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  • Kartik 2:03 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , drupal, , , , , , , , , ,   

    Of FOSSMeets at NIT Calicut 

    It’s been over a month and a half since the last edition of FOSSMeet at NIT Calicut. As an active member of organizing team for FOSSMeets ’10 and ’11 and a keen but silent observer for the 2013 edition, I want to share some history, some ideas & few observations with this post. The intent is to generate discussion among people who have been part of earlier FOSSMeets and to leave some things to ponder about (and act on) for juniors.

    Year One

    FOSSMeet 2010 and the preparations that led to it were a great experience for me as a fresher in the college. We have a Google Group for FOSSMeet discussions connecting alumni and others connected to FOSSMeet in some or other way together. The thing I liked most was the open discussions we had on the mailing list about the problems faced in our campus when it comes to organizing a technology focused event like FOSSMeet, the event structure of FOSSMeet itself, lots of suggestions and ideas being shared from alumni, seniors, and even freshers like me and Pranav. It was exactly like the way I imagined an open community works – involving everyone without bias on age, seniority, gender, etc. Much thought was given even to suggestions we gave as freshers (fresh perspectives), and questions/doubts/uncertainties that we raised were patiently addressed. We also had few IRC meetings, and even got trolled in one of them :D. I got to learn the history of FOSS culture at NITC and got connected to many interesting seniors and alumni. What more could a budding FOSS enthusiast ask for?

    I contributed to FOSSMeet that year by designing the website along with Pranav Ashok. It was my first complete website based on Drupal, and I can’t describe in words the amount of learning and fun I had working on it (working till midnight at SSL (that too in first year!); getting ourselves locked in the IT Lab Complex in the midnight of Dec. 31, it was Pranav’s birthday; etc). We made sure all kinds of information that participants/speakers would look for was easily available on the site, and even went on to properly archive the websites of previous editions of FOSSMeet so that visitors get a complete picture about our history. There was a small forum to answer queries raised by visitors (especially freshers of our campus), and registration of both delegates and speakers was handled through the website itself – thanks to the awesome contrib modules available for Drupal (guess the registration team was pretty much relieved that they could just export an Excel sheet of all registrations). The amount of support and freedom given to us by seniors (especially Amarnath) was heartening. Overall, this one website got me started with Drupal and can be credited as the reason for many other sites I did later (including my best website work yet – the CSED site). To happy memories of an upcoming web enthusiast…

    Another way I was able to contribute that year was as a volunteer in the Speaker Hospitality team. I recall asking Amarnath what would he choose, and I had my answer. It was a great experience getting to meet almost all the speakers in person (even Atul Chitnis!), sharing ideas and views with them, getting inspired in the process, and yeah running to and fro to the cool (literally) NITC Guest House to arrange accommodation for speakers and making sure they were comfortable. Seniors including Anil and Febin were very helpful in the process.

    Praveen’s birthday was celebrated on the stage in one of the halls, another example I saw of how people were close to each other while working on things of common interest. Some of my most happy memories include working with GeoHackers on their website in their FOSSHut and going out for dinner at Broast  (my first visit there) with the gang of geeks – 12 of us, each carrying heavy laptop bags, and only one, I, an NITC student. I don’t remember if I participated in any of the workshops, but talks by Dr V Sasi Kumar and Atul Chitnis were quite interesting. Overall, this FOSSMeet was a huge success with good participation, effective talks and workshops (most popular was one on Blender IIRC), and a lot of happy memories. :)

    Related Links

    Year Two

    Something was different this time, less enthusiasm among the team, lack of proper leadership and hence lack of a clear vision about the aim & purpose of the event, perhaps it was the fatigue of conducting another related conference just a few months earlier – FOSS in Education (which saw RMS visiting Calicut and we students getting to interact with him in person). There was comparatively lesser amount of discussion on the mailing list (intrusion of Facebook into our lives can be attributed to this), or if we look at it the quality of discussion was different this time.

    I took the responsibility of Speakers Manager along with helping out with the website (logical promotion from my previous year’s responsibilities) this time. I had visited two professional FOSS related conferences that year – PyCon 2010 and FOSS.IN 2010 – and met a lot of geeks and hackers. Anjhan’s keynote at FOSS.IN had a great impact on me, and also made me realize how grand FOSSMeet used to be when he mentioned it there on that stage. I realized expectations were high and I had a relatively important role to perform.

