Tag Archives: Friends

In the company of a ninja

It looks like watching the Ninja Assassin hasn’t done Shreyank any good. Else, he would have figured out that it is easy-peasy for a Founder and Chief Ninja like Dimitris Glezos (who is also known as DeltaGamma) to be at Bangalore and, elsewhere. Dimitris paid a surprise visit to Pune yesterday and it was fun. It isn’t always that you get a CEO of a startup provide you with an in-person repeat of his keynote with added wisecracks and side-talks that are too scandalous for a “keynote” :) And, that too, at a fairly crowded Barista. It was awesome.

In fact I wanted to talk with him about how massive the momentum built up by Transifex has been. Just two years ago, in 2007, Tx was a GSoC project within The Fedora Project aimed at looking at managing translations from a developer’s perspective. Today, it is a start-up which is hiring employees, relocating to newer offices, has a foot-print across a significant portion of upstream community projects and, most importantly, has clients willing to pay for customization services and, developer services. Tx isn’t only helping translation communities by allowing them to craft their work in peace – it is keeping developer sanity with the fire-n-forget model of the architecture. I hear that PulseAudio, PackageKit developers are strong supporters of Tx. That is tremendous news. The provocative nature of Tx is also based on the charm that it has been bootstrapped. That should provide hope to developers thinking along the “product” route.

I would say that these two years have done Dimitris good. His focus on the road Tx should take has become more vivid and, he has a deeper insight into the changes he wants to bring about via Indifex. There’s nothing more exciting than keeping a close watch on his team and his company for news that would come up soon. Tx is coming up with a killer set of features in the upcoming releases. That should get the attention of a couple of clients too.

Throughout the afternoon we ended up talking about getting youngsters up to speed to think beyond patches as contributions and, starting tuning their thoughts to products. Dimitris opines that patches are excellent jump-off points but in order to become a valuable contributor, one must start thinking about “architecture”, “design”, “roadmap”, “milestones” and all such issues that form part of the theory classes but never see implementation in real-life scenarios. In addition, there is also the need to inculcate the “CC thinking” in everyday work of creativity – be it code or, content or even be it hardware and standards (the “CC thinking” is a fancy short-hand towards thinking about Open Standards, Open Protocols and so forth. In a somewhat twitter-ish way, we compressed it to a meta-statement we both could relate to and agree with).

Dinner and post-dinner with a couple of us was another story. Having a bunch of hard-core “Fedora” folks in the room creates a passion. Sitting back to savor the flames of discussions and, interjecting with a leading viewpoint to keep the debate flowing is the best way to get action items resolved. Nothing wasn’t touched upon – from the way to get best out of *SCos to mundane stuff like getting feature requests into Tx, OLPC and Sugar, or, talking about the general issues within the IT development community in Greece. And of course, the frequent checks on Wikipedia to validate various points in the argument. We could have done with an offline Wiki Reader yesterday :)

I think I finally went to sleep at something around 0200 today – which is impossibly past my standard time. There are photos aplenty, though I don’t know who will be uploading them. There was food, there was coffee, cakes, and, there were friends – in short, a nice day.

Of new folks and old

For those who keep track of the welcome mails on fedora-ambassadors list or, are subscribed to the fedora-india list, a pattern would have been obvious by now. We have a large number of fresh faces who have signed up for Fedora Ambassadors in India. They are young, they are still at various colleges and, they are trying their best to get things going at their institutions.

This is somewhat of an interesting data point. The usual trend so far has been of folks who-have-been-around the FOSS scene for a while finally deciding to formally join up as they figured out that they had been in an Ambassador role anyway. Having newer folks, especially students, is a huge upside. It allows the project and the community to reach out to groups of people who now have a peer to look up to when it comes to things Fedora. So, such things could be installation, configuration or, contributing to the project or, even trying out projects within the Fedora umbrella besides the OS itself.

Given this benefit, it is only fitting that the existing ‘old dog’ Ambassadors and the rest of the community take time out to make better FOSS citizens out of the new joinees. This means doing ‘FOSS 101′ kind of hand-holding – in person, over IRC or, via e-mail/mailing lists. This is high touch, time consuming and, somewhat of a rote job. However, if done well and, it has to be done, it will end up creating a vibrant group of people who know the tools of the trade, understand how the FOSS game is played and end up learning the basics in a much more interactive manner than ever before. In fact, the ‘they will pick up stuff along the way like we did’  rationale of throwing the onus back would be negated.

The usual counter-argument is that this would be impossible given the number of Ambassadors and, the rate at which their tribe is increasing. I’d like to disbelieve that. No Fedora participant in India is alone. We are a fairly large group of people who can quickly band together to lend a helping hand and, so it is never a single person ending becoming a mentor for a large group. Secondly, and, this is a favorite line I (over)use – architecting a community is no different than building up a family. It takes time, it takes focus but most importantly it takes belief and trust that the basic elements of accountability and responsibility when applied would end up creating a competent, cohesive and compelling unit that others would like to emulate.

Additionally, if during the initial days, the new Ambassadors are encouraged to actively participate in any other part of the project, it should lead to greater involvement and appreciation of the Four Freedoms. This of course has the advantage of helping them build the social connects and network across projects/amongst individuals which is an invaluable part of being an Ambassador. It also builds up the required confidence in the Ambassador to go out and evangelize about contributing back to various projects and upstream. Because, if one has already drunk the Kool-Aid, talking about it is dead simple. So, for example, since most of the new folks end up organizing and leading installation fests and the like, a somewhat easier point of entry for them is QA Days. And, this is just one idea. There are many such obvious ideas being discussed and, in coming days would be slowly put to the ground.

Irrespective of when you joined the project and the community in India, keep a sharp eye on the implementation details of these plans. They are going to get things going !