Thursday, August 30, 2007

facebook bandwagon

I am officially on the Facebook bandwagon.
Today I got my first Facebook application working
in its very rudimentary 'Hello World' state,
but I have to say I'm feeling good about the
experience so far. Here's a great post with lots
of sample code to look at when developing your own.

sample code for facebook

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Open Source Education May Solve Talent Crunch

SkillsCamp in the news !!

P eople from Pune's tech unconference community gathered at the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research on 18 August for the first edition of SkillsCamp, a BarCamp style gathering of geeks with a focus on giving technical training to the hightech community.

A number of ideas came together in the SkillsCamp concept. At BarCampPune3, on 7 July, I gave a talk on opensource education and pointed to a variety of examples such as MIT Open Courseware and the Digital Studyhall Project, in which videos of expert teachers are freely distributed to the global community. I believe this model of open source education is the only scalable solution to the talent crunch facing the technology sector in India, as evidenced by the much talked about exodus of from India because of the difficulty and expense of finding quality senior software developers.

Following that talk, a number of the Pune BarCamp organizers offered to help, so SkillsCamp was born in an effort to galvanize the Indian technology community to create quality open source courseware helpful to people working in the IT industry.

About 70 people attended the first SkillsCamp and held sessions on a variety of topics ranging from Google Gears to AJAX to using screen readers to make Linux accessible to the blind. There were about 10 sessions total. SkillsCamp was sponsored by and SkillsCorps also recorded video and screencasts for most sessions, which will be freely available on its website.

Freeman Murray has worked in the high-tech industry in California and India for the past 12 years, including a stint at Sun Microsystems, Inc. on the Java group. Currently, Freeman is starting a company in Pune,

What if everything we thought about school was wrong ?

Digital Bridge Camp

DigitalBridgeCamp is a variation on the BarCamp unconference in which people from the tech sector and the development sector come together to understand what this marriage between IT and Development is all about.

Like a good first date it will be held in the majestic hill station of Devlali at the Leslie Sawhney Center. The accommodation is comfortable (each unit consists of 2 rooms, 4 beds and an attached toilet and bathroom) and the surroundings are pretty. (FYI – the centre is run by a retired army Brigadier who will remind you that it is not a hotel and meal times go by the bell!)

We expect sessions to be on technical subjects such as how non-profits can take advantage of FOSS and internet applications to help make their organizations more effective and cost effecient, as well as sessions on the work of a variety of NGOs, especially those which are attempting to apply IT to help solve the problems of the 'Digital Divide' that exists with the urban and rural poor.

In addition to the presentation sessions we would also like to take some time to have workshops in which we work through some questions like what should courseware look like that ngo IT workers should go thru to effectively use IT in their jobs, and if we can get the right people around the table we might be able to bang out courseware for school & telecentre computer operators as well.

Towards the end of the camp we would love it if some of the non-profit people present were able to articulate some of their IT needs such that the tech people could help them set up blogs, wiki's, and other tools that might be of service to the non-profit organizations.

Remember, at a BarCamp, everybody participates! That means the attendees are the presenters and the audience. If you aren't going to present, you can organize a discussion or publish notes from a talk. We really want you to find a way to contribute, so here's a handy HowToContribute guide.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Democracy Now

Sometime back I subscribed to the Democracy Now newsletter. At this point I feel it is the best source regular news and commentary surrounding global events that I have come across.

Two recent articles in particular made me appreciate the intelligence and insight of their guests.

Nir Rosen gave a better / more believable description of the Iraqi state than I have seen.

what you’ll see is basically Mogadishu in Iraq: various warlords controlling small neighborhoods. And those who are by major resources, such as oil installations, obviously will be foreign-sponsored warlords who will be able to cut deals with us, the Chinese. But Iraq is destroyed
full article here

Today Scott Horton talked about Karl Rove's involvement with using the Justice Department to prosecute Democratic officials

Karl had spoken to the Department of Justice, and they didn't have to worry about Don Siegelman anymore. He was going to be taken care of.

full article here

I highly recommend subscribing to Democracy Now !

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Auroville - Solitude Farm

Check out this video: Solitude Vegetable Garden

Finally getting to edit some of the videos I took when I was down south. Spent some good time reconnecting with Krishna at the Solitude farm in Auroville. He introduced me to Fukuoka's philosophy of natural farming which applies to many other aspects of life as well.

Hanging out on the farm rekindled my dreams of getting outside and living a more natural lifestyle. At this point I've spent enough time on a variety of organic farms to believe that is the most healthy way of living. At the same time commercial organic farming doesn't appear to be very practical.

