Mini Debconf 2011 Day 0

This post attempts to chronicle as well as do an analysis of day 0 of #minidebconfpune

A little bit of history is in order. The first minidebconf was organized in COEP in the year 2010.I have blogged about it last year. With some of the issues known we wanted to do one better than last year.

One of the first big hurdles was getting a proper day fixed for the minidebconf. First it was supposed to happen in June, then July and then finally the dates were fixed as August 13th,14th and 15th. Forgetful that I am, I didn’t check if any of these days had some special meaning. Its only in the preceding days before the minidebconf that came to know that August 13th was ‘Raksha Bandhan‘ . Naturally had to listen to an earful from my sister and probably would try making amends this week-end.

Anyways, the first thing we were thinking of is how to introduce Debian. There was back and forth discussion of making ‘an introduction to debian’ mashup video. I promptly shot it down because :-

a. It would have been ambitious project and I didn’t know if we could pull something off.

b.It would have also included making slides with effects, some music and stuff.

c. It was too short a notice to try anything like that.

d. Doing some sort of remote video collaboration (mashup) is also costly (bandwidth-wise). I have been having an idea for number of years (and it’s not original) to having something like jigdo for video source material but that would be story for another day.

Maybe if we had started couple of months earlier then perhaps something could have been achieved.

Praveen also had an idea to publicize the event before-hand to as many mailing lists as possible but I wanted to be a bit cautious about it. This was a new team and having just 6 or so volunteers did not know if we could handle a huge audience.

Anyways, as the main Debconf2011 has just happened couple of weeks ago and we had an excellent video by one of the former DPL (Debian Project Leader) Bdale Gargee about ‘Understanding Debian‘ . We started the event bang on 11 and started with the video. The Video is a bit long around 45 minutes and people starting zoning out. The video does not have any loud graphics, sizzling video effects or/and graphics to hold people still. While I loved that Video many people didn’t get it. Either it was too technical or what no idea people were zoning out.

As it was first day I was also nervous as had no idea about how much the audience knew about Debian or GNU/Linux as a whole. I am no developer so had no idea what to share or where to begin even though we had prepared a presentation.

Rather than just use the presentation just as it is, I wanted to connect first with the audience so decided to extempore share my user experience and the reasons for my own shifting from Windows to GNU/Linux. I shared about the constant crashing and the constant 3 R’s that ruled my life (Retry,Reboot and Reinstall) before GNU/Linux entered my life (thanx to a magazine called PC Quest and arguably the first free CD in technical publishing). Also being called a pirate not something I wanted to do.

I tried using a mixture of Hindi and English to keep it informal as English sometimes ends up being a barrier between people rather than the bridge that a language is supposed to create. Also using Hindi one is supposed to be more approachable rather than just English (which makes one leet/elite).

While I did manage to evoke a few laughs here and there, I missed out on the fact that there were few people in the audience who did not understand Hindi at all. Then had to change back to English. Tried that but it didn’t really work. Maybe because it was the first day or I was a bit nervous or whatever lost the plot a bit then. As we were supposed to finish the presentation in 15-20 mins, I had redacted huge parts of the free software philosophy in order to be within my time-frame while trying to build Sana’s presentation a bit more as she is just a student and she needs/needed that encouragement.

She was also being a bundle of nerves and I advised her some. Anyways, I muddled through some more and then Sana came for the technical part. Sana’s presentation skills were a revelation to me. She was articulate and was able to put the points across very well. She would be a good asset to any organization and especially to debian-women which would help further the cause of women inclusiveness in free software. Pavithran chimed in from time to time (especially some of the things he was passionate about) and soon we broke for lunch.

After lunch, Abhijit of COEP who has been valiantly spear-heading free software efforts at COEP for the last few years started his talk on the lines of ‘Why Free software’. He introduced and attempted to let people think of terms such as ‘copyright’, ‘pirate’,’patents’ and many such terms. In essence loaded terms which have abused and perverted by various commercial interests. To his credit he held the audience (mainly students) attention pretty well. One advantage that he has for sure that he is interacting with students day in and day out so understanding student psychology would be perhaps easier for him than at least me who has no opportunity to interact with students (except at PLUG meetings or the rare minidebconf stuff).

Anyways, after Abhijit’s sharing/talk Pavithran started his share about Debian Edu and Debian Junior. I wish he had taken a bit more time to fill it a bit better. Debian-Edu/Skolelinux and Debian Junior , the idea has lots of potential. There is need for lot of indianizing whole lot of content (which is and would be different from just mere localization of the interface and the different programs). I did put out the idea of a single Wikipedia CD + Skolelinux/Debian-Edu/Debian-Junior DVD which is a service that many schools would be interested. There is money to be made here for keeping the content fresh and updated from both the Wikipedia repository and the various Debian Education based projects. There is whole lot of local art and folk tales which is not copyrighted and still is told from father/grandfather to son/grandson (daughter). For e.g. ‘Tales of Panchatantra‘ would be a wonderful addition to the project whether just in Q & A form or an animation project or whatever. The possibilities are just endless. Pavithran just concentrated on some of the project’s success stories rather than give the big picture.

After he finished his presentation then Praveen shared his ‘Debian Tools and processes’. As Sana had already introduced quite a bit of Tools and processes it just made it a bit easier for Praveen. I did see some snippets of his talk but missed out on quite a bit as was zoning out and went to have a tea (as we had been having crazy weather as well). By the time I came back from tea day 1 was over.

At the very end you can find photos of Day 0 of the minidebconf2011 here .

4 thoughts on “Mini Debconf 2011 Day 0

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