Asia Source

Visthar, 10:00pm.

A DJ is spinning tunes, and the remaining “camp” participants are scattered around Visthar (an idylic, artist-designed facility outside of Bangalore) playing soccer, table tennis (“Why do Americans call it Ping Pong?”), checking email, and gathered in clusters of twos and more, talking, smoking, drinking, singing along. I can hear the music and voices in conversation, along with the occasional vocalization of a gecko, from the “chotta (little) bazaar”, where I’m sitting on a mat and cushions on the balcony (just outside what, until today, was the Open Audio/Video Lab) in Sampige dorm, set up to serve as a tea stall and FLOSSophy corner after the shamiyana (cloth tent) was rained out before the first day of Asia Source. There is no one here now, the last cup of Turkish tea having been served at 3pm, and the FLOSSopher, Patrice Riemens, and his dinosaurs (Dino and Otok) retired. (And no more wireless connection on this balcony, although I can still get a low signal frimt he Migration Lab, two buildings away.)

The music has stopped for the moment, and Gunner (Allen Gunn) and Sunil (Abraham) are calling everyone to the Big Hut for the penultimate event of Asia Source – Open Mic (without the Open karaoke software, which the organizers could not get to work). Then, I assume the party afterwards will continue until the next morning, long after I and many of the other dozen guests or so staying off-site will have gone to sleep.

It has been an intense eight days. Asia Source, a “camp” to promote Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) to non-governmental organizations, started on January 28, with most people having arrived the night before. I, having relied on my memory, mistakenly arrived in time for lunch on the 28th, and missed the introduction to the camp and to the more than 100 participants, facilitators, and guests from 33 countries. An amazing array of people (one of whom was born the year I graduated from college!), and an amazing collection of geeks.

Aside: Mohammed Sameer, a (young) facilitator from Egypt, contends that no one at this camp is a geek because geeks never leave their rooms and code 24/7. (He knows one of them. Well, actually, he’s never met this guy; just chatted with him via IRC.) I do not agree. He, and many others (you know who you are, you command line (never-use-GUI) junkies) here are true geeks – he wishes he never had to sleep! More evidence. This is part of what his participant bio says: “I’m a C and Perl coder, a little python, php, and C++… I’ve some small patches for FLOSS projects among them: xchat, openbox pangofication, lineakd, a small patch for gtksourceview, drupal, and probably more… I’m currently one of the people behind EGLUG “Egyptian GNU/Linux user group…” Huh?!? Have I made my case?

There were three learning tracks, well, actually, four: Migration (from you-know-what) and Adoption (to FLOSS, of course); Localization; and Open Content, which was further divided into Open Publishing and Open Audio/Video, but could have been divided into even more tracks. Concurrent afternoon sessions covered everything from FLOSS for Beginners and Experts, FLOSS Security for NGOs, and FLOSS for Education and Schools to How to Make Live CDs, Introduction to Wireless, and Rugged Computing and Autonomous Power. Skillshare and Screwdriver (hardware) sessions allowed participants to share knowledge with each other, while the “grand” Bazaar encouraged souvenir trading as well as a broader range of skill-sharing, such as “How to Wear a Sari” and “How to Play Air Guitar”. There was so much to cover, and so much talent available, that by the third day, the two-hour free/lab time that was built into the schedule had been filled with additional ad hoc concurrent sessions. Evenings were also jam-packed with lectures and entertainment, including: “Open Content and Creative Commons Licenses”, a 2-person play, a solo dance performance, and a puppet show. Add to that group (I had the thought, and Arun Mehta, from Delhi, put it into words: “wiki”) painting session in the afternoons, and we were basically occupied from 7am until midnight every day!

Today, the last day of camp, the tracks reported back, with participants having learned how to partition and install Linux and Open Office applications and browsers on their laptops, worked on localization projects, created a website using Drupal, an Open CMA (content management system), and shot, capatured, and edited video and audio. Many participants got one or two hours of sleep the last couple of nights, finishing up their projects.

So… back to Open Mic. Besides the crooning (with Shawn Soon-Son Kwon, from South Korea, requesting back-up dancers, but not singers: “This looks like a trio, but we are not; could you two move back?”), Tomas Krag, from Denmark, recited a poem while standing on his head and Henryk Gajewski, from the Netherlands, told “policeman” (the politically correct? equivalent of Polish) jokes. Those of us staying at the Crown Plaza Apartment Hotel had to leave early to catch our ride while Surekha Sastry, from Bangalore, sent us off with a Kannada song. I think I heard requests for encores…

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