Thoughts on Microsoft Acquiring Github

I do not code for a living and that means my interactions on Github are negligible. But I have worked in the open-source world for a while now and I understand the important space Github occupies.

So yesterday, when finally the rumour came true, that Microsoft has acquired Github, there were some fear of what that means to this developer friend resource. What it means to all that code that is shared and published on Github for thousands of projects?

Image Credit

The general mood of a lot of people from my Twitter feed to some co-workers was that it sucked that something as precious to the open-source community like GitHub was not part of Microsoft.

I think some of that angst against Microsoft will eventually settle and people will end up using Github as they did before. Some might discover Gitlab as an alternative

fun fact: Gitlab responded to a Twitter hashtag to migrate from Github to Gitlab with a blog post )

But crucially, Microsoft investing billions in acquiring Github is nothing to be sad about if you are a FOSS enthusiast. Microsoft is not the Microsoft of the old. It now believes in the power of open-source. But more importantly is what the message is when Microsoft spends billions into the open-source world. 

“That open source winning!”

Open source is truly democratic, allows collaboration, better bug testing (simply because of the immense level of scrutiny of public code), and it is a more ethical and sustainable choice.

What happens to Atom?
Acquisition usually means consolidation of side-projects. For Github the side project one can say was – a code editor. For Microsoft it is the immensely popular Visual Studio code. I am not sure which one get’s abandoned first, but bets are on the project. That said, is a free and open-source project and the community around might be able fork it and keep it relevant and alive, if it does get abandoned at some stage in the future.

Again, that is open-source winning! 

I have joined Automattic

Automatticians at a Grand Meetup – 2016

On 12th Feb, I joined Automattic as a Community Wrangler.

They are the fine folks behind, Akismet, Jetpack (two plugins this blog has be running on for a long time now), Longreads, WooCommerce and much more.

It also has open-source at the core of is DNA. The company works in a completely distributed manner, which means everyone works remotely.

As a Community Wrangler, I would be working with the volunteers and also full time folks who mainly keep the WordPress community running. This is a really exciting new journey I have embarked upon.

And yes, Automattic is hiring!

That said, starting full-time with Automattic was the second best thing to have happened to me this month. A week before I started work, I got married to my best friend Kavita. ♥️

New Year Resolutions!

A few days before 2014 dawned, I wrote a clever post about how I felt about new year resolutions. Overtime I have in a way become less ready to dismiss or accept just about anything.

I prefer to think of myself as someone who can give time to listen and understand.

So this tweet by Scott Berkun resonates well.

I agree!

So I do not care weather they are resolutions or new habits you decided randomly on 1st of January or the 1st of June. That is cool, you are trying to change something in your life. Let me know how I can help you out.

My Resolutions

  1. Write at least a 100 odd posts here
  2. Learn to be calm, meditate and find stillness
  3. Take a holiday and travel
  4. Watch a Test match live again (hopefully Wankhede)
  5. If #2 works out, read atleast 50 odd books in the whole year
  6. Learn to play a musical instrument

WordPress India is five years old!

A bit more than 5 years ago, a BBPress installation was done. No one but a few hundred bots signed up. Alex and I decided instead of people coming to our website, we would start a Facebook group.

What do we call it? We tried to keep it simple and obscure enough to everyone and not just someone who codes, feel welcome to join in.

Hence we called this Facebook group “WordPress India”. A couple of days ago, on 22nd November, we completed five years of the group.

On the 5th anniversary, Saurabh, Alex and I took part in a Live Hangout and talked about marketing yourself at WordCamps and meetups.

Catchup on the discussion here.

On the same bench together for a year, why did I not become friends with him!

Back in school, in the 6th grade I had a friend. Actually, calling him a friend today would be not fair on my part. I was never really a friend to him. We sat next to each other for a whole year. I knew him since my kindergarten years. He was known to be a problem child. He would slack off from studies, would not do his homework, often get chastised by teachers, got into fist fights with other boys.

Sitting next to me for a whole year, I never befriended him. He was muslim, he lived in a place in Goregaon known popularly as a glorified slum but labelled as a colony. His life was surely nowhere close to the privilege I had.

