Bringing together map enthusiasts in Bangalore.

A few months back, Kaustubh and I started GeoBLR – Bangalore’s monthly spatial gathering. Few weeks back we did the fifth meetup. I have been wanting to write why I’m organising GeoBLR and more importantly, why I am taking it slow.

We started off GeoBLR to keep it quite different from other events in town. To begin with, we don’t necessarily have someone speaking at all the events. The GeoBLR events are more open in terms of what we want to do. GeoBLR runs closely with the DataMeet on issues centric to spatial data and maps. We had several discussions around the spatial data situation in India and how building proper relationships at the government and non-government level is important for the community to gain access to the datasets.

There has never been a space in Bangalore to talk about issues like this. When proprietary companies around the world are trying to be the single source of ground truth, opening map data is a critical task. Improving OpenStreetMap is at the core of our agenda. GeoBLR will be a space for people to come and talk about maps, discover new tools, identify missing datasets, find them, and solve spatial data related issues.

I have been getting fair amount of requests to turn GeoBLR into a series of workshop and I’m not keen on that idea. GeoBLR, in a way, is an experiment for me. From simple things like ‘which day of the week/month is best for people to attend the event’ to ‘what model the event should focus’, I’m learning a lot and subsequent events get more clarity.

If you want to learn more, join us!

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.