OpenStreetMap as Infrastructure – The Fifth Elephant, Bangalore, 2014

I spoke at the premier data conference in the country yesterday, the Fifth Elephant run by HasGeek, about using OpenStreetMap as infrastructure for geographic datasets and applications featuring Moabi – a collaborative mapping platform for monitoring natural resources extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Find the summary of the narration here and a more detailed outline here. The slide deck is below.

Download (PDF, 6.12MB)

 

 

The life changing lesson.

I’ve a bunch of friends coming home tonight to celebrate the success of the last couple of days, which were the most intense, delightful and tiring days of my life so far. The house is a mess, with clothes thrown here and there, random papers and gadgets all over the place. Yes, I’m just cleaning but I don’t want to push off writing this blog post any more. I should have done this yesterday, but my mind and body just didn’t allow, even now I can feel the warmth in my eyes.

Eight months passed since I moved to Bangalore. At the beginning of this year, I made one of the best decisions in my life, to join HasGeek. I might not be able to put this into flowery words but yes, HasGeek is a bunch of exciting, super exciting and fascinating people. The way each of us work is in itself a new big story.

My first assignment at HasGeek was to join the trip to Goa (yes, that was a work trip), and the first official task which I executed was to drive the car. That was an exciting trip. While we were planning the year ahead, I figured out that Nigel and I might be writing code while rest of the team will be running events. But right now, it feels like the world and words have suddenly changed in front of me. Even though I’m spending just few hours a week for HasGeek, I got the chance to run an event.  The Cartonama Workshop. Yes, we did it.

In 2011, right after Android Camp, bunch of us spent the whole night hacking on one thing – build a community around open geographic data and showcase the projects in India – Cartonama.com. Nowhere in the wilderness of my thoughts I could imagine that we would do events around Cartonama.

A week before JSFoo Pune, Kiran asked whether I would be able to take charge of the Cartonama Workshop. Maps are something that fascinates me all the time and I totally wanted to take this up. I remember that day quite clearly. That day marked exactly a month plus a week to the event. The news that Mikel and Schuyler are coming to Bangalore for the workshop was even more exciting.

We wanted to get the website out by the end of that week. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had to spend that weekend in Calicut. And now it’s time to tell you about one of my best friends, Ashima. We spent the days together when she figured out that I’m stressing out so much. We went for long walks on the beach talking about Cartonama and what I wanted to do about it. She’s amazing.

Kiran had couple of ideas how the website should be and I thought it would be best if he takes care of that. Kiran was just busy and didn’t have any bandwidth to get this going. Nothing happened and no sign of the website getting live. Zainab was the biggest pillar of support – and an entirely different woman that I’ve seen all my life. By the end of the week, I realized, getting the website live was just my task, no matter how I can execute it. Nigel, Riju, Aditya and I created the first iteration and we went live. There was something quite different from rest of the events that we have done – the ticket price for the workshop being INR 10,000. That amount will just help us break even with the expenses, only if we sell 30 tickets. So the problem is not to create a good looking website, but to create a website that will sell tickets. Parag did the second iteration and that was fabulous.

Unlike conferences, chances of attracting sponsorship was very weak. The task at hand was quite tricky – to convince people and sell tickets. I was slightly bothered because, two days after going live with the website we couldn’t sell any tickets. I tried to sell tickets all day, let alone near the barber shop. Zainab would say “Take it easy boy, we shall prevail!”. We did prevail. And my heart is beating fast with joy.

Mikel was in the US and Schuyler in Afghanistan. That was some serious distance which was filled by flood of emails between us. We wanted the workshop to be covering the entire technology stack that would help someone to run a location based service. The funnel was put into test again and we discovered many interesting ways to improve it.

Two weeks later, we have sold two tickets. I was getting very nervous, and there were moments when I would just close my eyes trying to stay sane. Patience.

Today, after the event I just don’t want to think about those days anymore. We sold a total of 22 tickets. Not bad.

Some people are just sloppy and intense to deal with. The most inconsistent person I’ve ever seen in my life was that new caterer with whom we signed up. He screwed up everything at the last moment and we switched. When people are sloppy, there is nothing that you can do. Patience.

Billy is another interesting character that I met recently. I can tell you that he is quite a character. Billy is prompt and perfect. His thoughts are sharp and ideas are simple and sensible. Throughout the two days of the workshop, it was Billy, I and Nigel managing the logistics at the venue, while Zainab and Kiran were busy backing us up.

I understood that technology and infrastructure is inconsistent. They wont wait or keep promises. We bumped into issues after issues on day one of the workshop and I felt terrible, but Billy and Nigel was dealing with endless crisis. Patience is the word again.

Internet is something that people care about. They get frustrated every moment when the Internet goes down. There would be sudden chaos. Every nerve in my body was hurting and there were moments when I just wanted to scream out to the people to be patient.

In the middle of the sessions, my eyes would just lock between Mikel’s and Schuyler’s. I just don’t know why, but that gives me a pulse of how everything was going.

