Just 5 and a half months ago I participated in a Free Software Workshop at SVIT, Bangalore. And now I was on the other side, as an organizer.
Of course I was very enthusiastic about the usage of free software technologies. I was even before the 5 day workshop at Bangalore. I was a GNU/Linux user for a year then, and this workshop gave an extra push. But there were several people at the workshop, who were amazed by the prowess of Free Software technologies after being shot at with several technologies, in just 5 days.
Seeing the enthusiasm we were showing after this workshop, a few of our friends from Free Software Foundation Tamil Nadu approached us. They told us that they had their sights set on a similar workshop to be organized in Chennai. I knew we were up for a huge show.
There was no sound about this workshop for 2 months after that, and then all of a sudden we were informed that they had fixed the venue to be IITM . And then the poster turned out to be yet another shocker for me, because it had my number on it. And after that followed around 20-25 days of getting 20-30 calls a day regarding the workshop.
The registrations got over within four days of opening. Now that was yet another shocker. (Then we had a few vacancies and opened the registrations again). We were sure that the seats would fill, but we did not expect it to fill this soon.
And the date for the workshop was nearing. We, the volunteers at CEGLUG (CEGs GNU/Linux Users Group) took the responsibility of creating a custom distribution of GNU/Linux for everyone to work on. And as usual, we made it a habit of screwing up a more than often. We missed out a package before the Drupal session, so we had to sit and make 70 pen drives bootable over night. And then before the Ruby on Rails session came a similar situation, but this time we decided to work a bit smarter, instead of making another 70 pen drives bootable. We just downloaded the required packages, and a shell script and passed it on to everyone to run. And it went down smoothly.
When the five days started, what was running on my mind was… “Five days, how are we going to keep them happy and entertained?”. And at the end of the fifth day my mind said.. “Five days over. Did we seriously give our best?”. Well, we did put in plenty of effort to keep them engaged. And I am sure the participants recognized and respected that part.
We did collect feedback from the participants 2-3 times, and in general they were positive. We had a session on the basics of free softwares, which resulted in the Female Fan following of Sibi( https://www.facebook.com/sibi.kanagaraj ) increasing leaps and folds (Yes Sibi, you asked for it) . We had called Asst. Prof. Bama Ma’am from Dept. of Information Science and Technology, College of Engineering Guindy on Day 2 to take a session on Python, and her attitude towards the participants and grip over the programming language won a lot of minds that day. There were hardly a handful of people who weren’t in awe at the end of her session. Then followed a series of interesting (and interactive) sessions on Tor, Drupal, Ruby on Rails, Cloud Computing. Personally, my favourite moment, was the silence while the video “Truth Happens” was being played, and the cheers the video got at the end of it. Does signify a lot right?
But the response we got from them on the 5th day evening was overwhelming. Many were curious on how to form a GLUG(Gnu/Linux Users Group) in their college. Of course FSFTN( Free software Foundation Tamil Nadu) comes to their aid there. And there were several girls interested in contributing to Wikipedia. In a session conducted just one day after the workshop, instead of sitting at home and chillaxing(like me) after a hectic five days, there were 17 enthusiastic girls in the session, so much so that even Wikipedia did not allow them all to edit at once ( 😀 ) .
I did learn more in this workshop as an organizer than as a participant last time. But if I hadn’t taken part as a participant in that workshop, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
As usual, we, the volunteers/organizers, made the workshop a great success, we were a great team. Interacting with so many like minded participants, organizers and speakers was an experience I will never forget, looking forward to similar experiences in the future…