Sunday, September 22, 2013

Software Freedom Day 2013 in Delhi

I really can't believe there was a six-hour-long celebration of Software Freedom Day in Delhi, of all places. There were three big sessions on different parts of FOSS, followed by parallel sessions with smaller groups of participants. A lot of people were definitely from college. But there was a sizeable number of people who were working -- in their own startups, in law, in the social sector, or in companies.

Anyway I have no mind to write a report on what happened. I want to write about what I learnt. And it is that free software is a very large thing today, and it is not only about code. FOSS has inspired the concept of free data which has given birth to initiatives like Open Access (providing free online versions of journals).

More interesting were the sessions on Openstreetmap (by Sumandro) and Wikipedia (by Noopur).
The power of openstreetmaps is that they provide all the data behind the maps they show. Google maps, which is more commonly used, lets us embed their maps and do certain things with them via APIs. But the data behind the map is more powerful than the map itself. Anyone can use the map data for generating maps without even having to connect to the openstreetmaps server.

The Wikipedia session revealed how strict Wikipedia's policy is for ensuring that the highest quality of information is recorded. Every article is reviewed by multiple people, and there are mechanisms in place to ensure that incorrect articles are removed and vandalised articles restored in seconds. I thought about it and really felt how big Wikipedia is in human history. Since the beginning of writing, history and encylopedias were written by powerful people, and were supported directly or indirectly by the kings or later, by the government. This is the first time human knowledge is being recorded by a worldwide community of humans from all backgrounds. It is just like humankind is writing its diary.

Apart from this the work done by Subhrangshu on's new data visualisation engine was really interesting. I remembered trying my hand at data visualisation using Highcharts and Google charts in a Hacks n' Hackers hackfest earlier this year. This engine removes the need for such hacking for basic visualisation. It is still under development, but the entire source code is available on github.

All in all, a very energising day with much hope for the Delhi Free Software community.

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