For many years now I actively avoided speaking on non-technical topics, especially FOSS evangelism, mostly because I wanted to focus on my personal technical development. I’ve realized over time that I can do both together and that resulted in me volunteering for more non-technical tasks, including evangelizing FOSS in various gatherings.
It was with this change of heart that I accepted Amit Kale’s request to speak on Open Source at the MIT college technical festival (Teknothon) in Pune.
I wasn’t sure what the audience would be like and I wasn’t even sure how I would approach the topic. To top that I caught the flu from my sister on Friday, leading to me almost cancelling the talk. I didn’t cancel however because the students from MIT had called and emailed multiple times to make sure that I was able to come. And so I went today.
I reached an hour early and found a couple of people talking about (and later demonstrating) rooting of Android phones. I later found out that they were students. In fact, as it turns out, I was the only ‘external’ guest at this fest. The amazing thing about the session was that they seemed to be talking the language of Free Software developers, talking about the freedom to do whatever they wanted to with their device, hacking up modules for their devices and so on. It was really refreshing to hear that.
My talk started with a flower boquet and a gift, which is a bit embarrassing, but well-meaning. The more embarrassing part was the introduction a student gave of me, describing me as some kind of OSS superstar. Thankfully that ended in under a minute and I was then allowed to talk to the students.
I did not have a lot of expectations from the audience because I had assumed that most attendees would have to be introduced to the concept of Open Source, but that wasn’t the case at all. Most of the students used Linux (mostly Ubuntu and a couple of Fedora) and had an idea of what Open Source was, but didn’t have the words to describe it. The only other thing they seemed to lack was the awareness that they could change code in the operating system they were running. I hope I was able to clear that for them. I had made slides for the talk but like always they were mostly useless and I just ended up talking to them directly. The questions were surprisingly insightful too, like licensing of code, standards, avenues for earning and so on. Overall I had a very fulfiling session and I hope it was the same for them too.