I think one of my biggest legacies in Delhi is that I have gotten a generation of kids into Douglas Adams.
That’s 42 in binary, 42 times. I love this idea of sneaking it past the school!
After watching ‘Gravity’ with the Code Warriors
I went back to my school this week after two years to help out my erstwhile computer club, the Code Warriors, with our annual technology competition Code Wars. The 2013 edition saw participation from 30 schools with over 500 participants.
The last one of these that I’d attended was Code Wars 2010, and I had no idea when this year’s event would be taking place. I only stumbled across it by accident on Wednesday this week (the event was on Thursday and Friday) when I saw a Facebook event for it, and got a message from our computer department’s head. Naturally, I signed on right away to help out!
I came away very impressed by the quality of the show put on by both the Code Warriors team and the participants. The level of competition was excellent, and indeed, in the few events that I judged and/or conducted, it was often tough to make a decision. Kudos to the participants!
What I truly enjoyed, though, was conducting the Senior Quiz finals. This has been my core event for years now, and my philosophy in designing it has always been to create questions where participants might just have the answers on the tip of their tongue – but need to go that extra mile to figure out what the answer is. And you can check out the different events for yourself by downloading the following below:
Senior Quiz: Prelims (PDF, ~360 KB), Finals (PPTX, ~12.5 MB; I had to use an Office format as all audio-visual questions are embedded for playback in the presentation)
Many thanks to Raghav Gaur, Yash Goel, Tosshaan Thapar, Pulkit Jaiswal for helping out with making the Senior Quiz finals. (Those are the names I know contributed for sure, so in case I’ve missed any name out my apologies!) Raghav and Yash also get full credit for making the questions for the other events available for download here.
It’s funny seeing how pervasive Douglas Adams is still in Delhi’s quizzing circles. I consider it my biggest legacy here, but at least I’ve influenced a fair few people into reading one of the amazing series’ of books ever. :D
Do give me feedback on what you think about the quiz!
I wanted to do a few quick shoutouts for some lovely people, wrap them up in one post.
First up is Moazzem, my roommate from last semester who’s participating in a reality show by Bloomberg Television called Techstars about the next big thing in tech and he needs visits from as many unique visitors on this URL to make it on the show. Why him? You need balls to me an mechatronics engineer and still kick ass at programming, like he does. Be nice and click on the link, okay?
Then there was Esya 2011 at Indian Institute of Information Technology, Delhi that was held last weekend – oh god Espèra is so going to have my scalp for this because I promised to write about this before it took place – a code jam / tech treasure hunt / quiz. I so wish I could attend this because Espèra (and other friends like Utkarsha) were on organizing committee.
Speaking of tech events, last month also saw Code Wars 2011. Pulkit and Aditya upheld Code Warriors tradition by pulling together the best tech symposium conducted this year (from what I’ve heard) with an able and committed as ever involved. I’m proud to look back at these guys and hear about what they have pulled off, because I know how much hard work went into it. This is the first time in five years that I’ve missed a Code Wars event; I feel a curious mix of a sense of loss and pride. Kudos to Arjun, Vivek, Karthick and all other alumni for their contribution too – and they certainly pitched in with crucial inputs on research! NOW LOOK AT COOL VIDEO.
I also conducted – with Vivek Nair as co-host – a general inter-school quiz for the DPS Society at DPS Vasant Kunj on the one day I got to spend in Delhi before flying to the UK. This has been in works for a long time and I’m glad to see it come to life, be a part of the first edition. Most of the credit should rightfully go to Vivek who worked on logistics months in advance of the event while I was in Singapore, worked on a majority of research for the quiz, and a charming albeit nervous first-time co-host. On my part, I’m fucking tired of quizzes stuck at 60-70s classic rock and 50s Bollywood with contemporary Indian heritage, so one of my main objectives was to make an ‘international’ outlook quiz. I may have veered a tad too much towards South-East Asia but if in the end it makes more quizzers go back and read about these places, I’d be happy.
