TWITCH group have hired freshly minted software engineers by the ark-load. In fact, there are times when I have wondered about how do they end up managing the task of the massive hires. When you hire at that quantum, the focus is less on skills and, more on whether there is “aptitude” as measured by some tests devised by the departments involved. And, since there is an extensive “training” of the new hires involved as part of the cycle, it is comfortable for them to assume that basic knowledge would be drilled into them eventually.

It isn’t really about Python. I guess the issue here is do the folks whom you guide and, for a very valid reason, feel responsible for, realize and accept that there are opportunities outside of the traditional TWITCH group ? Or, that, given accomplishments, they can actually be spoilt for choice in terms of assignments they land up with ? Sadly enough, my experiences have been somewhat negative. Since getting into a services sector job hasn’t been too difficult, students seem to have become complacent (and, yes, I know that this is a grossly general statement) and, decided not to exercise their choice to “be excellent”.

Choosing to become a zombie is an easy decision. Choosing not to and thus striking out a path for themselves requires courage. So, the question I ask is – what can we do to instill that courage in the folks we encounter ? What can be done so that they can be brave enough to reject a call to mediocrity and, embrace the discipline and strength needed to really “innovate” ?

It is a sad fact of life that B players generally hire Cs. So that they can appear smart to the outside world. How can we coach the students to aspire for nothing less then being an A and, demand the very best of their employers ?

So, the question isn’t really “Why should I bother ?” – it is “What can we do to change the system ?”

The number of comments on your blog does prove that there are a large group of people unhappy with the current state of things. The larger that group is, and, the more work that gets done, would be the starting point of things changing.

~sankarshan

ps: Be bothered. That’s the only path to sanity.

Of books again

Spent a greater part of the day reading A Better India, A Better World by Narayan Murthy. And, for better or, for worse, re-read a few parts of Imagining India: Ideas For The New Century by Nandan Nilekani.

There is nothing much to be said about the book from N Murthy. A collection or, more aptly, a collation of his speeches and writings these are collected around various themes. A basic point which the publishers might have considered is the selection of font and size. A book that is wholly text matter based requires a much pleasant font and comfortable spacing rather than the close-spaced result that one sees in the book. There are a few things that stand out when one reads the collection:

  • his speeches tend to have repeated imagery and quotes and, a bit of sameness that becomes jarring if the book is read as a whole
  • while the speeches employ rhetorical flourishes, the writings, especially in the columns of business journals have a much sharper edge and clarity
  • “Be the change you want to see” is a theme oft repeated and, provided for via various examples. And, I did end up liking a number of the anecdotes.
  • The sections on Values, Leadership and, various addresses to the students are worth a re-read.

All said, I had a different set of expectations from the book. Probably, that was one reason I ended up re-reading segments from Nandan Nilekani’s book. Narayan Murthy has been somewhat “up there” and, expecting a bit more insight in terms of vision isn’t asking for the moon. So, whereas Nilekani’s book does a thorough overview of a situation and digs dip down into nuts and bolts operational parts, Murthy’s writings tend to remain a bit on the “preachy” side. And, somewhat dispassionate. The book is worth reading if one has heard or, read him infrequently, else, borrow a copy to read up the section on Values. Might be worth it.