Chennai chapter of Indian Linux User Group had geared up for their new avatar as conference organizers. Their long standing stint of not conducting a conference of their own was going to end. The discussions were happening for months, new logos getting designed, new conference management system getting developed. NRCFOSS joined hands with ILUGC and finally Madras Institute of Technology, the premier and historical institution which created leading professionals and world famous technologists like Dr. Abdul Kalam, was selected as the venue.
The conference was focussed on being a platform for first time speakers to come out of their shell and get an experience of speaking in a FOSS conference. Their audience will be a blend of experienced FOSS community members, students and academicians. In addition to just talks, there was also demo stalls as usual. This time, in addition to usual demo stalls on various topics, we had student present their final year projects. This was an opportunity for them to interact people who were doing similar things in their professional life, thereby they could get the valued feedbacks from the community and improve their projects.
The lectures happened in the Lecture hall, while the demo was in Hanger I (where Carte Blanche used to happen every time). Various colleges who have been interacting with ILUGC and NRCFOSS had sent their students as volunteers, participants and delegates. The core volunteer team was formed by the enthusiastic MIT Computer Club students, the one who conduct Carte Blanche every year (supported by ILUGC).
We had around 109 talks spread over 3 days (actually 2 days) and 863 registered delegates, while the registration desk reports the total attendance was above 1500. The attendees were mostly students from colleges and a few from nearby schools, academic community from the participating colleges, a few from the industry and representatives of the community. There were around 10 physical volunteers from ILUGC and another half a dozen from NRCFOSS co-ordinating the entire conference.
The conference formally began at 1.00 PM on 1st February, 2008 and was formally closed with Brian’s talk at 2.00 PM on 3rd February. Though there were few talks without enough audience, the beginner level talks were running houseful. May be the speakers should consider the focussed audience group before selecting what they are going to speak on. Or, may be we had too many of new entrants getting enlightened about FOSS that they choose to stick with beginner talks. We will be careful next time when we accept talks.
Though there were initial glitches and confusions during the first session on Day 1, with a speaker going missing while the alloted room was filled with audience, we managed to straighten up things as soon as possible. We had lots to learn from this experience of conducting a FOSS conference, when the major audience was students pretty new to the topic. There was also some logistic issues due to miscommunication or lack of proper communication channels. But on a whole we managed to walk across the rope, from one end to another without falling down and bruising ourselves.
We had people from few other LUGs attending the conference and they were really surprised to know that the entire show was run and supported by the students, with the LUG just standing behind and giving them a shoulder when needed. They also appreciated the idea of displaying the student projects which were actually nothing but final year projects for their B.E. degree.
What I wish to do now is to join hands with some of my friends (if they like this idea), with the students themselves and help them have a hosting space where they can properly host their projects. This means they will have a version control system, a issue tracker and project management tool and a weblog for them to blog as they proceed with their development. A few, with whom I talked about this, were really interested with this idea and said they will help in this. Hope, I get a few more helping hearts from those who read this post 😉
The fossconf chennai has ended and we are contented of performing to our best, and accept the mistakes we made, taking them as a good learning experience to improve ourselves next time. Thanks for those who supported us, who participated and those who have a shoulder and hand in making this happen 🙂