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Report from Debian FOSS.in participation, Bangalore, India, Dec 2007

FOSS.in is the major FLOSS-elated event in India. It is entirely run
by volunteers and, in that matter, probably one of the largest
volunteer-run FLOSS conferences all over the world, with about 2600
attendees this year.
(this Frenglish-written report was originally meant to be shared by
Sam Hocevar and myself which may explain the third person
language. Sam hadn't enough free time to review and amend it, so
please take it more as a personal report by myself, while still
talking about our shared experience. All errors and omissions
are mine, don't blame Sam for them)

About FOSS.in
————-

FOSS.in is the major FLOSS-elated event in India. It is entirely run
by volunteers and, in that matter, probably one of the largest
volunteer-run FLOSS conferences all over the world, with about 2600
attendees this year.

The conference took place from Dec. 4th to 8th in the Indian Institute
of Science, Bangalore, the IT capital city of India, in the state of
Karnataka, in the central southern part of India.

This year, the conference was focused on contributing and ways to
bring more contributors to FLOSS, particularly in India.

Sam Hocevar was attending the conference, as DPL, on behalf of Debian
(travel expenses covered by Debian funds). Christian Perrier, wearing
his i18n hat, proposed self as a speaker as well after sollicitations
from the Debian-in community (travel expenses sponsored by FOSS.in
organizers).

Debian/Ubuntu project day
————————-
The first two days of the conference featured “Project days” where
FLOSS project could have dedicated sessions in the conference
rooms. There were eight such sesions: Debian/Ubuntu, KDE,
OpenOffice.org, Fedora, Indlinux, Mozilla, GNOME, OpenSolaris.

The Debian/Ubuntu project day featured the following program:
– Giving back to the community: how does Debian perform?
Sam Hocever
– Contributing to Debian for dummies
Christian Perrier
– Internationalisation in Debian: a key for the universal operating system
Christian Perrier
– Bug management with the Debian BTS and Ubuntu Launchpad
Baishampayan Ghose
– Dealing with Indic issues in Debian/Ubuntu
Kartik Mistry
– Debian/Ubuntu Package building and Maintenance
Baishampayan Ghose
– Packaging Java Applications for Ubuntu Platform
Harpreet Singh
– Remastering of Ubuntu
amit karpe

Sam's talk [1] was well received and the (too few) people who attended it
learned many tips about interaction between Debian and our upstreams.
Sam's ideas about a possible “central” place where distros patches
could be gathered together and processed (comparisons, search for
dupliated work, etc.).

Christian gave two talks in a row [2] [3], with the main general goal
of giving people some clues about the many different ways to
contribute to Debian. The second talk was focused on i18n matters,
with a quite usual structure, aiming at giving a general view of the
many areas localization might be about. Of course, the maps were
there and, this year, enhanced by maps of India showing the coverage
of the numerous languages spoken there, how they're covered in major
FLOSS projects (OOo, Mozilla, GNOME, KDE) and in Debian. Another talk
was focused on “contributing to Debian”. It appears that that latter
one was very well received with pretty good success in giving the
general idea that contributing to Debian is much much more than being
a developer and maintaining packages.

More generally, talks during that project day were of good level of
expertise (just enough but not too much) and drew many people in the
biggest conference hall, which was quite a challenge.

Christian and Sam had the feeling that people in India do not make as
much difference between Debian and Ubuntu as most of us Debian
insiders do. Contrary to a quite shared feeling, it is very obvious
for many people that one is based on the other one and that both can
benefit from more links and exchanges.

Debian contributors in India are awesome and having just the 4th
Indian DD getting his account during the conference was a good
surprise. Thanks to the DAM for involuntarily fitting with our
schedule.

Sam's talk about the Debian Project
———————————–
Sam, with his DPL hat, gave a general talk about Debian. He
focused it more on technical aspects than historical ones, as the
audience was expected to be quite aware of Debian's backgrounds.

Some focus was put on Debian/Ubuntu interactions and the discussion
part of the talk (talk slots were very long: 90 minutes) was mainly
centered on this.

The Indian FLOSS community
————————–
2600 attendees: that says it all. In a country where travelling is
more complicated than in many so-called western countries, that is a
tremendous achievement.