Along the way we had ‘fun’ moments: my ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when I tried to take my t-shirt off on stage (with Chairman, Director of DPS VK and staff of participating schools in attendance) where I accidentally flashed the audience; gifting a duty-free sealed kaya spread bottle along with a book to ‘Learn Mandarin in 60 Minutes’ stuffed with condoms between its pages (unused packed ones, in case you get the wrong idea); giving out clues that made participants call Dominos Pizza in Bhatinda at midnight…Comprende Nair and I tried to make a quirky event not just with question but by trying to give this a unique, how should I put this, editorial voice. Hope everyone enjoyed the event! Download DPS VK Grey Matters 2011 quiz archive here (~43 MB, zipped). Have a look at the archive, tell me what you think – I’d love to have feedback from blog readers as well as participants from the event!
Reading up about news around the IITJEE 2011, I came across this piece where the ‘Super 30 guy‘ praised the changes being brought about this time…and then makes a curious statement saying he made an appeal to “reduce the number of conceptual and analytical questions” to make coaching institutes less of a deciding factor. I thought the whole point of such questions was to take the emphasis away from mechanical ‘solving numericals’ that used to happen earlier.
Why is such a supposedly prominent educationist (he probably deserves that title by now) saying something so counter-intuitive? Could it be that there’s a disconnect here again between rural and urban India? The private-school-going middle class students want analytical questions, whereas students from rural areas might want more numerical questions as it involves, to put it in a way, less parsing of English language to understand and attempt a question.
Feel so out of touch with what’s going on in India these days. First, “Who’s this Anna chick, then?” and now I find out from one my Code Warrior juniors that the IIT JEE was conducted last weekend – and I had no idea! To be honest, ever since I’ve come to Singapore I have given up any pretence of trying to stay on top of national news. If you think about it, I need to be following national news for India, UK, and Singapore as all three directly affect me; I just don’t have the patience any more to do so. (There used to be a time when I read two newspapers daily, cover-to-cover.)
It was ever thus: a world divided into those with the mental capacity and attention span required to read and digest the day’s news, and to understand the importance of doing so — and the perpetual children: the proud morons who say things like “I’m not interested in politics” (despite being mortgaged to the hilt) or ask “why should I care about stuff happening in countries thousands of miles away?” (despite those being the countries that own all the debt).
OSSCamp Delhi was held at NSIT Dwarka on 5-6 September 2009. OSSCamp is an unconference on open source software, technologies, and ideologies, one of the largest events related to open source in India. Even as I was travelling by Delhi Metro to NSIT Dwarka on the morning of the first day of the event, I met a guy from NSIT who was going for the same. (He figured I might be heading there too since I was wearing the ILUG-D t-shirt.) Met Kinshul Sunil outside NSIT’s administration building; he works as a community manager at a company called OSSCube, which is in the field of open source software development / training / support. Kinshuk oversees a lot of the organizational details of the event and even with this being a community-driven event a lot of credit must be given to him for managing the event so well. Was handed a name tag; designed by Yadu Rajiv. (Yeah, I know it looks like a name tag for a Rage Against The Machine concert, but they probably don’t use name tags.) Also met other people at the start of the day – Mohak Prince, Sachin Khosla, Ankur Sethi, Apoorv Khatreja, Udit Agarwal, Triveni Yadav, Sanchit Gulati, Anshu Verma.
By 10-10.30am (of day 1) we had quite a respectable crowd of 142 people (I kid you not) assembled in the NSIT Delhi auditorium. The event kicked off with Kinshuk giving a short introduction to OSSCamp. Lalit then urged audience members to give jadoo ki jhappi [which made Lalit (in?)famous] to each other and we had a small-scale free hugs campaign going on for a while (only a handful of the audience participated). The talks started in earnest then. I won’t be going into the details of the talks since they have already been live-blogged on the NSIT CSI society blog – check it out for a short summary of sessions held (a few held at the end of day 2 are missing).
During the sessions, what Mohak Prince and I noticed was that every speaker mentioned licencing, but didn’t go further into nitty-gritties. We had quite a few first-timers to open source this time who seemed thoroughly confused by this talk of licenses, so we both decided to give a session on Creative Commons licenses. Unfortunately, NSIT administration hadn’t given us permission to set up a WiFi network, and their own WiFi network had been shut-down ever since Ankit Fadia had scared the living daylights out of NSIT faculty, post 26/11 Mumbai attacks. We both were trying to find a presentation to aid our talk so we borrowed a laptop with a Reliance data card from someone and searched out a suitable presentation. We scheduled the session post-lunch.
