3 min read

The magic of foss.in

Why do I keep going back to foss.in? Because I’m the kind of person who needs extrinsic motivation. That’s why having a good circle of friends with a positive attitude is so important to me. And that’s why the foss.in community is so important to me. Because one must always strive to be in an environment where you are “the dumbest guy in the room”, i.e., be surrounded by really really smart people, so that you are forced to work on raising your own level. That’s how I feel when I’m in the midst of fantastic people such as bluesmoon, t3rmin4t0r, Srinivas Raghavan, and so many others. They are perfectionists who deep-dive into anything they are passionate about, and are invariably good at whatever they focus on.

The Good

Attending foss.in/2009 felt great for me because I took comfort in the fact that there are still people out there who are passionate about code and passionate about software. That is becoming rarer and rarer off late. I think it’s the “5 year limit” that I have observed in batchmates, most of them don’t want to code any more, and have moved on to so many other fields. While that is okay, the problem is that it has become a fashion to dis IT and software field.

Another factor was that everything is in the cloud and everything is a website these days, so does open source as a process matter anymore? First of all, the applications are not open source and even if we have the code (rare situation), you and I can’t fix the application/website unless you host it yourself.

But the foss.in community made me remember the joy of coding and joy of hacking.

Kudos to Team Foss.in for making the only community event and only IT event that is worth attending.
It was fantastic to see how the concept of workouts had just taken off.
And everyone’s been saying that all the keynotes have been fantastic.

In case you are wondering, I’m not the only one who was so enthralled by the event, for example:


See Lakshman’s writeup on the same. And so on.

Bottom line? Shut up and hack!

The Bad

Will miss the direction of Atul Chitnis.

What was missing

What I felt was missing is a discussion on the state of the art of software in each field, not just specific PoTDs. And I think this is more of a community perspective rather than the organizers’ perspective — organizers just provide the platform, community provides the content, as Atul keeps reminding us.

For example, consider my pet topic, the state of NoSQL databases – what’s good, what’s not, is it strange or expected that so many of them have come up in the last 1-2 years and all of them are open source (or at least the ones that we hear of). Taking it a step further, how it affects other fields of software. I’ve attempted to ask this before in a  session at barcamp on whether webapp frameworks will adapt to NoSQL.

Similarly, what is the future of compilers, will LLVM + clang replace GCC (as @artagnon was speculating)? Will WebKit and V8 take over the world and leave Mozilla + Tracemonkey behind? Why are there so few projects using AGPL? What does it take to get full database dumps out of Wikipedia ? Will open source phones never take off? How does Eucalyptus help have an alternative with EC2? How does appscale help have an alternative to GAE? And so on.

In toto, I think there are three parts to this and I believe only the third part of which is done well already by the community and organizers: (1) what are the different fields and layers of software, (2) what is the state of the art of open source software in those fields, (3) getting people started and involved. I feel that only when we think on these lines, we will achieve Atul’s stated vision of “open source being the mainstream, proprietary software being the special case”*.


* No flamewars please. I believe that the world will be better off by having all the infrastructure as open source software and having only the business logic / trade secrets as the proprietary part. At each stage of evolution of software, the stack grows higher, and the infrastructure/open source stack can grow higher along with it. For example, Robot Open Source and the Hadoop umbrella.