SFD 2009 – Challenges and criticism

Hi all,
This post tries to share about the experiences felt during the celebration of SFD 2009 and what we need to make it better.

Well, for background purposes, Lokayat Free Software Intiaitive (lfsi from hereon) and Pune Linux User’s Group had jointly decided to celebrate Software Freedom Day. The schedule of events we were planning had already been put up here .

Now I could have posted the conventional photos and said yes, we were great but that would have been a fallacy. There is still lot of feeling of elitism that runs within the community and I don’t really know how to plough through all that. I don’t want to be in a position of calling names to people hence would rather talk about processes than people. I would be asking few questions and try to process my thoughts as well at the end of the whole post as well. I also tried to remain a bit abstracted during the whole process in order to do these observations.

While we had planned to have one presentation in Modern College due to Navratri and the college deciding to observe an holiday that didn’t happen.

The 1st talk I attended was in COEP by Amit Karpe’s Drupal installation workshop/seminar. While he has a business providing consultancy services around Drupal I thought it was a very poor choice of tool when you are talking/sharing with youngsters who are in College. A better bet perhaps would be wordpress as its known to be much simpler. I am talking about just the installation and not anything else. They are of course many sites which are constantly comparing A-B and B-C for e.g. here and here. My contention/idea being the tool should be simple to install (the KISS principle), take hardly 10 minutes and then one should start the content. If you are going to be fighting technology to install the damn thing, you have already lost the audience.

For me the installation part seem to be a bit rushed. For instance, there didn’t seem to be enough emphasis or groundwork laid on why and what is a CMS ? Who may need a CMS and those kind of questions ? Similarly there was no relationship or foundation established of why modules are necessary ? and those things. For me, simply put it was just like any other corporate presentation that is simply thrust on people.

The next presentation was by Abhijit M. of COFSUG . That was a practical, sociological and philosophical overview aptly titled ‘Software Freedom Struggle’ which linked the freedom movement to the various movements around the world. It also attempted to ask some questions as to where its going but still stops short. I wish he would put the said presentation online so people could view, think, use and remix it to suit their requirements as well.

The highlight of the presentation is an effort by COFSUG to drive some part in localization. Whether it would be applications or what form it would take would be hopefully clear in the near future.

The audience were mainly students from most probably computer science or computer engineering background.

In the evening, went to lokayat’s office and Amit this time demonstrated Firefox and showed the add-on Firebug . Now again, I was saddened that not enough emphasis was being put up on questions like ‘what is a browser’ ? Why do I need it ? Why the need for a FOSS and open-standards based Free browser ? Those questions or foundations were just not taken into consideration.

The next presentation was again Abhijit’s which was made much more simpler for the various groups of people coming from various stratas of society. Overall it was okish.

The next part which was kind of being used is “How Microsoft gave the hypervisors license under GPL” and how people could make money off it, the service model etc.

Lastly, they showed ‘Revolution OS’ .

What I felt was missing the point here is there has been simply no attempt to involve the local populace. The audience was mostly a mixed group with students, elderly people, professionals . Also what was clearly missing was no analogies . I think it was really wrong to show ‘Revolution OS’ as it simply doesn’t connect with people who have a different cultural mindset. What would have been more interesting if there was a film show-casing of people using and trying of Free software within our own land. We have hacker conventions like FOSS.in and Freed.in . A good friend of mine Frederick Noronha has an excellent channel on youtube which could have been used to know of initiatives around India. There are few others as well.

One of the other things I feel if we want to make some breakthroughs are to have both presentations and our desktops being multi-lingual and this, I felt pretty strongly both at COFSUG as well as Lokayat’s office. We have Indic GPL fonts . What aren’t we using them? While I don’t know all the answers I think a part of it is we are not fluent in our own mother language either writing or speaking. At least I know this of myself. Is it the same for others I don’t know.
I do visit and enjoy seeing sites in regional fonts and languages though.

I also did a very unscientific research of the four most famous GNU/Linux distributions or projects I know of and see how many of them are in Devanagri . The distributions were Ubuntu, Debian, Opensuse and Fedora.

I deliberately chose the community sites as I have always believed they are the real strength of using and being part of GNU/Linux. Of the four only one distribution so far seems to have done the Devanagari port of their site, that is fedora. If nothing else, at the very least they have made a beginning.

I do see ample of opportunities for people to drive localization forward and also make some sustainable movements out of it. I hope there would be some brain-storming on some of the thoughts penned here and SFD 2010 would be a different picture altogether.

Looking forward for feedback on the same. Signing off for now

Update :- Another good one in my books is Mozilla Firefox which I somehow left as well 😦

Update 29/09/09 :- Couple of pics. now at http://stickypix.net/up/public/viewset/827

4 thoughts on “SFD 2009 – Challenges and criticism

  1. @communist you are welcome 🙂

    @Rushal I don’t want you to put you guys down. Instead would say it was a courageous decision.

    The problem is always framing how much information to give. It would have been better to have excluded patent and other related news and focus more on essentials perhaps.

    Another thing was that comment that the Linux kernel is now being used and maintained more and more by companies. That should not be used for congratulating oneself but is more worrying trend as the community is taking a back-seat .

    Some would call it Enlightened self-interest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest I would say something else.

    Lemme also point out that if you are putting up a patent flag or taking about patents then you need to work out your argument long before you start sharing it.

    Its a pretty long road where as an activist group you have to read and know from variety of sources.

    One of the very interesting videos to watch would be ‘Who killed the electric car’ to get an interesting side-view of how actually technology makes it to the market or not.

    Some background reading for the same.




    While the Register comes to a different conclusion I would say same is the case with current battery technology. There is much more money to be made with the current situation then let the situation improve.

    FOSS is an important part of the whole technological cycle so it can be used but we need to know all the variables as well.

  2. In-line with your views on the evening program! We have realized that film selection was POOR!

    What we additionally felt was that our program was not very well planned – in the sense, the talks were fine – but the way they were presented to the audince could have been better – specially the comparing… We did not introduce our theme properly – and the talks somehow started pretty abruptly!

    Let’s learn from this and plan better programs next time.

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