    A lot of hard work followed in hundreds of email exchanges with potential speakers (some of them I had befriended the previous year or in other conferences), arranging for their travel plans, accommodation arrangements in the Guest House and hostels, making sure all their needs were met, etc. Anil Vishnu, my senior, again was a great help. One thing different this time was the visit of Chamba team to our campus a week before FOSSMeet started, this was a great initiative to try and get talented students from NITC involved in their team.  But I found myself burdened with work and responsibility and aghast with conflict of interests among FOSSMeet activities and some event by a group which was part of organizing bodies of FOSSMeet; perhaps it was just lack of communication among our whole team – a serious problem which scales with the size of teams.

    On the website front, we tried to make the session proposal process more open this time, and received a few proposals. I believe a smooth web experience matters a lot in making things open using technology and we faced few problems in that respect, but web team couldn’t be blamed completely for this because that year we faced problems with our hosting provider with one server upgrade and a last minute server crash. I learnt how difficult it becomes sometimes to convey ideas to others in the team. There were some heated exchanges and ego clashes which had long term impact much later. Alas, important lessons learnt the hard way.

    Another disheartening aspect of this year was low attendance in some of the best workshop sessions arranged that year – Git workshop by Noufal, Intro to GCC Compiler Collection by Praseed Pai, and many of the talks. I had even personally identified the best technical sessions and tried to promote them in our class but the response wasn’t as expected. Python workshop was overcrowded, the most popular session that year. It, indeed, showed the need of a better mechanism to allow entry to a workshop based on prerequisites and interest of participants. Otherwise, it becomes a problem for both the organizers and the speakers in effectively conducting the sessions. Some speakers mentioned missing prerequisite among the audience, and some were of course disappointed with low participation in their sessions.

    Some of the best moments from that year were my interactions with Niyam Bhushan and Praveen. Praveen inspired an urge in me to ask questions, and Niyam left a message to never give up on my passion. At the end of the event, the team faced a complete burn out, and not much effort was done to properly document the event – something I think is very important. One other thing I personally felt was a need to question ourselves – Was it all worth the effort? Were we able to realize a dream of having NITC community involved in open source development? Heck, were we gaining anything out of this, technically and otherwise (an inner satisfaction)? We were so tired that no other FOSS related activity was done that semester except for one preplanned LaTeX session.

    Year Three

    I remember meeting Jerrin, Shamil and a few others and questioning ourselves about last FOSSMeet and think about the next one. I had personally moved away from most of the FOSS activities in the campus (were they any left by then?) and wanted to play a minimal role in FOSSMeet that were to happen. We tried including all technical groups of campus this time, ISTE was a fresher. But there were internal troubles within our team, somehow we had failed to inspire our juniors to lead the effort. And again, there was minimal discussion over the mailing list or the Facebook group that had been formed. I also felt there was lack of interest in our team to discuss on questions like the aim of FOSSMeet, why should we even do it or how it could help change the face of technical activities in the campus, when I once raised them in a physical meeting. Sadly, after some efforts, some preparations and  some rescheduling of dates, the event was called off.

    Year Four

    Before starting on this one. I want to acknowledge the efforts of the team behind bringing FOSSMeet back! The efforts by Shamil, Jerrin, Arunanand (Taa), Nimish, Vipin and Jaseem are commendable. Especially, with the help of Taa’s professionalism & experience and a burning desire in Shamil to bring it back, the seniors were able to inspire the juniors to make FOSSMeet happen this year. The team composed of many dedicated second years – Govind, Karun, Shiv, Vinith, Adithya, Hemant, Pallab, Vimal and many more – who put their best efforts. Third years including Yazar, Prajith, Sudev, Ashwin, Bandna and many more helped with their experience and wherever they could. The speaker line up was good, both for talks and workshops. I heartily congratulate everyone in the team to make this happen, bringing something of legacy back to life isn’t an easy task, something I can tell from experience.

    But all wasn’t so well during the actual conduct this year. I observed few things myself and there were comments from speakers and participants as well (see links below). I couldn’t be an active part this year because of other commitments, but it was great and humbling experience being a silent observer for once.

    One general observation was the same as earlier – audience not fitting in the right sessions, which leads to some of them being overcrowded and some being almost empty. Also, the expectations of a speaker aren’t met in terms of prerequisites and interest of the audience in their session. This is IMO a not-so-difficult problem to solve – IIT Madras has been doing this in their HackFest (during Shastra) at least for last 4 years since I know about it. A screening process for delegates, that could be easily implemented on the website, which helps them choose which sessions to attend based on their interests and earlier experience in those fields could be very effective. This is more important for the type of audience that FOSSMeet caters to – students, some of them completely uninitiated about how free communities and open source works. This could also help in scheduling the sessions depending on the numbers and difficulty levels of sessions.

