21 January, 2013

MozTI @ BESU: Mobilizing Mozillians in Kolkata



MozTI @ BESU: Organizers From left: Subhasish Kundu, Soumya Deb, Sayak Sarkar, Priyanka Nag, Shambo Bishnu, Amrita Roychowdhury, Gaurab Patra, Ramit Das, Avik Pal, Sankha Narayan Guria, Kaustav Das, Swarnava Sengupta & Arijita Das

Prelude

At the team dinner of the Mozilla Summer Code Party mega wrap-up event last September, a discussion bubbled up: "Mozilla Pune is a success, and so is the communities in Hyderabad & Chennai - what's next?"

A handful few of the active Mozillians in Pune (Me, Sayak, Priyanka) are originally from Bengal, and un-surprisingly we already knew the answer - as it has hurt us long enough to not have a Mozilla presence in our own City of Joy!

We knew very well that it'd be a challenging job, but were confident enough to tackle them; and queued it up for post-mozCamp todo list. So, when in December Sayak got to spend his semester-vacation in Kolkata, he seized the opportunity to start with the task by organizing an informal meetup (MozCafé) - which gained tremendous exposure, beyond expectation.

Preparation

Students of BESU, attending MozCafé Kolkata (Gaurab, Subhasish et. al.) were the first ones to come back with a follow-up - willing to host events in their institute. To our surprise, they had set a very tight schedule of less than 2 weeks.

You could tell they're quite of a curious bunch, by the way they named the event "MozTI" - a wordplay on "Masti" (मस्ती), i.e. Fun/Joy - backronym'd as "Mozilla Transposing Ideas"; and pro-actively started with the promotion by setting up websites etc. Some rough-edges of haste were there, but the enthusiasm & willingness to do good trumped the lack of experience. Also, the institute-management - especially, BESU Vice Chancelor, Dr. Ajoy Kumar Roy - helped organize the event in a great deal.

I planned to conduct some experiments on event-tracks to see how that turns out, compared to traditional flow we were following along previously:
  1. Use an anchor to keep the event on track.
  2. Split the day's activity in two distinct part.
    • Talks and overviews before lunch
    • Hand-ons & demos after lunch
  3. Share large code-repos & pre-configured development-VMs
...details on why and how are revealed next up.

Presentation

The first day of the event was more of a general collective FOSS sessions to warm-up the audience. It included Google Summer of Code by Sayak Sarkar, hands on MediaWiki by Sucheta Ghosal, Outreach Program for Women (OPW) & WoMoz by Priyanka Nag, and a hackathon conducted by HackerRank. Being on transit, I couldn't attend first day first hand, but Priyanka has blogged about her experience which wraps it up quite good.

The second day of the event was completely focused on Mozilla, its products, platform, contribution model etc. Being a technical-university, the audience were more interested in development. Here's how we split up the job:
  • Sayak took up the Webmaker
    • Brief on Mozilla Manifesto
    • Overview of webmaker projects
    • Hands on Thimble, X-ray Goggles & Popcorn
  • Sankha got the audience into development
    • "Build Your Own Firefox"
    • #introduction to become a dev-contributor
    • A bug's life-cycle & how to submit patches
  • I covered the platform products & researches
    • Firefox, Thunderbird, Firefox OS
    • Persona, Marketplace, Devtools etc.
    • Hands on Firefox Devtools
    • Firefox OS Simulator Demo
    • Bananabread demonstration
    • Plus, I covered for the Emcee/Anchor role
Also, we had Q/A session with present Mozilla Contributors (Sayak, Swarnava, Priyanka, Sankha, Gaurab et. al.), to make it more interactive, live, and give the audience a first-hand idea of many kinds of Mozillians and their activities.

I've had planned to start a new ritual: live-blogging from the events - but anchoring & live-blogging don't quite go hand-in-hand - or, maybe I just suck at it; either way...

To elaborate the experiments we made for the second day:
  1. Anchoring:
    • Till we used this format to keep the track, well, on track - we never knew how useful it actually is.
    • Going forward, we can sure plan & use it in a much better way.
  2. Split the day:
    • On sundays, people tend to come late, or later the day
    • Instead of covering each topic in one go, this approach actually reaches more audience
    • When in second time, hands-on/demo session, the audience already have an idea what to expect & most of the terms are already heard about, so less confusing/disorienting.
  3. Code/VM Sharing
    • In India, everyone can't afford to have a bandwidth to clone 10+GiB worth of source code repos (for B2G), even if they're quite curious & knowledgeable enough to play with it.
    • Until someone knows how awesome it is to compile their own Firefox & use, it's tough to convince that going through all the prerequisite setup is totally worth it. So we had it set up for them.
    • Removing these little roadblocks off the way & help them jump-start, we shared the codes & VMs which people copied like crazy!
    • Sure it served the purpose - and from now on, I'll have them all up for share, any events I go.

True, that we didn't expect those many audience in Sunday afternoon - people literally fetched chairs to sit on the door-steps, with machines on their laps - tight on accommodation isn't something makes me proud as facilitator. Although, something that does makes us proud is how the audience was actually interested in knowing about how to contribute, life-of-a-bug, Devtools, Firefox OS demo etc.

While is Bananabread demonstration, one guys awed out loud: "That's Unreal!" Well, I know he meant the game engine & compared with it - but a large portion of the audience took it in its literal sense - can't blame them for it. :P

Here's to note, Sankha's "Build Your Own Firefox" was supposed to be a hand on session, but we had to turn it down to a demo, because:
  • There were almost 50% more attendees present than the available systems (even including the laptops some of them brought)
  • The system weren't powerful enough to complete the compiling in less than 30-40min - and of course not under the VM.
But, throughout his session Sankha Narayan Guria did a great job representing himself as a student-contributor with considerable amount of patches submitted to Mozilla-Central. His story of first patch-submission added a special personal touch - a short-story of inspiration, for the audience to listen to.

Proliferation

By the end of the event we were asked, what is the standard procedure to continue with one special interest group like this, and how they can stay involved.

According to our suggestion, there were plentiful of sign-ups at Mozilla Contribution Page. The event organizers went forward & promised us to organize a formal Mozilla group inside campus in 7 days - but eventually, only by 3 days they were done with forming the MozClub at BESU.

Students from other renowned institutes, who attended the event, were excited to organize MozClub in their own institutes & host events. They connected with us, and we had conversations, long after the event ended.

To be very truthful & frank, I really haven't seen so many enthusiastic students anywhere else - they're so full of positive energy, and willing to do something good!

Peroration

For the first time, I got to conduct an event, where the attendees, fellow speakers, organizers, me, as well as the driver who drove us, shared the same mother-tongue! Bong connection at its best - but I think there's more to it.

Bengalis are, by nature, a bit different kind of people. We have our own ups and downs - but one thing we've always been great at, is to step up with pride and stand for what we believe in. I think, that tradition still goes on.

May it be the city with latest Mozilla Presence, but from what I've seen to be planned for next couple of months, let me assure y'all - this Summer of 2013, I'll be looking forward for consecutive Mozilla awesomeness at Kolkata.

2 comments:

  1. Well...no matter what great words I use to express the awesomeness of your blog, it will still be an understatement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot...
      There was a small mistake on your session details, fixed (s/l10n/OPW/).

      Delete