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.
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.
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…