    There were some complaints about arbitrary reschedulings, delays in initiation of sessions, etc. Also, something I observed myself, there were no volunteers in some sessions to introduce the speaker, to track the time taken in a talk or to present the memento at the end of the session.  I understand the problems organizers face (being one myself earlier) but I felt this could have been dealt with more professionally and carefully. An intro session on where to find information, how to identify volunteers, etc. during the inauguration of the event could certainly help.

    This time the team opted to use HasGeek’s Funnel for proposal acceptance. Funnel is a pretty awesome tool for the task, but switching to it should have been done well in advance. I observed there were some proposals on the website in the beginning which never appeared later on Funnel. Also, there was some gap in communication among the proposers and organizers (especially pointed out by students from Amritha – I was really happy to see so many proposals coming from students there), again this is something organizers should be very careful about in conducting a professional event.

    Another complaint was about the student audience being complete novice for some sessions. Personally, I was shocked to see the number of students who appeared for Django Hacknight who were completely clueless about even the syntax of Python (sadly, the hacknight that was supposed to be done among 4-5 people turned into just another beginner session on how to start with Django with about 25 participants). This is not an easy problem to solve, only thing that can help is regular meetups/sessions during the year by seniors interested in technology and open culture. Student organizations like CSEA, FOSSCell, IEEE have been trying to help but regularly tend to get lost in clearly defining their purpose of existence and things they need to focus on.

    My happy memories about the event were really good technical talks by Harisankar on Ruby and Rails and another by Ram on Advanced Git.

    Blogposts about FOSSMeet 2013

    Conclusion

    It’s been an interesting journey over last 4 years, with many ups and downs. I have tried to cover things which can be improved on, mixed with history and memories at this time of nostalgia while I am about to leave college. I might be biased in my views on things or might have failed to see the complete picture, for which I invite viewpoints from others. On a happier note, this long (and) overdue blog post is finally complete. :-)

     
    • Nitish Rawat 6:43 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      FOSSMeet has been packed with many seminars. I know other chapter has more parallel events but my suggestion is to lessen parallel seminars as it may be attended by more.

      • Kartik 7:11 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment Nitish. This is debatable and depends on what an event is focusing on in a particular year.

        Parallel sessions are conducted to provide choice to participants, because all kinds of talks/workshops might not be suitable for everybody. Also, if there are very few parallel sessions, the speaker might face problem as stated in the post itself – a mix of beginners and experienced audience and not being able to cater to any in particular. Most speakers I have met prefer an audience who are, at least, genuinely interested in the topic being presented. And we observed, participants not being able to make those choices by themselves, being newbies, something that can be improved upon in future editions.

    • Pranav Ashok 9:00 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice post Kartik! I had actually forgotten how much we’d worked for FOSSMeet 2010. This post made me open the mailing list and read through some of the archives. I couldn’t believe we were so mature in first year. After watching people come and go for the past four years, it makes me ask this question – was it because of the freedom we got, thanks to people like Amarnath, or was it because we were really mature?

      I feel that the quality of the people have been heavily decreasing over the years. Not just in the area of FOSS, in other fields too. It is hard to come across a junior who designs well or codes websites well. It scares me, for it may be our fault. That we didn’t train the juniors well. Whatever be it, there is an evident shift of interests among people to non-technical things. Personally, I feel that my technical aptitude too, has worsened in the past four years.

      I feel this matter is significant enough to be discussed on a public forum, about what we can do to increase the technical interests of the students in this college. Unless something is done about it, the technical quality of the people coming out of this college is going to rapidly fall in the coming years.

      • Kartik 10:24 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I agree with you, our first FOSSMeet was just so different kind of experience. Perhaps it was both freedom and our slight maturity about both technical things and about open communities. (Even I went through multiple emails in the list while writing this :-) ).

        Regarding the technical interest among college mates, this used to haunt me all the time from first year onwards. In fact I was about to write a post titled, NIT = Not Interested in Technology, in the beginning of last year to vent out my frustration. Somehow this campus loves, respects and enjoys cultural and other non-technical activities more than those it should, going by its name.

        And mine has worsened a lot more than even I can imagine.

      • Kartik 6:16 PM on April 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Pranav, just found a blog post by Amarnath I was looking for while replying to your comment last night: http://blog.vaamarnath.co.in/2011/01/open-life/

        Particularly the quotes from Deepak Sir:

        “Philosophy had stopped inspiring this campus about 20 years ago. Now it seems like that even technology don’t inspire this campus.”

        and

        “When students get enrolled here they are like horses. But after 4 years they pass out as donkeys.”