This was back in 1992 – 93. Mumbai as a city was swept in riots. He had disappeared for several days. His muslim dominated locality was severely affected. There were many stories of killings and shootouts that had been talked about in school. I was scared if something had happened to him, to his mother and father.

I remember his mother, stoic looking, always worried about her son. He inherited her rosy red cheeks and the resemblance was striking between mother and son. I remember his father, bent, tired and ageing yet his posture showed a proud past.

One day he returned to school. I was happy to see him back. It made me think of his as a friend, as a person, as a human being more than some problematic kid who got into fights.

A couple of weeks after he was back to school, I was hit by a cricket ball. I lost vision for a couple of weeks in my right eye. I missed school for a couple of weeks. When I was back, he warmed up to me and showed a more considerate and caring side of his. We started talking more about life and the world around us.

With an extreme lack of tact and innocence that only a twelve year old could posses I asked him about muslims and how we (read middle class, upper caste Hindus) viewed them. He answered many questions and asked an equal number of them back to me.

But we never really got the time to become long lasting friends. He had a tough time in school. He flunked subjects and had to repeat 6th grade. I moved along to the 7th grade.

Our paths went along different roads. I did say hello to his mother a couple of times, who still had that worried look on her face. But I never saw my friend after school years had passed. I had heard from other friends, that he was still getting into a lot of trouble.

Today, someone told me he was found dead. Somewhere near Goregaon station and he had possibly become an addict. Society will shrug, school friends on their whatsapp groups will say “RIP” and move on to the next meme or joke.

We were sitting on the same bench together for a whole year. Why did I not become friends with him?

How my laptop stickers gained me new friends

I often work while sipping some coffee at Starbucks. The coffee is admittedly expensive, but pretty decent to get work done. Mainly because they give decently fast WIFI and also they get the lighting right.

Once such day, someone approached me. He was wearing a “something very nice about Open-source” t-shirt. He introduced himself and asked if I worked remotely. He handed me a card very formally, told me that his wife runs a co-working space in the same building and I could check it out.

I took the card and later visited their website. Reserved-Bit came across as a very hacky, open and friendly space to co-work in. So I signed up.

Many days months later, I have had several good discussions with them over politics, feminism, equality, education and most often on open-source culture. They revealed to me later, the reason they approached me in the cafe was because I had “WordPress” stickers on my laptop.

The stickers meant I was a fan of “WordPress” and by extension possibly a fan of open-source. Long story short, the kind of people they wanted to co-work with.

The good friends I made in this story are Siddhesh and Nisha.

Independence Day: Need for the noisy riffraff press

My grandmother told me stories of her mother who participated in the Quit India movement, and got arrest warrants issued on her name for writing seditious articles in her journal. She was one among thousands who took part in a political struggle by publishing something in a small printing press, often clandestinely.

India’s political awakening during the freedom struggle was led by a press that essentially self published. The large established newspapers did not necessarily take anti-establishment positions.

In terms of number of consumers, capacity to print out journals, the 1940s India was nowhere in comparison to present day India.

Yet, the impact of the media that was loud and clear.

Here is an interesting extract from Everyone loves a good drought – P. Sainath

As early as in 1893, Reuters assigned a correspondent, S.H.S. Merewether, to cover the famine-hit districts of this country. Apart from his reports, this resulted in a book, A tour through the Famine Districts of India. In it, he wrote that his assignment came about after a request Her Majesty’s Government had made of Reuters. The Raj, among other things, wanted to counter the riffraff of the nationalist press.

This is back in 1893, a when journals were published in numbers less than 1000s. The number of people who could read back then were probably less than 10% of the population. Yet, this press (media) was writing and reporting with moral authority. And it had caused enough noise for the colonial powers that be, to dispatch a correspondent to counter their arguments.

Compare India’s media today. It is massive. Seemingly free but highly controlled through varying overlapping layers of ownership and conflict of interests.

Here is a nugget of a video by P. Sainath.

We do need a noisy riffraff press that self publishes with some moral authority.

Happy Independence Day!

Image Credits

Conversation with an Ola Driver and his Jaffna connection

Two days ago, I visited Pune Institute of Computer Technology for something called a FOSSMosis-17 festival. It was organised by the Free Software Movement of Maharashtra. I will write more about it in some other post, this one is about a conversation I had early in the morning with a Ola cab driver.

