The Last 30 days.

I can’t believe that I’m sitting in my Bangalore home and writing this post after what happened in the last 30 days. I don’t have words to thank all those amazing people who took care of me over these days to bring me back and bouncing. Not quite there yet, but in a while. But I’m alive, for that matter.

I was between Italy and Germany during June 23 – July 9. We had an amazing time at the Info Activism Camp and later in Berlin with Kaustubh and Rome with Tin. It was fantastic. Towards the end of the trip I was quite tired from a sunstroke and irregular fever. On my flight back the fever decided to test the case and did the trick. 109 degree Fahrenheit with rigor. I arrived in Bangalore the next morning and went straight to a hospital.

From there until the last week, I have been to 4 hospitals, consulted 9 doctors, subjected to 7 blood diagnosis, 4 different radio-imaging, 3 antibiotics and a lot of stress. This was no fun. Not to any extent. I’ve cried and I’ve seen my mum crying at the same time. I was struck by an unidentifiable fever. I’ve lost weight and hair, and for whatever reasons my heart is heavy and life is rough.

It took a while to identify that I was suffering from a precursor of Enteric Fever. I’ve recovered now, though hopes weren’t too high in my mind. Time heals and patience count.

I want to thank Rahul – for coming over to check on me while I was down in Bangalore, staying over without sleep, taking care of me and taking me to another hospital the next day. I want to thank my mum and dad. I’ll easily run out of words here. What they went through is nothing compared to the pain I suffered. My aunts and brothers – for sending me food and supporting mum whenever she was alone in the hospital. I want to thank Gautam – for taking care of everything so that I could stay away from work as long as I wanted, checking on me and sending me one of my favorite books when I was getting bored. Francesca and Ashima – for talking to me when I wanted to. RijuShashank and Ayesha for letting me know that they miss me and I need to be all right soon.

And thank you everyone – your prayers and wishes helped me through.

The fight for Guerilla Open Access

Yesterday, we met with the sad demise of one of most brilliant Internet Activist, Aaron Swartz. I cried and read a lot about Aaron that I found online the whole of last night. He was a hero. And when I look at the Remember Aaron Swartz website, my heart is sinking. I came across this piece by Aaron written in 2008 while he was in Italy, calling everyone to fight for Open Access:

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet,
under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz
July 2008, Eremo, Italy

Among other things, I write code and talk about Open Data. I dream of an open world, where we don’t let politicians and bureaucrats lock up information. Using open technologies is a way of doing this. Learn it. Advocate it. Contribute back to it, for the better world. We don’t have Aaron to lead the light anymore, but I’m sure his thoughts and ideas like the one above will always vouch us when it has to.

“It’s called growing up, young man!”

I don’t know whether I want to write this post, but yeah may be. The last two weeks were super stressful. So much shit I was dealing with. Unwanted guests, dad being unwell, stuff at work – between jobs and what not. It was hard. And even when I tried to sit down and code, thinking that would make me feel better, I got bogged down with thoughts. Kingsly, Zainab and I spent a lot of time together than usual. And when I tweeted, I meant that. Kingsly is the island of calmness. His words are selected out of the best. It’s been a blessing to have him around. We would talk about everything, let alone bitching about relatives :P

Zainab was desperately trying to realize the fact that her PhD is delayed and she’s now working hard to put together The Fifth Elephant. And I realized that when she’s not able to write, she gets super stressed. When we are together, we are like kids. Heh. <clicks>

(/me can hear Z saying “I see” :P)

I went home without knowing when I could return. Dad was diagnosed for Retinal Occlusion. That was hard. And I learned that he’s going to be subjected to 4 weeks of laser treatment. I had no choice other than to go home and be with them, I guess they were quite relieved.

While telling this whole story to Francesca, I was like “I don’t want to deal with so many stuff at the same time”. I was also missing RootConf. Parag and Anu were also not around and I could see Nigel slightly freaking out, I felt really bad that I won’t be around.

Francesca said just this – “It’s called growing up, young man! ”

Wait, what?

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 – 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.

College is over.

That’s it. It’s been over a week since I’ve packed everything and got home. College is over. All the wonderful time in the campus and awesome hostel are memories. Sigh. No pictures to post. No good words to say. I said good bye to all the loving friends and the hope of catching them on facebook all the time keeps us going.

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 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. and Chamba Open Movie

Registered for at the rush hour and found that Praveen, Jishnu, Shravan and Sanjeev were also coming down. Had a conversation with Praveen regarding creating a documentary for Chamba project and a profile to raise some funds. We spent sometime at the conf inauguration and keynote. Came back to the guest room after a coffee and started creating a framework for the documentary. Later in the evening Shravan and Sanjeev joined. Sanjeev was new to Chamba and he had a lot of questions which we answered while Jishnu captured the footage. Shravan will definitely have some inputs to edit all these footages. Looking forward for a wonderful time.