    • Ashutosh Raina 10:49 PM on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I am total outsider ( but Karthik does know me :) ). Firstly, I have zilch idea about Python, Django and all the related technologies. I do write but using tools that will make the FOSS guys frown.
      Having said that I will make a few quick points.
      1) I had zero interest or aptitude for coding/programming/development/computers. I first laid my hands on a computer when I was closer to 20. So, it is never too late to kindle the fire not only in yourself but also in the people around you.
      2) Gone are the days when Science was the tool for the brightest. It is now PR , marketing , law ( throw in socialising as well , if that is a thing at all). We need to make a serious effort not only to retain talent but also to create.
      3) I second your frustration. I was in the same situation in college. My seniors were awesome. They were geeks, they had their own companies and they taught us well. Sharing knowledge was the cornerstone of all our meetings and interactions. We were inspired by them and they continued to encourage talent and all the time.
      4) When they left and we were in in-charge the battle was just to get volunteers and other people to help run a technical festival ( one of the most important ones in Mumbai after IIT and VJTI ).
      5) My batch especially were all too busy doing everything for ourself, we forgot to teach and interact. So, the question is did you guys fail at that too ?

      The battle for attention of students is a tough one and requires for us to create a culture and heritage. We cannot be in this for the short-term and think about just for the year we are in-charge. Create mechanisms of sustainable learning throughout the year. Hopefully, then in a decade we will have some real technology enthusiasts.

      P.S. Hopefully I did not bore everyone on a nice Sunday evening.

      • Kartik 12:03 AM on April 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        You bring out an interesting point in number 5. I felt a bit lonely trying to share my knowledge among juniors (I believe I did enough on my part), perhaps if there were more of my batch mates interested in this interaction and sharing of knowledge, things could be different. @Pranav, remember I asked you once, we should perhaps pass things we learnt to juniors?

        Number 4 is what I observe happening these days in most of the technical groups that exist here in our campus – getting juniors to work on mostly pointless events. I led one, CSEA, this year and tried to do things differently, can’t say we succeeded at a level of my satisfaction but still it was a good experience.

        “Sharing knowledge was the cornerstone of all our meetings and interactions.” This was the most important thing missing in our meetings and hence a disappointing factor. I also observed a serious gap in interaction between us and our immediate juniors.

        PS: It’s Kartik, not Karthik :P I don’t expect this coming out from a Northie in general. ;-)

  • Kartik 10:11 PM on July 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , drupal, ,   

    Remove Orphaned Actions in Drupal 7 

    I recently discovered this weird behaviour by drush when I disabled Comment module in Drupal 7 – drush was giving the following warning whenever I tried enabling/disabling any module:

    WD actions: 3 orphaned actions (comment_publish_action, comment_save_action, comment_unpublish_action) exist in the actions table. Remove orphaned actions

    After some scrounging on drupal.org (where most solutions were meant for Drupal 6), I found the solution at http://blog.devkinetic.com/node/9 Just execute the following once:

    drush php-eval "actions_synchronize(actions_list(), TRUE);"
     
    • Max Nylin 11:53 AM on August 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for spreading this, just what I was looking for.

      / Max

    • Kyle 8:15 PM on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yea, this bites me every once in a while, and going to the “orphans” URL doesn’t always work. This works great! Thanks.

      • Kartik 8:48 PM on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        That ‘orphans’ url method is meant for Drupal 6 only.

        Thanks for your comment. :)

  • Kartik 12:00 AM on July 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , drupal, , , , Joomla, , , MySQL, , ,   

    Easiest Way to Setup a Web Development Environment on Ubuntu-based Distros 

    Did you know how easy it is to get a basic web development environment on your Ubuntu-based Linux distribution? Guess what, it just takes 2 commands on the Terminal:

    sudo apt-get install tasksel

    This will install a small utility which lets you install a lot packages grouped together as software collections.

    sudo tasksel

    Launch tasksel and select ‘LAMP server‘ by pressing the SPACE key, press ENTER when you are done (see attached screenshot). It will take some time for the required packages to download and install. Near the end of setup, the installer will ask you to create a password for MySQL‘s root user.

    Select LAMP Server among the choices in Tasksel

    Select LAMP Server among the choices in Tasksel

    After the installer finishes, you have the environment ready. Head over to your favorite browser and open http://localhost If everything went fine, the page will say It works!

    It works!

    It works!

    Now you can start creating websites by putting your html, php, etc. files under /var/www directory or just choose to go with CMS solutions like Drupal, WordPress or Joomla.

    The author also recommends to install phpmyadmin package if you happen to work with MySQL databases.

    An edited version of this article first appeared at http://www.muktware.com/articles/08/2011/1348

     
  • Kartik 6:21 PM on January 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: drupal, ,   

    Drupal 7 Exploration 

    Drupal 7 Screenshot

    Drupal 7

    I finally managed to install Drupal 7 on my Arch Linux Desktop after some difficulty, but feels like I learned a lot in the meantime.

     
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