An interesting event we organized was a Birds of a Feather (BoF) meeting on "Why you should be a FOSS programmer" that we had with the students there. My first observation during the BoF was that most of the students had no idea what FOSS is. One of them actually thought that FOSS was a programming language. Most of them had been absolutely brain washed by MS propaganda or maybe they had been brainwashed by their teachers. Not may of them had used any of the P languages (Perl, PHP, Python). I asked them this question - "will you like to work for Yahoo!, Google or Amazon or will you like to work for another IT sweat shop? If you want to work with the big names, then you have to know the P languages". Gopalv, Premshree, Pankaj and Philip spoke about their respective projects, how they had gotten into free software and how it had helped them in getting jobs. Gopalv pointed out how our education system is flawed when it comes to exams and assignments. In a class, you have to beat the others to be called a achiever. In the real world, you have to work with others to come up with something good. Working with FOSS allows you to collaborate with others and have a taste of how things work in the real world.
Our main aim in organizing this BoF was to get even 2 students interested in FOSS. Sadly, I am sure we failed to do that . However, we told the students about the mailing lists and irc channels that they could use to find help. I hope some of them eventually turn up there.
Danese was one of the speakers in this conference and she gave a good presentation on how to get into open source. Answering the audience questions on how to make money with Open Source, she said that Open Source allows you to make money by offering services, and India understands the service model well. This rankled me quite a bit. There aer ways to make money by selling FOSS products too - MySQL and SugarCRM being the prime examples. However, in India, you don't have any companies which make products. Lots of companies outsource their development work here, but except Tally (a closed source accounting software), I don;t know of any Indian companies making products. I am not sure why this is the way things are - one reason might be that product development is inherently a risky business. On the other hand, the payoff from a product is quite high.
I also met a bunch of people whom I knew only in the online world. We went to this amazing restaurant called "Horn OK Please". Even though we had to wait a bit to get the tables, it was really worth it. If you are in Pune, try out that restaurant.
All in all, I will say that this experience was really good. The students did excellent work in organizing the event, though I would have been happier if they participated in the event instead of just being a volunteer in it.