A look back at the WikiToLearn India conference, 2017

The first ever WikiToLearn India conference was a 2 day single track event held on the 18th and 19th of January, 2017 in Jaipur, India. The event welcomed talks from all domains of technology, but admittedly, talks around KDE and MediaWiki were preferred.

Having worked extensively on porting JoyStream‘s codebase from QMake to CMake and also given my prior experience with CMake, gained while working on projects of the KDE community, I proposed to speak on the key differences between QMake and CMake. I termed my talk “Modern Day Makefile generators” and had hoped to include a lot more – CMake and QMake aren’t the only Makefile generating tools afterall – initially, but instead opted to not complicate things and narrow down my focus of the talk. My talk proposal was selected and before I could realise, I was on the flight to Jaipur, on my way to the venue of the event.

So far so good! ❤

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The event was hosted in the large, beautiful and rather isolated LNMIIT campus. I arrived at Jaipur, a day prior to the event. I was on a mid-night flight, I somehow got confused with the dates and ended up arriving a whole day in advance of the event. As mentioned already, the campus was quite far away and isolated from the city and I was sure I wanted to go out and explore the nearby attractions. Given the amount of time I had at my disposal, I decided to do a wildlife safari in the nearby, world famous, Ranthambore National Park, considered by many to be one of the best places to spot the Royal Bengal Tiger.

The safari was done by evening, my failure to spot so much as a pugmark, let alone a Tiger made my journey back to the campus  feel all the more toilsome. However, on reaching the campus, I was taken to the guest house for dinner and in one of the rooms there, I found, to my delight, two familiar faces – Riccardo, the founder of the WikiToLearn project and a good friend of mine along with Tony, my great friend and sparring partner. It was great to see them both and I finally started to feel at home.

The following day, the conference officially began and I finally met in person, Sagar, our host and a fellow KDE developer and community member with whom I’d coordinated for the organisation of the conf.kde.in the preceding year. Soon, I met up with the rest of the fellow speakers, three of whom I’d known personally(Srijan, Haritha and Chaithanya), coming from my alma mater, Amrita University.

Sagar kicked off the proceedings by providing an introduction to the KDE development environment, community and spoke a bit about OSS projects in general. Soon after, Riccardo delivered his immaculate keynote, introducing WikiToLearn, exposing the immense possibilities of collaborative educational content and explaining that being involved with a free and open source project has a lot more to it, than just trying to make a career out of it. The day ended with Abhimanyu and Amit delivering their respective talks.

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We weren’t the only ones enjoying a drink!

The talks on day 1 really set the tone for the conference and I believe participants now knew what to expect. After a quick tea break, where native speakers taught Riccardo some local slang, pulling off pranks, having fun watching a monkey consume beverage among other things, ensured that we made our way to the evening lab sessions, completely refreshed and were able to provide hands on guidance to students at the university. A delicious dinner followed and Riccardo singing some Italian and Swedish songs at a bonfire to beat the chill of the night, brought the day to it’s perfect end.

The second day kicked off with Tony speaking about engaging and bringing in new contributors to a community, following which I delivered my aforementioned talk. On hindsight, I must admit, rather surprisingly, the technicalities of my topic seemed like a leap too far for the wide majority of the audience given most of them were coming straight out of high school, but I hope I was at the very least, able to impart a basic familiarity to how large projects handle their dependencies and how a buildsystem functions, in general.

Given the cold, a much needed Bonfire.
Given the cold, a much needed Bonfire.

This was followed by Davide Valsecchi joining us over a hangout session to give a brief intro on the WikiToLearn infra as well as introducing TexLa – a project I now plan to contribute to, in my spare time. Before heading out for lunch, we took the time out to pose for a candid group photo. The rest of the day was just as eventful, with Haritha and Chaithanya along with Vnisha, speaking about the Wikimedia engine and on the social topic of connecting rural women on the internet, respectively, to mark the culmination of two days of enlightening knowledge exchange.

On the final day, post dinner, we were provided entry to a musical concert of local folk singer Mame Khan which turned out to be a truly new and unique experience. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the first ever WikiToLearn India conference.

Of course, it wasn’t until two more days after, that I flew back from Jaipur to Pune. We used this time to visit some timeless memorials like the Taj Mahal and the Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, but that’s a story for another time.

To conclude I’m extremely grateful to our hosts at LNMIIT. Personally, I was received at the campus at around 5 in the morning by Ojaswa, a first year student and later his roommate Jatin, helped me find a ride from their campus to Jaipur station, just 2 hours later. I was amazed by how these students went out of their way to host me at their place and for that, I shall remain forever grateful. Overall, each member of the organising team – and it’s a lengthy list – carried out his/her duties efficiently and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. I must also congratulate Sagar on successfully organising a splendid event.

Speakers at the first ever WikiToLearn India conf
Speakers at the first ever WikiToLearn India conf

Last but not least, I have to thank the KDE community, for being ever so supportive, funding the expenses of us speakers and organisers alike. If you’d like to see or participate in many more such events, kindly consider making a donation.

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