Why I came back…

This is a long overdue post, but life has been kind of busy for me since December last year…

Saying goodbye to your baby…

At the end of FOSS.IN/2009, I announced that I was stepping down as the project lead of Team FOSS.IN.

It was really hard for me to do – FOSS.IN is one of the most important things I have done in my life, right up there with my BBS CiX (India’s first online service of any sort), my column for PCQuest, getting married to my college sweetheart, becoming a father, and learning to sing and play “Let It Be” on my guitar.

I had a number of reasons for this:

  • Family: For more than 10 years, my family had taken the backseat while I was busy with all the things I needed to do. This also resulted in the delayed construction of our own house – something I had promised the family a long time ago, but never got around to.
  • Work: I had a lot of stress and work pressure, and it needed my undivided attention. I loved my work, but my work with FOSS.IN required time I wasn’t able to spare from work.
  • Health: For years, I had been going from one health crisis to another – to the point that on several occasions, I was too sick to attend FOSS.IN, after having slaved for months to get it going.

There were other reasons as well, including plain old burn-out – I had been involved in running FOSS-related events since 1999, and 10 years is a long time.

Hell, there was also age – I was born in 1962. Do the math.

And so I said goodbye. The event would continue, of course, I just wouldn’t be part of the organising team anymore. For some reason, I got a standing ovation that drove me to tears, and I spent the rest of the evening backstage. I was done.

Deafening Silence

From December 2009 to July 2010, I concentrated on the things that were important – I completed the construction of our own house (and we moved in in June), I completed my commitments at work (and eventually left it in April), I worked on fixing health problems, and I generally stayed out of the entire conference scene.

This is why you didn’t hear anything from me about FOSS.IN between December 2009 and July 2010.

Then, in July, I noticed with concern that there was no move to announce this year’s FOSS.IN. I pinged the team, and asked for a meeting, to find out what the problem was.

The Problem

It turned out that the problem was basically me.

You see, after working together for so many years, Team FOSS.IN had become a finely-tuned machine, with each member knowing exactly what to do, and focusing on that activity. No redundancies, no overlap – I didn’t get involved in networking, the network team didn’t mess with venue setup, the registration team didn’t mess with hospitality, etc. This is how we could, year after year, run an international event with great efficiency.

The problem was, when I left the team and disappeared into the various activities I described above, there was no one to take care of the things that were always handled by me, including raising sponsorship, handling publicity (this was easy – thanks to my various detractors, who were too inexperienced to know that there is no such thing as “bad publicity” – only publicity), and the overall project management (which was basically just ensuring that everyone was doing their stuff, which they were, so this was a kind of “non-activity”).

I had always looked at my own activities within the team as minor, since I wasn’t really doing anything, but it turns out that there wasn’t enough confidence to run the event without me handling the parts that I normally did.

Focus of Lack

Our event had largely focused on Free & Open Source Software for the past decade, spanning a period from when FOSS was seen as something esoteric, alien and impractical, to the present day when FOSS has become totally mainstream, and a technology world without FOSS had become unimaginable.

When we started the event, it was to create greater awareness – first of FOSS overall, and eventually (since 2005/2006) of the process of FOSS development and contribution. Over the years, we have watched as the number of FOSS contributors from India grew dramatically, to a point where India is now seen as one of the top contributors to FOSS worldwide.

But we appeared to be flogging a dead horse, and preaching to the choir, by running an event that was focused on FOSS, in total exclusion, without interaction with the other parts of the technology-associated environments.

And we also realised that an event, called “FOSS.IN”, could never address other parts of the ecosystem, which included general technology as well as proprietary systems, financial systems and “non-political” aspects of the technology world.

And there was one more thing…

(If you don’t like negativity, skip the next section)

One More Thing…

Frankly, we were also more than tired of armchair revolutionaries who only contributed strife and hurtful words, but rarely (if ever) anything constructive. People who saw the FOSS community as a way to further their political ambitions, often with total disregard towards technology. People we called the “community”, as opposed to the people doing the real work, which is the community (without quotation marks). It took the fun out of doing things.

Yes, we were tired of all that, but in the words of Star Trek’s Spock in “The Wrath of Khan”: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.