To reach quicker, I booked a cab and got into it. He asked me if I travel to the institute everyday and we got talking about Pune and cities we came from. As it turned out he lived back in 1985 in a Mumbai suburb of Kadivali. That was sort of near where I grew up as a kid (Goregaon, Mumbai). 

He revealed that he was very young back then and joined the army. He then ended up spending much of the late 80s in Sri Lanka.

I knew what he was refering to instantly. He had been a soldier in the IPKF. Their mandate was the end the Sri Lankan civil war.

I asked him about his time in IPKF. He perked up a bit and was surprised I even knew about India’s role in Sri Lanka. I asked him about where he was posted.

He has served in Jaffna. A city held for years by Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka, and often heard and read about it in newspapers as a teenager, for terrible crimes.

He opened up about his time in Jaffna. The terrible things he saw there. He lamented if ever there will be peace in the world. He saw the role of the Indian army in Sri Lanka favourably.

He spoke of the roadside bombings and guerilla warfare they faced.

He also revealed that he was thankful to VP Singh as he was not entangled in looking strong and managed to recall the soldiers back.

He was happy to have retired.

We spoke about civilians who were around where he was posted. He simply said

“Civilains were the worst off, I have seen too many of them lose everything”

I asked him about the recent nationalism and jingoism on television and media in general. He shrugged his shoulders dismissively.

“They do not know what they are talking about. Such peope do not care for lives of young boys in the army who will die.”

There was pain, supressed pain at what he saw through a 28 year old career in in Jaffna, Sikkim and Srinagar. Suppressed pain at what he was probably forced to do, forced to see.

We had reached our destination but we chatted more, about family and life. He was happy to have retired. I thanked him for his time and for opening up with his life to me.

He thanked me back with a wide smile.

“I am an old man, nobody listens to me or asks me about my life. You made my day.”

That hit hard. Twenty eight years in the army, travelled all over India and a couple of years in Sri Lanka. He was still driving a cab to make ends meet and thanking strangers for listening to his story.

But why was’nt anyone listening to his story?

*The coversation was held in Marathi, I have translated some of his quotes.


House of Cards: Season 5 is horrible on our favourite characters

Spoilers Alert! Do not read ahead if you have not seen Season 5 

House of Cards Season 5 was already looking far fetched. Season 1 and 2 established that we had to understand that anything was possible and the Underwoods were terrible, horrible people.

The audience who the main character Frank Underwood, breaks through the fourth wall to lecture, hector and sometimes reminisces about his worldview – found itself amused, seduced and plain intrigued.

The intrigue being how longer can we root for a character who is ruthless, a murderer, self-serving and completely corrupt.

The characters on House of Cards always had depth. They were three dimensional. Frank Underwood the elected representative and then the unelected Vice President and President is has depth in his character. He was unpredictable with his wit, charm and schemes.

His wife, Claire Underwood is even more interesting as a charachter. Someone who navigates sexism, completely ruthless and professional but has some sort of ethical core that could be salvaged.

The other charachters like Doug Stamper who is Underwood’s fixer, Remy Danton the lobbyist, Peter Russo a Representative who is an addict and flawed but still quite likable, Zoe Barnes, the young journalist and Freddie, the man whose joint is often frequented by Underwood.

These charachters are complex and all add to a rich story telling experiance, even if it is a highly unlikely story.

Trouble with the series started with the portrayal of the Petrov, the Russian President. The character is at times hilariously two-dimensional. He probably fits into a Jame Bond movie from the 60s or 70s.

The problem with Season 5 is that every character gets the Petrov treatment. Everyone is flattened and ironed into two-dimensional cardboard pieces. The entire season is terribly predictable too.

We all know that Underwood will struggle to keep his Presidency, we already know he might have to step-down, because he is breaking a million laws.

His wife is already the Vice President and we know that she will end up with the Presidency.

We know they will blackmail their opponents to survive.

All of the above happens. So a full season of no surprises, no twists or turns and nothing really to look forward to.

Maybe Netflix should just cancel the series and not drag this out longer than required.