It was seven years ago when sitting on my computer in New Delhi I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go for my Master’s to a University in Copenhagen, Zurich, Stockholm, Paris, …. . Of course the rankings mattered, the scholarships mattered but also my fear of the unknown mattered. Here I was in India having never ventured out of the country trying to decide where to spend the next two years of my life.
And this is where I came across the blog of a student (which I cannot dig up despite trying for 5 long minutes) who used to narrate her experiences in Copenhagen infrequently. While there was no dearth of organized blogging advertising for Copenhagen, the self-motivated nature of the blog was endearing and real. It was my first connect with the city which I was going to call home for the next six years of my life. It was my first brush with Danish naivete, Danish hygge, the student life, the parks, the sea, the weather. It was my first date with Denmark from the eyes of another narrator.
The student blog was hosted on a blogging infrastructure which was part of an initiative from the Humanities department at the University of Copenhagen called KU student blogs which used to be hosted here (the link might be broken now). This service encouraged students to create a blog and to write what their heart desired. One of the best features was the blog feed so you could read in one place all the content from different KU blogs. It was a great window into the lives of other people without all the glam of social media. It was great for old-school, boring people like me. I blogged here (maybe a broken link) for five long years infrequently which kept the world was sane.
And then the storm clouds gathered. The KU student blogs became a platform to allow KU affiliated individuals to create websites and it was not a purely student blogging infrastructure anymore. It became a website creation tool which meant the feed feature was not desirable since depending on the reader, the feed contained a lot of uninteresting information. At this point the feed was taken off and KU blogs was rebranded as KU sites. While I have nothing against website creation infrastructure, better thought could have been given to its management to keep the student blogging feeds intact.
Since the blog feed feature was gone and KU site service was hosted using WordPress and I already had a free account on wordpress.com, I moved all my content to it. KU blogs also had a questionable security policy in its integration with the KU one identity authentication systems. The KU blog password was a special rewrite of the KU password (I am not going to detail it here) to account for incompatible password policies across systems which hastened my decision to move.
Overall, a dedicated student blog system with a blog feed feature to read about student experiences is an invaluable tool both for local and international students. Its something worth preserving and I wish it had been so. Thank you KU blogs for all the initiative and the help and for encouraging me to come and live in Denmark. Hopefully, you revive the initiative again.
Its that time of the year again. I am in India for a short, hectic vacation which provides me ample material to rant about. So, its my due ranting time again. And before any of you classify me as a ranting no-good, let me tell you that I belong to that small group of homo sapiens who believe in bringing out the pile of rubbish swept under the carpet. And of course staying true to my actual abilities, I am not good enough to clean it up but hopefully someone good enough will see it lying around. Now let’s move on.
A few days back I was sitting comfortably in a train looking out of the train window on a platform crowded with people. While I was self indulging myself in appreciating (as a pseudo-intellectual) the diversity of the Indian landscape, a few beggars (4 to be exact) came by my window asking for alms. Two of them were old women, one was a child and the fourth one was an old man. They used various forms of begging and used multiple forms of emotional manipulation. However, my usual dogged response mechanism kicked in i.e., it is not possible to pay all the beggars (all or nothing), most of them are impostors, there are organized syndicates behind it etc. The mechanism ensured that I did not pay them a single penny. However, as usual after a few minutes my guilt kicked in for not being empathetic towards needy people. It was all the more overwhelming because of what had happened before the train journey.
I had booked 3 flight tickets and then had to cancel all of them because of a mini personal crisis (not mentioned for privacy which is in vogue these days). I had booked the tickets using Indigo and Jet Airways using Makemytrip booking site. When I cancelled the tickets, the cancellation charges were ~50% of the total booking charges amounting close to 5000 INR (quite a fair amount of money by my moderate standards). I am not going into discussions of whether it was fair for making me pay up for not using their service for valid health reasons, or for the airlines to exploit alternative sources of revenues, or for other stuff (lets leave that). If I could afford to lose ~5000 INR, I definitely could afford paying at least 4 INR to the four beggars. Somehow the hypocrisy inherent in me was magnified. I chose conveniently to ignore the ill-doings of a stronger party over a weaker one. If you look around carefully enough, the irony of conveniences in making choices affects us all the time. Maybe its time to pay attention to this irony. Its up to us to make this choice where convenience can again be involved.
Before I end my rant, I found the practice of these booking sites of asking for an additional “convenience” fee extremely insulting. Who is the convenience for ? Are there alternative forms of making the same booking (like in the railways) so that you can deem it “convenience”? The word “convenience fee” reeks of glib superiority and a condescending attitude towards the customer. I am not being naively stupid so relabeling it as “online booking” charges would make petty complainants like me happy for the nearer term. Makemytrip was a glaring example although they compensate to some extent by providing a guessing game in the form of redeem vouchers which go by the name of “MMTXXX”.
I was looking at Planet GNOME when a post regarding foresight caught me eye. I was especially sad at missing the bounties up for offer or rather let’s call them prizes 🙂 . I will look into the porting and packaging bit and the entire project looks rather luscious to me. BTW, looking forward to the Fedora 9 release for syncing to the mirror so that everyone picks up from there.
Well the last week is not looking the best for me. Over the past few days I heard some weird bad news that made me feel a bit apprehensive about the whole idea of Google Summer of Code. I am not writing a crib post because it does not look likely that my proposals will make it through but what amazes me is the manner which defines the ousting.
I applied for a proposal for GNUnet under the GNU project. Although I am not supposed to know but everyone ultimately gets some feedback from the mentors. Accordingly, I found out that I was consistently between 1st and 3rd rank. The whole scenario changed on 14th April, when my mentor who had taken ownership for my proposal told me that there is one more application for GNUnet and that the other person was a complete newbie so had got higher weightage. True, I had been working for GNUnet over the past 2 months but how does that make me ineligible? I got the answer saying that I would contribute to the project anyways and the other person would not. So the mentors downgraded my proposal to 12th rank. He could have kept it at 9 since GNU looked like getting 8 slots but now with an extension of 2 slots too, I am basically out. He killed my chances instead of diminishing them. With due respect, he told me tried his best to get my proposal for a second slot as 8 GNU subprojects are selected and 2 look like getting a second slot. Apparently, he is now pissed off that the slots are likely going to wget and grub because of the merit of the project( read as the popularity of projects) and some other finer nuances which are not nice to list rather than on the merit of the proposal, but even then how does that matter. I know GSoc is about getting new contributors but is it for people who are looking for some quick money and then running off. I can see huge vacant chinks in the Gsoc armoury. Another observation I made is that some mentors are overenthusiastic to see their mentees make it while some are detached. Looks like a huge slice of luck is also involved in this case.
I had another brush of problems for my proposal under Debian too. I proposed a project under Lintian for Debian for which I have been doing some patch work for some time. It seemed that my Debian proposal was not getting ranked sufficiently as it did not seem interesting to mentors. Also I was told, I might have lesser chances for the same shitty reason that I was already working on it and it would be nice to get some nice new people in. There also seemed a problem that potentially attractive proposals were getting ranked by mentors. Somehow the whole experience has left a bad taste.
I know some people might think I am shouting out here, but at the same time I am thankful to a lot of people who ranked and gave me great reviews on my proposals. In the end some stupidity and weird reasoning looks like standing like a block. If this is a beacon for the future people might stop contributing in the future to particular project in the hope that they might make it to GSoc.