This year's FOSS.in was strongly focued on contributing. The
organizers and particularly Atul Chitnis, whoh leads them for years
to this success, wanted to put the focus on transforming India from a
FLOSS “consumer” to a FLOSS “actor”.

The potential for this in this country is tremendous. Both of us have
been deeply impressed by the level of technical knowledge of many
people we talked with.

The community is also stronly motivated when it comes at i18n and l10n
issues, which is to be expected in a country where there are more than
20 official languages. More particularly, the Indlinux project
(http://www.indlinux.org) gathers many interesting projects dealing
with Indic languages handling in computing, Text-To-Speech techniques,
language processing and rendering and all related issues.

Christian of course could met with many people involved in
Debian/Ubuntu l10n for all languages such as Hindi, Gujarati,
Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, etc. and as usual work and discuss
about l10n/i18n.

Sam was sollicited by numerous people. Having the DPL attending
FOSS.in was considered very seriously by the local community and
certainly enforced the feeling that the Debian project cares a lot
about Free Software *everywhere*.

Mozilla/Iceweasel/Debian issue
——————————
During Simon Phipps (excellent) talk about the future challenges of
FLOSS, the Iceweasel/Debian case was pointed by Simon as a case of
“failure” of the FLOSS community, with damage done
to the entire community and not only both projects. More generally,
Simon used this as a good example, among others, to illustrate that
the FLOSS community is still not completely mature wrt trademark
issues.

That motivated Christian personnally enough to try pushing as much as
possible for some progress to happen on that issue. Christian's
personal feeling is that the reached compromise hurts both Mozilla
and Debian and, whether we like it or not, more Debian than Mozilla.

Brief talks and exchanges have drawn the feeling that a live meeting
of involved and motivated people with good knowledge of trademarks
issues could lead to something better than the current situation.

(update one month later: real life prevented Christian to push
these ideas more…that certainly sucks)

Transifex, a community platform for l10n work
———————————————
One of the talks that drew a lot of attention from Christian was
Dimitris Glezios talk about Transifex (www.transifex.org) community
site for localization work.

The general idea is to fill in the gap between software authors and
translators by giving each an easy access and interaction, *both
ways* (getting easy access to l10n material for translators and
pushing back validated translations easily for developers).

While that project emerged in the Fedora community, it is planned to
be a trans-projects as possible.

Christian met with Dimitris and it became quite clear that we should
at least attempt to build something experimental for some Debian
projects. That would not necessarily replace the work done on Pootle
but rather replace it for the collection/push of localized work while
Pootle would keep a string role in giving access to material.

Transifex is able to interact with many VCS repositories. It might
need many enhancement (such as translation workflow control and
implementation of the concept of “owning” translations. It would need
an authentication mechanism such as OpenID.

LinuxChix India
—————
Christian and Sam attended the LinuxChix BOF and a separate report
was posted [4] in the Debian-Women mailing list.

Keysigning
———-
Though no “formal” keysigning could happen, both of us signed
numerous keys, therefore increasing the web of trust and helping a
few people in their NM process.

Social
——
As everybody knows, social events are as important as talks and
BOFs. We've been very happy to learn a lot more about the Indian
FLOSS community, meet in RL many people we know for a while.

The Mozilla party as of Wednesday night as well as the speakers party
on the last evening were particularly good events for that
matter. The amount of beer was well adapted to achieve more community
friendship as well as revealing that our DPL is powerful enough to
crush a crab with a fork.

Christian's pictures try to give some ideas of all this [5].

Links:
—–

[1] http://sam.zoy.org/lectures/20071204-patches/slides.pdf
sources: http://sam.zoy.org/lectures/20071204-patches/slides.odp
[2] http://www.perrier.eu.org/debian/talks/foss-in-2007/contributing.pdf
sources: http://www.perrier.eu.org/debian/talks/foss-in-2007/contributing.tar.gz
[3] http://www.perrier.eu.org/debian/talks/foss-in-2007/i18n-in_Debian.pdf
sources: http://www.perrier.eu.org/debian/talks/foss-in-2007/i18n-in_Debian.tar.gz
[4] http://lists.debian.org/debian-women/2007/12/msg00013.html
[5] https://www.perrier.eu.org/gallery2/v/Hacking/foss_in-2007/

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