Foss.in needs a relookSun 26 October 2008 by Thejaswi Puthraya
My viewpoint of Foss.in:2008
A lot has been said and written about Foss.in:2008. I don't have much to add because these folks have already written quite a few convincing things. I really appreciate their views though some of them are very radical and personal.
I would support any initiative that tries to inspire people to start contributing to free software but would discourage if there is discrimination based on the type of contribution.
All the different contributors to free software are indispensable. They help a project survive and flourish.
- Bug fixers/triagers: Ask any humble free software developer and he will profusely thank these folks who reduce their burden and help maintain sanity on the bug-lists.
- Translators: Many people think this is a very trivial aspect of free software but they are wrong. Free software is very popular in Latin American and other non-English countries. If you really want to promote free software worldwide, then you need the help of these folks. Translation is not a very easy task and it's tougher to collaborate when working for a translation team.
- Artwork: Don't you love your free software to have a neat UI that is accessible and also pleasing. These are the folks who struggle to get this thankless work done.
- Packagers: Ever wished your packages found itself into every distribution and you could install your favourite software in a jiffy. These folks are the ones who are behind the painless installs.
- Users: They are the most important part of any software project (free or proprietary). They play an important role by helping propagate the software, they can give good feedback and improve your userbase or they could rant about it (potential bug reports or missing features). Most potential developers come from this category. You really would not want to piss them off!!! India lacks these folks. Compare the number of users of free software in other countries to ours and the number of developers from those countries to ours. Do you see a relation? Absolutely. They are directly proportional.
Only when all the four categories work together with developers do you get that beautiful free software.
I have no problems with Foss.in being a specialized conference, but the justifications given are wrong.
- Low hanging fruit is a very unprofessional word to use against contributors.
- Five days going to change the way the world perceives India in the context of FOSS. Is there any way to tell how much code or how many people from a country are contributing to free software? It is almost impossible, most development takes place over the internet, a fairly anonymous medium. And who really cares for which country you belong as long as you are supporting the cause. Please don't get chauvinism into the picture.
- Spotlight on Indian Contributors. How are you going to quantify a contributor's contribution to free software and how many are you going to throw a spotlight on?
- Foss workouts. How many projects are you going to highlight and start working on? No modalities mentioned, just eloquent statements. Why doesn't Foss.in think of adopting one (or many) priority software projects from GNU and work on them through out the year till the next edition?
- Some foss.in team members have mentioned that there are too many general FOSS events being conducted all over India, so they wanted a specialized one. Not a good enough reason. Suppose, Foss.in decided to target government enterprises or educational institutes and enouraged them to adopt FOSS, it would have justified their stance for a specialized conference. Being a very large conference, they have a potential to increase adoption of free software, developers are only a by-product!!!. And the reason why many FOSS events have sprung across the country are because they want to generate visibility to FOSS and help people who can't afford (either in terms of the money or the time) to make it to FOSS.in.
Probably, the event requires a relook. Since the organizers project it as a pan-India conference, there needs to be a committee that should compromise people from every aspect of the Free Software movement and from every part of the country. Let there be democracy and more transparency in the event management and have the venue changed every year, so that more people get a chance to be part of it.
My concluding words:
- First, to all the people who are ranting about the event. Lets not give any sort of publicity (negative or positive) to the event. Let's keep silent and it will be forgotten.
- To the organizers, it's better to be late than never.
In it's current avatar, I am not going to attend FOSS.in.