Starting conversations about FOSS.
(Event Report of Fedora Women Day, IIT Guwahati)

Tucked away between the hills and lakes of the north east India, is the IIT Guwahati. On the 14th of September, a few girls gathered in their hostel common room to participate in the Fedora Women Day. The event was organised by me (also a student at the university), on behalf of the Fedora Diversity Team as part of their ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive Open Source community.

A little context of the background here. IIT Guwahati is one of the premier technical university of India, with a very active student Coding club and high participation in programs like Google Summer of Code, Microsoft Code Fun Do, Build the Shield, etc. While we do have many students who contribute to FOSS, we have little continuous interaction and resources to help newcomers get started.

I felt this event can be a good excuse to stir up some conversations about FOSS. And indeed, it did turn out to be a good conversation. We had around 20 participants that showed up, all very new to the world of FOSS. The initial part was mostly about getting them familiarised with the terminologies and varied organizations. We then talked about Fedora and how they can contribute. Most of them were really amused to find out that they can contribute beyond development. Later, we talked about programs like GSoC, Rails Girls Summer of Code and Outreachy which they can participate in.

Overall, I would say we would do this event worked well as
  • We could plant the bug in their head that “Yes, contributing to FOSS can be a good option to learn. Yes, there are various organisations with varied requirement of skills. And yes, Fedora may be a good community to start with”
  • It paved the way for future events, where we can possibly target higher participation and more intensive workshops.
  • We could find students who were interested in various programs like GSoC but didn’t know where to start from.
  • The resources required to conduct it were very less (almost none, except me and my time which I was more than happy to indulge!)
So how are we making sure the conversation doesn’t die out?

I and Bhagyashree Padalkar have started a closed Facebook group to encourage participation in FOSS as well as address the queries and concerns of the newcomers.

We also are in process of setting up an IRC channel #foss-iitg to give them a common platform to interact as well as helping them get used to of the communication channels we commonly have in FOSS. It has both active students and alumni contributors to help out!

First FOSS-y event around :)

Side Note 1: If you have ideas to add to this event, feel free to drop by.
IRC Channel: #fedora-diversity
Mailing List: diversity@lists.fedoraproject.org

Side Note 2: Even though the target audience for this event wasn’t supposed to be just women, due to shortage of time to organise/publicise, it ended up being a girls only party. Oops.