At the end of day 1, Billy and I reached home quite late. I was tired and sleepy, but we sat down and started talking about everything that happened that day. I realized that there were too many things that we could’ve done better.

Day 2 was interesting. I was just worried by the thought that whether the participants are enjoying the sessions. Interacting with many of them over the breaks told me that things are going just alright. Sigh of relief. People just loved the way Mikel and Schuyler was taking them through the sessions. They just loved it.

And today, I can proudly say that the workshop wasn’t too bad. I guess it was intense as we promised. The amount and depth of things I learned over the last couple of days cannot be just described. Patience is the key. It is. Always.

 

 

The Droidcon India 2011

Droidcon India 2011 was the first Indian edition of the international Android conference. I was part of the team of HasGeek to pull out the event. I do not have words to express the fun, learning and bonding we had while organizing one of the biggest conferences in Bangalore.

It’s been four months since I moved to Bangalore and now I know, that was the best decision I took in my life so far. And the biggest reason I did that was because of my friends here. They are a bunch of geeks and writers and the best that can occur in my life.

It will be difficult to list out the stuff I did at Droidcon but I was with the tech support team along with Kingsly and Praneeth. We had the toughest task that every geek conference in India has – Internet. Setting up Internet and providing optimal bandwidth to 500 people is not an easy task. Getting all of them online at the right time is not even imaginable at this point of time in India. The infrastructure at the venue were super awesome. Plenty of power over Ethernet access points, ports and other network gears. But the bandwidth was 2mbps, which makes it literally impossible to get such a huge crowd online.

We tried several plans, including getting someone else do this task. But the quote that Kiran got from Tata/Airtel were over 2 Lakhs and hence we decided to take this our own and do what the best we could. Kingsly is a pro-sys admin. Yes Zainab, you said it right – he is the God. He laid out the plans and worked towards it. Issues after issues. Complaints and bad faces. We got it all. I was loosing, but Kingsly and Praneeth would pat my back saying, “Kid, this is fine. Everything is under control”. I know, I’m a kid.

On the 17th, Kingsly reached the venue at 7.45AM which is really  a touch task considering his work and hectic life. I woke up to his message and rushed to the venue. And soon Yuvi, Anu and Praneeth joined us. We discovered the venue’s network gears and declared that space as the Network Operations Center (which turned out to be the Non Operation Center).

Apart from the network, since the place had less number of power sockets to provide 500  people sufficient power to charge their laptop and for the sponsors to setup their booths, the other task was to lay out power cables and plan proper power distribution. We had cell phones to laptops and printers to ‘plasma’ TV’s to power up from two power sources. Two weeks before the event, me and Yuvi got the plan in place and got an electrician to get the cables and sockets ready. Laying them out was a task. Yes, if we laid the cable just like that, people will trip over and it will be a mess altogether. We carefully laid them out and plastered. Yes, we did it.

I have learned so much from all these. Really. And the one of the reasons which kept me going, even while it ached from my bums to toe was the fun we had. I could see Kiran and Zainab stressing out too much. Kiran would not say that, he would just hide that in his sharp eyes. But Z, would easily spill that out and come rushing asking “Is everything smooth?”.  A week before the event, the only worry I had was, since Kiran and Z were stressing out too much, they might as well fall sick.  Kingsly would say “There will be disorder even on the day 1, no point in worrying now”. Francesca was super awesome and supportive. We have known each other only since 2 months and the bonding is something. Every problems and win will finally end up in a hug.

I woke up this morning to Zainab’s post about Droidcon. Mine would never ever come even close to that. But I had to do it. I’m squashed even when I write this from my bed. But the energy from the bonding we built all these days pushes me to write.  I’m sure that I won’t be able to write every wonderful moment which we had all these days.

Yes. I’ve been part of several geek event as participant, speaker and organizer. But Droidcon was the best ever.  Last minute sponsors backing out, printer confusions, NFC card data bugs and what not. We survived all of them. The most intense problem that we solved happened during the last few minutes of the conference. NFC card readers and the bugs in the script, duplicates and fake IDs. We had them all.

I’ve made new friends who are journalists, geeks and designers. Parag, Vamsee, Chintan, Rasagy, Ankita, Aral, Soham, Akshay, Arvi, Billy, Sidharth, Noufal and everyone. And all I have for you folks right now is a big hug. Thank you so much. We did it.

AndroidCamp Bangalore

I’m sleep deprived and tired to write down all the awesome time I had at the AndroidCamp.
Jobless in the bus, so I should attempt to write something.

AndroidCamp was one of the best unconference that I’ve been to in Bangalore. I was so excited when Kiran and Kesava came up with this idea. I remember the discussions on the list that there were more than 200 sign ups within 48 hours of announcement.
Soon I found the proposals website proposals.androidcamp.in a wonderful idea that all unconferences should adopt.
Met a bunch of interesting people who do 100 other things around Android. I was too happy to find that there are people who hate Java and love Android :)

So copying from Manish Sinha. :)
Read it all here. http://milky.manishsinha.net/2011/04/02/android-camp-bangalore/