The annual WikiToLearn India Conference 2017 took place for the first time at The LNMIIT, Jaipur on January 18-19. I had the chance to organize the event and learn in these two days of lectures and conversations with fellow developers from around the world about freedom, sharing and open collaboration.
Planning and co-working with Sagar Agarwal, for more than 4 months and finally seeing #WTLIndiaConf happen was heartily pleasing. Huge shoutout to our sponsors, KDE, Jetbrains and DigitalOcean.
I was traveling with two other fellow speakers and my university mates, Haritha Harikumar and Chaithanya Krishnan. This was my first trip to Jaipur (Irony that I was born in Rajasthan) and my itinerary looked something like this : Amrita University -> Bangalore -> Jaipur (17th January) and Jaipur -> Bangalore -> University (22nd January).
Day 0 : I was very excited for this conference, and we had a train to Bangalore on 16th evening and a flight from Bangalore to Jaipur on 17th night. Train was not much late (only 4 hours :/), but the good thing was that the flight was at late night. I had some commitments on the morning at Bangalore and had to finish it off. The flight for Jaipur, for the worse, also got delayed by 2.30 hours and we reached Jaipur at 3.30 AM.
Day 1: Reaching the campus at 4.30 am, one of the volunteers, Sachin Mittal, was waiting for us at the university gate. He boarded me to my room, and to my and his surprise, no one was opening the door. My roommate was in deep sleep, and I didn’t even know who was inside. After knocking the gate for 10 minutes continuously, I see, the great ‘Harry Green Ghost’ a.k.a ‘The Man’eater’’ a.k.a ‘Harish Navnit’ comes up. For them who doesn’t know Harish, he was one of my first mentors at my university’s open source club (FOSS@Amrita), a KDE dev, and we share a different bond (Bhai, hain!), and all together I started feeling at home.
After conversing with him for like 10 minutes, I didn’t even know when I slept and a loud siren at 8am woke me up. I freshened up, rushed to the breakfast area and to my surprise, I see Riccardo Iaconelli (met him for the first time, finally :D) and Tony Thomas (meeting him for the nth time :P) coming.
The WikiToLearn India Conference was a single track event, so no distribution of audiences at the talks.
The first talk of the first day of the event was by Sagar Agarwal on KDE Open Source Ecosystem. Sagar Chand Agarwal is a Google Summer of Code 2015 Student, Google Code In Mentor 2015, Season of KDE Mentor 2015, Google Summer of Code 2016 Mentor, KDE Developer, Freelancer and Consultant for over 2 years. He briefly explained about how KDE and open source, in general, works. It was a great start to the conference.
Next talk was by Jaminy Prabha on Open Source Opportunities. Jaminy is a GSoC’16 student currently pursuing B.Tech in ECE at National Institute of Technology, Warangal and believes in solving social problems with the help of technology. She spoke about her journey with Open Source, hackathons and introduced the attendees to many different open source opportunities.
Lunch was pretty great. All the speakers gathered at a common place and had food. :D
The following talk was the Keynote by the founder, Riccardo Iaconelli himself. His talk started with an example of some guy who was bragging something how he invented something , and how he couldn’t license it properly to make it proprietary. He talked about the motive behind Richard Stallman’s idea of Open Source. He then briefed on how WikiToLearn is being adapted at European Universities and making it easier for students and professors for collaborative learning. He spoke on how the project is having powerful impact not only in Europe but also in the world with many universities involved and also organizations like KDE, Wikimedia Foundation and the CERN, about the power of collaboration and its impact in academia with the help of WikiToLearn. Also, he launched a competition for the attendees for the best technical and editing contribution - applicants can nominate themselves and there will be a winner who will be invited to a WTL sprint / Akademy.
Next talk was by Abhimanyu Shekhawat. Abhimanyu is a Computer Science Student at BITS Pilani Goa Campus, fellow WikiToLearn Core Developer and a GSoC’16 student. I was really very happy after I met him. His talk was one of the best talks for the day. He walked us through the basic architecture of his project : WikiRatings and gave have a fair idea of how much rewarding and fun it was to work for WikiToLearn the entire summer.
The following talk was by Jay Gupta. Jay is a Computer Science Student at Amity University, fellow WikiToLearn Core Developer and a GSoC’16 student. He talked about his Google Summer of Code’16 project : WikiToLearn Desktop Client which is a cross platform browser. The main feature of the application is the offline mode. Users can use even use WikiToLearn in offline mode after this project is implemented. Nice talk it was.
The last talk of the day was by Amit Kumar Jaiswal. He is an open hacktivist and a Mozilla Representative acting as a Mozilla Science Lab collaborator, developer at WorldBrain is a final year undergrad of Computer Science & Engineering from Kanpur University. He is a former internee at IIM Ahmadabad, CMIE and evangelizing Open Source and Mozilla. His talk was titled as “Diving into Docker: Developing a darn fast, repeatable workflow”. He introduced attendees to the basics of Docker, how to use Docker throughout the development process and Illustrated them the web development process using Docker.
The talks on day 1 were really great start for the conference. After a quick tea break, where we had a bit of fun with Riccardo teaching him some local slang and pulling off pranks with local people ensured that we made our way to the evening lab sessions. Attendees and Speakers were completely refreshed and were able to provide hands on guidance to students at the university. Abhimanyu showing his ‘stud’ness at the lab hours too (;P).
