Food For Thought Personal

“What’s Wikipedia?”

Do you ever get that feeling when you’re walking to someplace or working on something, when you’re hit by a sudden feeling of nausea? It happened to me yesterday when I was at the Tesco supermarket. I suddenly felt listless and quite nauseated. Maybe it was due to the fact that I was wheeling my shopping cart round and round in circles. I have no idea why I was doing that. Maybe it was because I hadn’t had any breakfast. Anyway, I felt that I was this close to puking. I quickly checked out with whatever I had picked up so far.

As soon as I stepped out, a massive blast of fresh air hit me and I felt so much better instantly. That’s when I ‘saw’ for the first time how green this town is. Whether it’s on campus or other parts in town, you’ll find large lush green fields, or at the very least many trees dotting every road. I did notice this fact when I came here, but for the first time the greenery all around me struck me as I stood there drinking it all in.

Delhi is a concrete jungle. Even the few trees you have left will be covered with soot from the thousands of vehicles driving past them. I was quite fortunate in that the place where my home is does have more than average green cover.

I miss being in a hectic city where people are always zipping from one place to another, cocooned in the comfort of your vehicle, the Metro, or even the humble autorickshaw. It’s a big change coming to place where practically everything is, at max, half an hour walk away. For one, it’s given me a perspective of how incredibly huge New Delhi is – and given its size, how it does a reasonably good job of handling transportation and civic infrastructure.

I find it difficult to put into words what I was about to say now, but the gist is that that moment outside showed me how wonderful the enviroment of this place is. Given the number of things I’m involved in, I’m often rushing from one meeting to another; rushing from one deadline to another; rushing from location to another as I try to fit in multiple layers of work sandwiched in day.

I won’t lie – I am stressed by this hectic schedule, and I love this stress. I’ve realized this fact about myself that I have often suspected – I enjoy working under pressure. I hate not having to work on something with the clock ticking down.

But I also realized that within this schedule I can and should take some time to slow down. Go for a long walk. Watch squirrels fighting with each other near the lake. Drink in the freshness.


Promotional flyers for my Twitter demo

I work part-time at SCEPTrE (not to be confused with the James Bond Evil Inc ‘SPECTRE’), which – to cut a long story short – gets fuckloads of money from the university and external government funding agencies, and puts it to use by paying their employees (even part-time ones) quite well and conducting events to improve ‘personal development’ of Surrey students.

We conducted an event last Thursday, where businesses from various industry verticals came along to learn about social media technologies. We had people from PR companies to give them a lecture first, and then they were given a demo of various social media sites by us. My task was to demo Twitter. At the same time, it was an opportunity for Surrey students to network with businesses.

I was prepared for the fact that a majority of the attendees would not know what Twitter is, even if they had heard of it in mainstream media. I walked in to the event confident I’d be able to field most questions they asked.

What I wasn’t prepared for is the following. Someone saw a flyer mentioning ‘wikis’. So she came up to me to ask:

What are ‘wikis’?

A fair question, you would say. Might not have heard of wikis in general, but would surely have heard of Wikipedia? So I mentioned how it’s “just like Wikipedia”. Pat came the response:

What’s Wikipedia?

I leave that as a parting question. How would you explain Wikipedia to someone who’d never heard of it? I fielded that one, following it up with a prolonged session of headdesking when she was gone.


About the first meetup

At today’s meetup #1, I had a bit of an “Oh, I didn’t think of that” moment when someone suggested we should put up future invites on Facebook instead of Yes folks, meetup #1 was held today in, to borrow the words of Douglas Adams, “in a blaze of no publicity at all”. The odd dog barked. The odd begger outside Costa Coffee motioned towards his tummy and then towards his mouth. In the end, around 8-10 people or so showed up when we were optimistically expecting around 20. Anyway, we had a super phun thyme. Lots of chocolate fondues, wraps, mojitos and expressos – and a lot of discussion over the future of I occassionally kept butting in with my PJs.

When each of us walked in to Costa Coffee today at Connaught Place, we were a bit shocked to see the whole estabilshment pretty occupied! Costa is generally a cafe which runs on empty and where they’ll roll out a red carpet for you on a slow day (which is pretty much every day) if you show up as a customer. The staff told us that specifically Saturday evening was when Costa Coffee is always occupied. No other day, not even Sunday, do they get as many customers as they get on Saturday evening. This warrants investigation; I’m sure if the Freakonomics guys look into this they’ll find some freakish coincidence linking the Mumbai dabbawallahs to Costa Coffee’s occupancy rate in Delhi on a Saturday.

One thing that we all agreed upon was that we need to take it up a notch. Sure, the response within these past two months has been amazing, but we can always do better. We have a good following online (thanks to all visitors of!) and we need to take this further. In the near future, we plan to do a lot more publicity by tieing up with school / college events and other quizzing-related websites / groups. Getting better content out there to more people is one of our primary objectives. While doing this, we are not going to forget the charter. We also plan to make meetups a regular event.