But a decade later, the few had some needs of their own as well, mostly for some peace and quiet.

The Song of a Great White Water Bird…

All this had led to one conclusion – no one wanted to do FOSS.IN anymore. Certainly not without me doing my part (which I still maintain was a very small part of the overall effort).

And so it appeared that the event, that had been running successfully since 2001 (first as Linux Bangalore, then as FOSS.IN), and which had become a much anticipated annual event in the FOSS and technology community (and even among detractors, whose sole purpose in life was to bash us every year :) ) had come to an abrupt end.

This put me in a tight spot. On one hand, I had made a clean and amicable break in December 2009, with full confidence that the team would carry on. On the other hand, such an abrupt end, without warning, would ruin things for a lot of people – especially the many people all around India and in Europe and the USA, who looked forward to the event each year. Telling them at such short notice that there wasn’t going to be another event would cause a lot of bad blood.

So we arrived at a compromise: I would come back to help organise FOSS.IN one more time, and help bring the event series to a graceful end, making it clear to everyone that this would be the last FOSS.IN, and give everyone a chance to say goodbye.

And we would do everything in our power to make this the grandest, most enjoyable and most successful one in the 10 years that we had organised it.

In short, go out with a bang.

So yes, you read correctly: There won’t be a FOSS.IN next year. FOSS.IN/2010 is the last one. This is Team FOSS.IN’s swansong.

Welcome to FOSS.IN/2010

So what does this mean to the event this year?

Only good things.

We are working harder than ever to get things in place for the most memorable FOSS.IN ever, and make sure that our audiences have the time of their lives. We have always run the event with the objective of giving participants a feel of a “mega event”, the way they happen abroad (and that few people can afford going to), and we are going to make this last one precisely that – set the bar really high before we get off the stage (or fall off it :) )

We have been lucky so far – sponsors have been generous, we managed to get online registration up with the help of our friends at DoAttend.com, we managed to get the venue at short notice (though only for 3 days, and right in the middle of the week), and things are going according to schedule.

So come Wednesday, the 15th, we look forward to welcoming the many hundreds of delegates who have already registered, and the many more who will form the inevitable queue, to attend the last FOSS.IN ever.

And while you are there, having fun as usual, interacting with FOSS and tech superstars, with real contributors, and future ones, and learn new and exciting stuff, don’t forget to look around and imprint the images on your minds – because many years from now, you will be able to tell people:

“I was there, at the last FOSS.IN, and it was awesome”

And it will be.

I will have more to write after FOSS.IN/2010 is over – just a few memories, and stuff you will find amusing. Stories from the trenches, so to say :)

But for now…



  1. Raghav says:

    Well, after helping organize the first and then attending a few, oh well, surely it was a great ride :|
    Kudos, tip of the hat.,

  2. shirish says:

    Dear Atul,
    This came as a shock to me. I was planning to scrounge around for some money and had hoped to be part of foss.in/2011 for while I have had the opportunities to attend GNUnify.in (being in Pune) and Freed.in (due to some happy coincidences) it had not been possible for me to attend FOSS.in which has been hyped/built as the mecca of FOSS . To not to be able to attend such an event is definitely my loss.

    Best of luck for your future endeavours .

    P.S. :- Btw liked the quote from ‘Wrath of Kahn’ . The episode has been canonized and remembered more for the Klingon side of things. Look at Worf’s and Klingon’s Wikipedia entries for more ;)

  3. Atul Chitnis says:

    There seems to be the mistaken impression that we ended FOSS.IN because of the detractors, the whiners and the bashers.

    Far from it!

    We loved those in-duh-viduals, who gave the event more publicity than we could have ever hoped to achieve. It just got a little less fun when they also started attacking our friends and families.

    But that wasn’t even a fractional percentage point of a reason for us ending FOSS.IN.

    We ended the event because, after 10 years, we were really tired. And (given that FOSS was now mainstream) it no longer made sense to do a FOSS event that excluded everything else from the technology world. We wanted to end things while the event was still relevant.

    Quoting G.Karunakar on Twitter: “Every beginning has an end, the lucky few can choose how it ends”.

    That’s what we did.

  4. Gangster Rapper from Los Angeles says:


    What about the rest of us whose lives you have touched? Why did the detractors have the last say? Arent we more important.