An awesome dinner followed (lot of Paneer) with Riccardo singing some Italian and Swedish songs at a bonfire followed by listening and ROFLing on ‘Ye Bik Gayi Hai Gormint’ brings the day to a perfect end.
Day2 : Second day of the event started with Tony Thomas’s talk. Tony Thomas volunteers as the Organization Administrator for Google Summer of Code (round 12) and Outreachy (round 12-13) with the Wikimedia Foundation. He started with his contributions to the Mediawiki codebase back in September 2013, and did his GSoC with the Wikimedia Foundation in 2014. Post successful deployment of his project in production, he volunteered as a GSoC mentor in the 2015 and 2016 GSoC rounds as well with the Foundation. The talk was titled as Engaging and Bringing in new contributors to a community rather he focused on talking about how to really get started with contributions. He is an amazing speaker, and his talk was splendid.
The next talk was by Harish Navnit. Harish is a free software enthusiast and has been involved with promotional and technical activities with the KDE community for almost half a decade now. He has been a Season of KDE participant as well as being involved in two Google Summer of Code projects with KDE in the past couple of years. His talk was entitled as ‘Modern Day Makefile Generators’. He imparted a basic familiarity to how large projects handle their dependencies and how a buildsystem functions, in general. He talked in depth about Cmake and qmake, and how they are used in handling large projects. It was a great talk for the technical peeps out there which gave them a basic understanding of it.
This was followed by Davide Valsecchi, Core Developer of WikiToLearn joining us over a hangout session straight from Italy to give us a brief introduction on the WikiToLearn infrastructure and introducing TeXLa. TeXLa is a minimal and easily extensible LaTeX parser. I would really like to thank him, to take some time out from his busy schedule and do this.
Before heading out for lunch, we took the time out to pose for mandatory group photos.
After the lunch it was the time for Mozilla girls, Vnisha Srivastav and Chaithanya Krishnan to give their talk on Connecting Rural Woman on Internet. For women, education is not about the pursuit of knowledge but more about learning a particular trade or skill that could help them earn their bread and butter. With technology drastically transforming major portions of the world, the minority, also comprising of rural women, are much isolated in terms of technology. It is a great loss for them as they lose out on the opportunity to utilise technology which could improve their ways of living and even help them imbibe more skills at a faster pace. It is also seen that even if technology is brought to within their reach, it is still not being put to effective use. Recently conducted surveys show that women majorly engage in more of social networking and gaming, when connected to the web, rather than using the same means for educational purpose. Also, the fact that Internet still comes in rates that are mostly not affordable to them, makes it more challenging. Keeping in mind the various challenges present in connecting women via the internet and introducing technology into their lives, we have designed various prototypes based on their diverse needs, and helping them in overcoming their challenges. One of the interesting talks for the day, and it was great we could have them onboard for the #WTLIndiaConf.
The following talk was by Arnav Dhamija on his Google Summer of Code’16 project with KDE. His project aimed to make the menial task of selecting files in a file manager as easy as possible. In any file manager copying and pasting has never been a pleasant experience, especially if the files are in a non-continuous order. Often, when selecting files using Ctrl+A or the selection tool, we find that we need to select only a subset of the required files we have selected. This leads to the unwieldy operation of removing files from our selection. Of course, the common workaround is to create a new folder and to put all the items in this folder prior to copying, but this is a very inefficient and very slow process if large files need to be copied. Moreover Ctrl+Click requires fine motor skills to not lose the entire selection of files. His talk was really great.
Following was the talk by Haritha Harikumar. Haritha is an Open Source enthusiast and a Mediawiki contributor since 2015. She is an active member of FOSS@Amrita and a technical mentor at ThinkFOSS. She believes in the motto of Code, Share and Grow. She is an advisor for #include program organised by SHE++. Her talk was titled: “Engine behind Wiki Pages”. She talked about different projects in Wikimedia Foundation, and MediaWiki in general. She introduced attendees to Mediawiki, and how to get started with technical contributions with Mediawiki.
The last talk of the conference was by Amit Kumar Jaiswal on “Wikidata : A unidimensional Knowledge base by Wikimedia after Freebase migrated their data to Wikidata”. He discussed about the Wikidata data model and user interface design, the current state of the project, and induced the discussions on the topic of collaboration for collecting structured data by a broad and open audience.
After the talks ended, we planned a short FAQ session where we asked attendees to ask a question if they have in mind for the speakers. That really went nice, and we did have some really funny questions and answers.
The conference didn’t end here. We had a surprise from Sagar (:D). All the speakers were given VIP access to a musical concert of a famous Rajasthani folk singer Mame Khan which turned out to be an astounding experience. Couldn’t have asked for a better end to the conference.
I would like to really thank all the Volunteers especially Sanju Godara and Aarshiya Guneja who put all of their efforts to make this conference successful.
It was the end of the first #WTLIndiaConf but not the end of my trip. It wasn’t until two more days that I went back to the university. We used this time to visit some of the bewildering ancient monuments at Agra and Fatepur Sikhri, but that’s a blog for some other time.
Concluding the blog, I extend my gratitude to KDE Family for believing in us to make this event happen. This was all possible due to the enormous support of KDE and WikiToLearn Developers (who supported us from Italy :D).