To be frank, has faced a bit of a slump in the past few weeks because of the fact that many schools / colleges had exams going on – and most of our user base comprises of school / college students. However, this phase is now over (hope your exams went well!) and we expect activity to pick up on the forum now. We also plan to start SMS update services and a shared calendar that people can add events to for keeping track of events. Stay tuned to for more details.

Some of you – visitors of and the moderator team – might be / are apprehensive about the future of once I leave to join university. I want to assure you that I remain committed to the project. This is something I’m really passionate about, and I’m going to provide whatever support I can. Hope to see a bright future for!

South Park You know, I learned something today moment of the day: I found out that ‘spaghetti monster’ is a character on Sesame Street. Not just His Holy Noodliness. Maybe the former was the inspiration for the latter.

PS – Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day!


Update on meetup #1

Just an FYI blog post. In case you haven’t heard of meetup #1 happening this Saturday, read about it on my blog post on it. Almost all moderators on forums will be there, along with other quizzers – so in all I expect around 20 people will be attending. I look forward to meeting you folks one last time (at least for the forseeable future!) before I leave on 22nd September. :)

Personal meetup #1

When was launched around two months ago, one of the points in our charter was to hold ‘offline’ meets in which quizzers could interact and get to know each other in real life, beyond the environs of cut-throat competition. We, the team, haven’t forgotten that part and are now working towards making meetups a reality.

The response that has got within the past two months has been, to put it simply, amazing. I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that the quizzing community has shown towards this (and I mean that in a good way!). So I would, on behalf of the team, like to thank every member of the community – moderators, forum members, regular and casual visitors – for making this possible.

We plan to hold the first meetup at Connaught Place on Saturday, 19th September 2009. We had a tough time adjusting the event day/timing so that it did not clash with any school exams (many schools have their mid-term exams going on right now). In the end we felt that 19th Sept was a good compromise. No coaching institute has scheduled diagnostic tests around this time because of school exams, so that’s one issue solved. It’s a ‘long’ weekend since 21st September is a holiday (Idu’l Fitr); that way, even if you have exams on 22nd of September you will be able to take a few hours off on Saturday. And in case you have an exam on that Saturday, we’re scheduling the event in the evening so that you can still make it. Here are the details:

Date: 19th September 2009
Venue: Costa Coffee, Connaught Place (Outer Circle)
Time: 5pm to 7pm meetup #1 on Upcoming

Costa Coffee is close to the Nirula’s outlet in the Outer Circle. There’s apparently a pretty popular dhaba called Kake Da Dhaba right across the road in case you need to ask someone for directions. (An auto-wallah will probably recognize that as a landmark rather than Costa Coffee). In case you need directions or have any other queries, please leave a comment here or call me (Ankur Banerjee) at 9871604101.


There is no agenda for the meetup as such. We’re initially modelling this along the lines of ‘tweetups’ – meetups where people who know each other on Twitter can meet and get know each other, or catch up with people they already know in real life. So basically this event is for socialising with other Delhi-based quizzers (but if you’re dropping in from some other city, you’re more than welcome!). You don’t have to be a forum member to attend – anyone and everyone’s invited. So you can drop in any time between 5-7pm because there’s no strict ‘schedule’.

Once again, I request you to register for the meetup at Upcoming. Of course, you can still drop-in without registering too. :)

About is a newly-launched quizzing forum started by a few Delhi-based quizzers, with the intention of promoting school quizzing in Delhi, holding meetups so that quizzers (not just schools quizzers) get to know each other in real life, and quizzing not for points but for the sheer joy of knowledge. We have an official(-looking) charter too. To find out more about us, visit for daily question of the day threads, quiz archives, notification about upcoming quizzes, and random chit-chat.

Personal Tech Takes

OSSCamp Delhi 2009

OSSCamp logoOSSCamp 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.

OSSCamp ID tags, designed by Yadu Rajiv
OSSCamp ID tags, designed by Yadu Rajiv

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).

33. (Day 2) OSSCamp Banner

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.

Me, at OSSCamp. Damn, those chickenpox scars just won't go away.
Me, at OSSCamp. Damn, those chickenpox scars just won't go away.

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.

Aftermath of a working lunch at OSSCamp
Aftermath of a working lunch at OSSCamp

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.

Speaking on Creative Commons licenses. Photo courtesy Sachin Khosla. Low quality pic because it was shot using a cellphone.
Speaking on Creative Commons licenses. Photo courtesy Sachin Khosla. Low quality pic because it was shot using a cellphone.

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.

Linux For You mag give-away at OSSCamp Delhi 2009

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!

PS – Click here to read my tweets from OSSCamp 2009.