I had the opportunity to attend a FOSS talk session organized by Center for Distance Education Engineering Programme (CDEEP) as a part of the National Mission on Education through ICT. The National Mission on Education through ICT has some lofty goals, which when reached will take the country ahead by leaps and bounds.
The Mission has a budget of $1billion in the 11th Five year plan, 40% of which will be spent on content generation (all of which will be free/open source) and the rest will be spent on making available a minimum bandwidth of 1Gbps to the 30,000 odd colleges spread over India (out of which around 3000 are Engineering colleges). The mission has various projects planned and they are picking up steam rapidly. The project I will be working on, for the Adoption of Open Source in Engineering and Science Education in India, is also a part of this Mission. Prof. Kannan had kick started the session with an introduction to the National Mission on Education through ICT. The talks were all being webcast to various EduSAT centers and on the web.
Then, Prof. Pathak talked on, why open source is important. He said, (not exactly quoting him) " It is theoritically possible for any person to learn and discover things from scratch, but there’s been only one Ekalavya in the entire history of India." Education is a social activity and hence open access to content is absolutely vital. He mentioned various things like how IIT-B has been working on Creative Commons licensing and other things going on here. He ended the talk with a hope that soon India will move from being a net taker of Open source to a net giver to open source.
This was followed by three talks, delivered by developers from RedHat meant for programmers who wish to contribute to FLOSS.
The first talk was by Ramakrishna Reddy, titled 10 things a FLOSS developer should know. It was a pretty nice and balanced talk, covering a wide range of things. I would like to point out a few things, that I liked the most.
- He clarified the term hacker as soon as he used it.
- He emphasized a lot on groking code; reading code for fun, looking at the code of others, reading as much code as possible…
- He talked of muscle memory of emacsen. I liked the way he talked of people being so quick with their editors and how learning to use your tools effectively is a big plus
- Release often, Release early. Everybody talks of it, but he said a few words, which I liked. Some developers don’t usually release their code as early for the fear of being ridiculed. But don’t bother, “we are just small people, in the whole galaxy.”
The next talk was by Prasad Pandit on How to use Infrastructure for FOSS projects. Prasad talked of Website, Version Control, Mailing list, IRC, Bugzilla, Wiki and RSS feeds. He gave quite a few examples on how each thing is important, most of the examples being his personal experiences.
The last talk was by Rahul Sundaram and was on Communication in a FOSS project. For a change he didn’t have slides and the reason for that, he said, is that communication in a FOSS project is casual and not having slides and walking in with a t-shirt and jeans represents that casualness which is a culture of FOSS projects’ communication.
- Be polite, but don’t be Formal.
- Be precise, but do provide a context to what you are saying.
- Don’t fear that you’ll say something foolish, which, will be archived for eternity. Mistakes are there to learn from. Not just you, but others too.
He talked of quite a lot of things, but these were the things which struck me as particularly interesting/important.
At the end, all the participants walked out with Fedora 11 DVDs from the RedHat/Fedora guys. :D