Attending OSCAL 2018 in Tirana, Albania

<Pictures, Slides, URLS will be added on Monday>

I wrote a post on all my travels during May. One of my trips was to Tirana, Albania for OSCAL conference organized by Open Labs.I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to be a part of the experience – not just as a speaker but also a learner.

Open Labs is fuelling the open source movement in Albania starting from building a community from the grassroots in Tirana, Albania – and they have done an awesome job at it! The Open Labs community is warm, welcoming, inclusive and inquisitive (and women are the majority! Yaay, fem power!).

I learnt a lot of things about open source, hardware, different projects and communities and got to meet people behind them. I was representing the Fedora community and doing outreach and spreading awareness about our project, our community with a primary focus on getting more women into Fedora and open source. The audience at OSCAL is unique in the sense that a lot of them are female (about 70 percent of open lab members are female) and are university students or recent graduates.

I had three sessions at OSCAL – a community meetup for ‘ Women in Open Source’ and their supporters, a presentation on ‘How to get paid to do open source?’ and a workshop on Machine Learning. We also had a Fedora community meetup and Fedora 28 release party! It was definitely a packed conference for me. Thankfully, Renata and I were doing the meetup and presentation together!

We had a lot of participants in community meetup for ‘ Women in Open Source’ – from different walks in their open source journey. Some were newcomers and wanted to get involved while others wanted to learn how their companies or projects could shift and collaborate with other open source communities. There was a lot of buzz around different open source projects and especially Fedora! We even had a few high school students as attendees and people were promoting open positions at their companies! The time was not enough and in the end, we were both being asked questions about internships and contributing to open source! Also, it was not just all girls and I was glad to see our male allies there too! Did I mention the chairwoman of The Document Foundation, Marina Latini was there? It feels so awesome to meet one of your role models in real – and the meet up was a pathway to that for me – and I hope I could do it for others too!

During our talk on ‘How to get paid to contribute to open source’, Renata and I talked about different paid opportunities including internships, fellowships, project grants and job offers and how to search and apply for them! Personally, I always feel like I find such awesome opportunities after their deadline is over and I hoped our talk would avoid that for others. If you are interested, you can find our slides online. While prepping for the talk, I myself learnt about a lot of new opportunities. Also, we used the opportunity to highlight the importance of subscribing to different mailing lists and job boards – especially, if you are a women or from other underrepresented community! My personal advice:

Open source has a lot of paid opportunities too –  Don’t be shy! Don’t doubt yourself! There are a lot of resource and support for you out there! Take advantage of them!

On the afternoon on the same day (yes, I know!), I had my Machine Learning workshop. I talked about different machine learning applications and taught the fundamentals of some basic algorithms. The audience was very engaged and I hope they learnt or atleast became interested in Machine Learning after. I also talked about Open source in machine learning world and how different FOSS communities are using machine learning. We wanted to try and implement a small algorithm during the session but the time was less and attendees didnt know Python – so it was a dead end! However, I showed them one of my notebooks, introduced them to common ML libraries like numpy, pandas and scikit learn and how to use them and pointed them towards learning resources for both Machine Learning and Python!

When I was not presenting, I was at the booth with the Fedorator! There were a lot of people dropping by who used Windows and I spent a lot of time discussing about advantages of Linux distros like Fedora. Few people asked us for the CD and how to install – but we had the Fedorator to save the day! There were also some intense discussions on modularity in Fedora, Fedora spins and on getting involved with the community! Since the OSCAL venue was a public heritage site just open for the conference, a lot of tourists and locals who didn’t know about open source dropped by and hopefully, learnt about open source from us! This was also the first time we tried to have a hack challenge at Fedora booth during the conference. We had a poster and promoted this hack challenge at booth and meetups. People who contributed during OSCAL could get an OSCAL attendee badge. Easy contributions which were promoted for hack challenge:

* Translate strings from english to albanian in zanata

* Fedora easyfix issues

* Tagging packages

* testing bodhi kernel/ updates

A lot of people were interested in the and easyfix issues website. However, I don’t know of anyone who actually contributed during the conference and a lot of people also said that they might not be able to because of the different talks/ workshops going on simultaneously. However, most of them expressed concern about difficulty in starting to contribute as a newcomer and having this challenge helped us show the low barriers to entry to Fedora community. I am positive this helped them get a foot in the door to start contributing after the conference. The hack challenge also helped create a lot of buzz around Fedora.

The Fedora community meetup was also another event where we engaged with attendees and other community members. Justin talked about the project and how to get involved. We also had a small release party – and there was cake! Not just our FCAIC, Brian Exelbird but also delicious blue Fedora cake – It was so good, I still want some more 😦

We also managed to sneak in a few hours to work on diversity team tasks since all of us were together after so long. Hopefully, you will get to see some of our work during FLOCK soon. Till then, see our pagure repo or hang out in our IRC/Telegram channel or subscribe to our mailing list to know more about what we do and if you want to get involved. (Btw FLOCK registration is out!)

It wasn’t all just work. We also hung out together in the evenings – had icecream with Bex and got the cake badge instead :P, had awesome sea food in Tirana where we celebrated Justin’s birthday (more cake!) and went around lovely city of Tirana. I even managed to sneak in some shopping :)Albania reminded me so much of India – the culture, the weather, the traffic 😛 and I fell in love with the city. Hopefully, I will be able to come back soon.



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