WikiToLearn India conf 2017, a late recollection

Firstly, I still can’t believe that it took almost 4 weeks for me to come up with a write-up on a conference – looks like I’m slipping. Well, it’s the exam month, and lecture slides are as boring as usual.

Food is <3
Food is ❤

So this was my first ever conference under the sponsorship of KDE, and of course, when you are invited cross-continent – you have the responsibility to make every moment count. I personally do not know how effective I was, but I can tell that this one was one of the best and most active University level conference I had been in – like the people just wanted more and more – which was Wow.

Since this post is coming late, I will have to skip few details here, which other speakers have already talked about in their own blogs. So for me, it started on Jan 16, 2017, morning – and let me tell you that the journey all the way to Jaipur was not the best I had to go through. Like if I compare the route I took with the shortest path – bah, but it was enthralling and peaceful.

Reaching back to India
This was indeed special, as it was like 4 months since I left the country, and upon reaching back I had couple of anxieties too – like things have changed. So the WTL organizing team was there to pick me up from the airport, and yay – we reached our accommodation in the Uni. I haven’t slept for like 24 hours or more, and just went to sleep. I woke up with a call that Ricardo Iaconelli, the founder of WTL is sharing the room with me. He had just flown all the way from Milan, and yeah – we had actually met during Wikimania 2016 back at Esino Lario, Italy. Both of us expressed how cold we felt even though coming from still colder countries (me here in DE) – probably we were not expecting a cold -6 deg.

0th day
Mostly spend the time roaming around with Ricardo and also trying to get connected to some form of internet to complete my slides for the talk in two days. I was super happy to have some fine Indian food at last, and yay – I could see from the face Ricardo too was. From my experience with Italians, it’s difficult to impress them with food, but I think the butter paneer got him.

Met my long lost friend R Harish that night, and wait – he didn’t notice the damage 4 months in Berlin had done to my hair until I took my cap off, and he just backed off for a moment. I need to quote it here that I forgot that cap then and there like it never reached back with me to Berlin. damn.

 

Meeting long lost friends, after long time.
Meeting long lost friends, after long time.

That night we had an online webinar with some serious guy who was bragging something how he invented something, and how he couldn’t license it properly to make it proprietary. I am not naming the things here as this bloke is famous for suing people who stand up and say he is a jerk. Ricardo and myself were deeply moved by this talk, and we had discussions about how Open things should be, and how dangerous tendencies like this bloke can be. I guess this affected most of the excellent keynote he gave the next day too.

I cannot stop the first day without mentioning a machine, Sagar Agarwall, and I wish him better health – nothing more. He’s got all the rest, as I see it from this updates. Get some sleep, man, please.

That night was pretty cold, and let me tell you the worst cold I had in like the past 5 months or so (Ricardo too as freezing).

First day, talks, keynotes and afternoon bash
Things started up, and a modest crowd turned up – yeah – it was more than what you usually expect on hackathons and stuff – probably because it was happening as part of the LNMIIT tech fest PLINTH. By the way, I have to mention Srijan, Haritha and Chaithanya – my juniors during Bachelors and was speakers and organizing as well. I was happy to see them and nice to talk Malayalam – finally.

As a last bench student, I barely listen to lectures – but I tried my best to listen wholeheartedly to all the wonderful presentations which followed, and with the good food and an amazing keynote by Ricardo, the first day was almost coming to an end.

The evening was the best thing I remember about the first day when Sagar asked the participants to start mingling with the mentors around. I had a small but nice team around me, and they had pretty nice questions and stuff about GSoC, contributions, etc. That’s my cake, and I hope I could entertain them with the stuff I had. This went on for like 45 minutes or so – and still continued, people just wanted to talk and gather information – how cool.

Evening sessions were like ...
Evening sessions were like (well)!

During the night, we had a small live hands-on hackathon session – which was again pretty nice. I think the point of the 2-hour hackathon was to make people excited about programming languages, some use cases for using a version control etc. I again got a small pack of students near me, and we really did some serious code – yeah really. With their support and asking them to think about the logic involved, we coded down a python script that would download all images from a given Wikipedia page, and store it in a folder according to the original image names – how cool is that. Personally, I was enjoying myself, and I could see from their face that they were too – don’t people entertain python jokes these days?

That night went on and on, and we had more people coming in asking new questions, and we were solving it one after the other – what a crowd.

That night was cold again, but we managed to get a heater – thanks to one of the WikiToLearn organizers (I forgot his name), but you people saved us. I have to mention the endless fun the speakers had in between, and most of my time was dedicated interacting with them and the participants – which was my original plan, of course.

Second day, my talk, photographs, evening FAQ and party
I woke up early to make sure things were set for my presentation, and with the little help from here and there, I was ready with my slides here. The presentation started with a delay of like 15 mins or so, but the crowd was fresh – and it went well (I guess)? I have to still get the video which the team was recording to analyze how it went, though. I tried my best to avoid text from the slides, adding in more graphical and logical order for important topics – like contributing to an Open Source project, which I think makes it more clear.

Serious talks going on - yeah - thats me
Serious talks going on – yeah – thats me

I don’t know what worked, but after the presentation, we still had loads of students coming in and asking in detail about things to be done, how to contribute etc – which was energizing. By the end of the day, I literally lost voice, but we still planned one more short FAQ session where we asked people to write a question if they have in mind to ask to the speaker panel. That really went well, and we did have some really funny questions and answers. I could see from their faces that all the speakers were having fun – yeah that was one of my best social days ever.

Closing in, leaving town
It was time to wind things up on 19th night – and surprisingly we had a pro show running on the stage, and we were invited! Yay! Ricardo and me sneaked out to the back where we met people who were previously in the conference and they were delighted to see us \m/ We partied together, and at some point they lifted both of us up on their shoulders, and that was the best thing I did in Jaipur that day (or was it people making me to do).

I left later to the airport with Ms. Srivastava – one among our amazing speaker pack. Delhi was foggy, but personally, I felt that I should’ve stayed a couple of days more at Jaipur.

Things that worked out
I don’t usually compare, but I think things really worked out this time with the WTL conference as the speaker panel was pretty nice – yeah it was – and no I’m not talking about me. Other things that worked out was maybe the excellent hand’s own session, and Sagar’s push to people to interact with the speakers – which made them too close with us. The keynote and the ‘guys’ talk on the 0th day too triggered things which made people think about why they should be passionate about Open Source in the first place. How nice?

Things that didn’t worked out
* Heater in our room (:P)
* couldn’t find anything more – it went perfectly as per planned, and more or less the speakers were so comfortable with each other that we were happy to make ourselves home.

I need to end this thing now, but I can assure you there are tons of things which I really missed in this post. The entire thing was written up fast, as I still have exams coming up and my scheduler is looking angrily at me. Thank you, KDE, Sagar, Srijan and the team for such a nice event – and to the amazing participants out there – much love. The speaker’s team – you people were <3.

The event website: https://india2017.wikitolearn.events/

The entire team
The entire team