My solution of course is using all that good organic solar energy to power a team of software developers to tickle the necessary money out of a wireless internet connection - probably attached to the windmill.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

SkillsCamp post

SkillsCamp came together this weekend.
I'm guessing 60 - 70 people showed up
with maybe 50 people there for most of
the event.

Despite a variety of glitches, I consider
it an unqualified success.

The unconference structure lends itself very well
to experimenting with new ways of gathering. We weren't
sure how many people would come to skills camp this weekend.
There was some thought that it might get covered in the press
which would have a slashdot effect as large numbers of people
found out about the opportunity for free food and IT training
from some of the smartest people in industry.

As it was the message went out primarily thru the traditional
geek channels (plug, barcamp-pune, itvidya) and the barcamp, plug,
itvidya crowd came - which was great !!

Simbiosis generously gave us use of 4 rooms for the conference.
With the people we had tho I decided it would be better to just
have two parallel tracks and end earlier. As a result the sessions
were well attended and there was generally always something going on
even if one session was stuck for sometime messing with the projector
or screencasting software.

Sessions were generally very similar to most barcamp sessions. Which
is to say good for a high level introduction to interesting concepts.
I talked on google gears walking people through the gears tutorials on
the google site. Other sessions covered the Facebook API, screen reading
software for the blind, 3d game development, security, setting up drupal,
open source circuit design and a variety of others.

This week I'll try to get videos out.

I was most impressed with the session Amitabh Jain gave on AJAX. His session had a very clear structure taking people from a starting point of a functional webapp without AJAX, to implementing the same app using AJAX. He had prepared one file with code snippets for the core functions we were to use. During the session he slowly integrated these snippets into the web app to add AJAX features one by one. It was systematic and reflected genuine software development in a very practical way. Again the video will be up soon so you can see what I'm talking about.

I don't know if I'll try to organize another skillscamp in the near future. Rather I'd like to push for a skillscamp tag for training sessions people give at the regular barcamps.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

BarCamp evolves

I am excited about how BarCamp is evolving. Barcamp Bangalore 4 last month was largest barcamp ever - anywhere - at over 600 registered participants.

Some thoughts on how barcamp may improve over time :

- session tagging
From looking at the wiki and the paper wiki we post at the event I would love to get alittle more metadata about the session beyond the session title. Some tags could be Tutorial, General Discussion, Demo, Panel ... This need not be mandatory, its just an extra hint to attendees and participants.

- use the wiki more
get a paragraph of bio data and session description from the presenters.
select rooms and times on the wiki itself, leaving some rooms open for sessions which are more adhoc and can be scheduled on site in real time.

- give a printed handout at registration with the schedule of sessions, more detailed presenter bio and session info - and a map.

- The annual.
I love the quarterly consistency. Maybe choose one camp of the year when the weather is the best February ? to be THE annual barcamp. Somehow make this special and promote it more.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Abdul talks about the weird destruction at CoffeeDay

When I was in the states for my grandma's passing, I heard from Pune that all the restaurants on lane 6 had been demolished. I was totally depressed. It sounds shallow, but the restaurants on lane 6, an Italian restaurant named Il Fungo Magico in particular, are some of the main reasons why I like living in Koregoan Park, Pune, and India so much.

When I came back to India, I saw that all was not lost. But it was weirdly damaged. Like vandals came in with a tractor and just messed with stuff to get their point accross.


Hi Everyone,

I wanted to let you know about SkillsCamp - a training oriented
unconference coming up at Symbiosis University in Pune, India on August 18th.

It will be (un)organized just like the BarCamps we all know and love,
but with a special emphasis on training sessions. This is your
opportunity to share your knowledge and communicate your lightening
intelligence to the community and the world by showing us how to use
some tool, do some aspect of programming, or bend a spoon with the
power of your mind.

We will record video and screencasts for all sessions which will be
edited and made freely available on the internet under a cc license so
all the world can appreciate your generosity, learn from your sage
wisdom, and contact you when they decide it would be easier to
contract your services than climb the same mountains of experience you
have crested.

No skill is too small, no tool too humble to justify a training
session at SkillsCamp. Remember, no matter how junior you feel, there
are hundreds of millions of people on the internet who know less than
you and will appreciate whatever small nuggets of wisdom you have to

Think of NEO and the Kung Fu program in The Matrix. It all starts here !!

August 18th
Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research,
7th Floor, Atur Centre, Gokhale Cross Road,
Model Colony, Pune -16.

register to attend and give a session on the Wiki.