    We care about you, we love the energy and leadership you bring to this FOSS movement. What you do is more than FOSS, dont you realize that? You are teaching people to love to learn. You are teaching people to fire up their editors and do something. We need that in our country. These characters will always exist whenever you interact with any large group of people – especially in India. I understand your wanting to get healthy, but that is only your physical health.


  5. Vivek says:

    Hi Atul,
    I have been following FOSS related news from my college days, but never actually have attended FOSS.IN. It has been the inspiration to us for our efforts at FOSSMeet@MEC, in the first edition of which you had spoken.
    When I came to know that this is the last FOSS.IN, I was sad and confused . Now, on knowing the reasons, I understand that this was bound to happen, and you have all reasons to step back and enjoy your own private life.

    Kudos the team for conducting such an event with clinical precision for 10 long years. Lets hope for more such teams and conferences to rise from the ashes of FOSS.IN , and further the cause the team and the followers believed in.

  6. Jayadeep Purushothaman says:

    Having attended most of the foss.in conferences myself, it is sad that there is no foss.in any more. But in a very virtual connected world, conferences are loosing their relevance IMO, especially in the opensource world which changed the rules of the game with contributors collaborating from all over the world to develop software. I have always felt while attending some of the good talks that the real opensource leaders were kind of constrained in a conference which is limited by time and dates and formalities. Hopefully, we wouldn’t miss much.

    Thank you guys for getting this going and sustainability of these conferences are indeed a big challenge!

  7. I perfectly understand needing to address family, personal and health issues. I have been the maintainer of RTEMS as a public project since 1994 and was on the research team before that. I was born in 1965 and my children have all grown up knowing about RTEMS. It is hard to pull back and be a proper husband and father when you are involved with something that you are passionate about. But there comes a time when health and family need attention.

    I personally never attended FOSS.IN but was extremely proud of the graduate students who organized an RTEMS work day at one. It was a great experience for them and I was happy to provide as much remote support as I could.

    I only hope that we can all pass along our individual passions to the next generation of developers. It would be sad to see FOSS efforts slowly disappear due to a lack of transition in leadership.

    Good Luck on your future activities and thanks!

  8. Pradeep Sethi says:

    Nice post (w/ emotions). It’s my 1st FOSS.in & I am really njoying it. A great event!

  9. All FOSS.in which I attended were spectacular. I have no doubt this one will be memorable as well.

    Following the rules of 80/20, I’d suggest to focus on the target audience which loves the particular incarnation of the conference. I’m sure there is plenty of room for other types of Indian FOSS conferences, which will address different needs. :-)

    Keep rocking.

  10. Maxin B John says:

    Hi Atul,

    It’s touching, and feels sad to hear that this will be the end of FOSS.IN. Please don’t put an end to this mega event. This is the event where we got the inspiration to do something (even though small) to the FOSS world.

    I got the opportunity to attend FOSS.IN on 2005 and then on 2009. The kind of fun and sense of togetherness that I got from this event was totally unique.

    Please keep it going. It’s a humble request.

    Hoping to meet all the fellow FOSSians at Bangalore on FOSS.IN/2010.


  11. brijwhiz says:

    And yes, thanks a lot to you and the team for having this last one. Else I would never have got a chance to attend this event.

  12. brijwhiz says:

    I am feeling so sad on hearing this news. I have never attended a FOSS conference I was so looking forward to attending more than just one :( Nonetheless I can understand the reasons you have stated and 11 years is a long time. I only hope that FOSS.in exists, as a group if not a conference.

  13. Enno Lenze says:

    woohoo! Thank you for spending so much time and health for giving us a great event :)

  14. K Jayaram says:

    Hi Atul,
    Thanks a million for your dynamic leadership all these years. Yes , you are not replaceable and you were always at the heart of BLUG/FOSS from the past 10 years.
    I hope you will change your decision and we will see foss.in/2020 also :)

  15. Nikhil says:

    foss.in/2009 was my first FOSS conference ever, even though I had been hacking for around 4-5 years. I met a lot of interesting people there and was surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals for the first time. So while it is sad to see foss.in end, I know perfectly well what happens when you try to do too much. So kudos to the team for a great job these 10 years.

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