Lunch took a long time to arrive. It was ordered from some big dhaba (oxymoronic term, I know) called Apni Rasoi or something which is apparently quite popular in Dwarka. Post-lunch the number of attendees reduced drastically, so I decided to postpone the Creative Commons session to day 2. Clearly, there is some such thing as a ‘free lunch’ at least at an unconference on open source – and that was what some seemed to have come for. Although I wouldn’t blame them entirely for wanting to leave, since some of the talks in the morning had nothing to do with open source. On of the highlights of the day was a video conference with Bryan House of Acquia on the future of Drupal 7, but could not be carried through because of low bandwidth issues (we had to switch to text chat and then eventually call it off). What else would you expect on a Reliance data card? After a session on indie game development by Yadu Rajiv, we wrapped up for the day.
Day 2 started off late as it was a Sunday. (I was stopped at a Metro checkpoint for carrying a ‘walkie talkie charger’.) When I arrived at the venue at around 10.15am there were just a handful of people – almost all of them speakers who were schedule to give presentations that day. By 11am though the crowd has swelled in number to around 90 people; quite respectable for second day of an event. We had people from Adobe too to give presentations on Flex and BlazeDS – open source software released by Adobe (!!!) – and those were some of the best designed presentations by far. Students in the audience were given free (as in beer, not speech) licensed versions of Flex Builder. I think it’s a good start by companies such as Microsoft and Adobe to take some initiatives in interacting with the open source community and we shouldn’t be too cynical about it.
Lunch was better on day 2 as we had pizza from Domino’s. While placing the order we had also asked them to provide ketchup sachets. The lazy asses thought “Why bother buying so many ketchup sachets when we can ‘solve’ the problem in one go by providing a 2-litre ketchup sachet”. I didn’t even know that they made 2-litre ketchup sachets! Hilarity ensued, or rather, didn’t since we sent that back. We had a working lunch with presentations continuing while the audience wolfed down pizzas.
Mohak had to give an exam that day, so I proceeded with the talk on Creative Commons licenses on my own. The presentations I used were made by other people and released under a Creative Commons license; you can view / download Creative Commons Spectrum of Rights here (courtesy Neeru Paharia) and What is Creative Commons here (courtesy Creative Commons Australia; I used the latter to show an overview of various CC licenses). I initially planned a short session of 15-20 minutes only, but the audience was quite interested in the topic and a ‘doubt-clearing’ session on the basics of Creative Commons licensing meant that my session stretched on quite a bit longer. I was happy to note that at least some people were interested in licensing or using Creative Commons licensed works.
One of the most charming things about an unconference is the ‘two-feet rule’: if you don’t like a talk, use your two feet and walk out of the room any time you want. At any given time, you’ll find at least a few people hanging out at the nearest cafeteria having a chat on pretty much everything under the sun. Had a quite a bit of that at this OSSCamp too. Must say that I enjoy this informal interactions a lot! Mohak had also joined us by this time after finishing his exam and joined in on these informal chat sessions.
Bryan House’s video conference had been shifted to day 2 but eventually had to be cancelled again due to low bandwith issues. I had another session towards the end of day 2 – a quiz on open source. Mohak Prince, a community volunteer for Mozilla pitched in with Mozilla merchandise (laptop stickers, tattoos, badges); Shayon Pal from Linux For You pitched in with a few copies of LFY magazine; Sachin Khosla pledged a .in domain giveaway courtesy Digimantra. And thus, we had goodies to give away as prizes for every answer. Some got the prizes out of sheer guesswork, some got them because they knew the answer; mostly though it was because they Google-searched the answers. :p Anyway, it’s an unconference so we didn’t mind. Click here to download OSSCamp Delhi 2009 Open Source Quiz presentation that I gave at the event.
Soon, it was time to pack up. I still had one Linux For You magazine which hadn’t been given away to anyone in the quiz, so we decided to make it a ‘give-away’, literally. Here’s a video of me as Santa Claus, minus the beard and the ho-ho-ho ‘giving away’ an LFY issue.
We had a customary group photo session after that. As I browse through these pictures on my laptop (I will be uploading the full set of pictures soon; currently my Internet connection is down and I’m posting this via GPRS), I feel a bit sad about the fact that this will be last unconference that I will be attending in India for a while. Over the past one year, I’ve made such good friends and got to know some great people through the string of such events that I have attended. The amount of enthusiasm that community members at these events show is simply amazing. I shall certainly miss the buzzing energy of upcoming unconferences!