Foss Labs what can be done
6 min read
Commodification of Technology is what the name of the game is, way back in 1990 yes i can say that since i belong to that era ;-) Just like knowledge if its not put to good use what is the use of that knowledge in the same way Technology is here to stay and is being put to use we without even realizing.
Imagine there are no computers , its hard if you try sorry John lenon its a shameless plug since i like your song
anyway long story short Ethernet was in and Metcalfe’s law was in place ,Computers labs back then either had some version of Unix in them or Novell Netware based PC’s talking to each other over ethernet on TCP/IP the times were different and the demands of the industry were also different with respect to Human Resources ( I know lots of people do not like this term)
Come Circa 2018 while i am still writing about the same issues which have been lingering since 1990 , Why ?
While on one front these Unix wars were going on Microsoft and Apple were having there own competition going on .
GNU project has its roots in these frustrations and hacker culture which brought the Free software movement in the first place
Since FOSS is after all run by humans and we all are part of this society at large we cannot escape from these principles in spite of so many advancements in alternative currencies in vouge today.
We have to look at this issue more holistically as Humans so what i am saying is its always been more of Social issue rather being of a Technological one.
There have been certain attempts in this direction as well but the magnitude of the issue is as such that we will be needing more brains and efforts to solve these issues.
What i propose is something which is going to be a mix of both theory and practicals in terms of execution
Labs are places where people experiment they have to be left free and open rather we have made them a class where students come sit chit chat and leave.
They are not allowed to express as freely as child
The teachers who are teaching themselves are not competent and do not follow what they preach so the child would not look at them as a role model
Teachers have also have there own lives and are struggling to survive they should be paid well and empowered with teaching aids and let them interact with peers outside the campus since FOSS has and is and will happen in communities they should also be taught a social skill of how to engage and work with communities
Once the above points have been taken care of we can plan our journey in the technological aspects of it
While the world has moved on to various application of software technologies like cloud technologies our colleges in India are still have not being able to use of utilize there so called FOSS Labs in there premises
When we talk about Labs and Open Source they make a very good combination since the cost of software is as good as Zero also the unique property of the way Free and Open source software's are built it makes them more participatory.
So lets get on to the meat of the discussion what are the skills we need to impart to these young minds in order to give them a chance to be successful in near and long term future in whatever they do with there life.
This exactly where the communities come into play, seen the management and the professors instead of accepting the communities with open arms even do not have a proper conversations with the so called communities , Why ? i figured our there are multiple reasons i do not want to walk that path and give you reasons for someones not accepting knowledgeable people from communities as there peers rather than threat.
Foss Technologies ecosystems has a trend and ecosystem of its own to become one of the best you need to understand how it works and how we can use some of the principles from it and apply to our FOSS lab
Students are smart let them manage the Labs
In some areas they are ahead and know more than there teachers
Engage with the local communities and user groups
Invite communities to have sessions a regular basis
Create an environment of trust
Learning and getting a Job are two different things treat them separately means you need not learn something since its in fashion and you would get a Job , learn something which you enjoy doing and you would get a Job anyway and you would also not get bored of doing it again and again.
Market demands are also important we in the lab can impart some of the traits required to get the so called paid Jobs
if you ask me today what are the top skills which are in Demand in the FOSS world they are Cloud Computing,Blockchain and Devops
We need to start small with Version control and blogging skills in order for them to blog there experiences while they are learning and applying there thoughts and as well sharing it with the World.
Then comes the specific domain knowledge , everyone is this world cannot become a programmer but knowing what programming is a good skill to have , no matter what age group you are programming is a good trait to have and employers love to have this skill since you can save time by automating stuff many a times . Also programming can be the bed rock of other things be it Blockchain or Cloud computing.Python has been and is easy to start Language once the basic concepts and idioms of a language it becomes easier for one to learn others , do not fall in the trap of thinking writing many languages on the resume will get you a job quickly.
Lots of the students and youngsters i interact with do not know how to express themselves as to what they want , they even lack simple skills like how to phrase questions i recommend the lab should have a protocol and a culture of asking the right questions while they are working in the Lab.This will boost self confidence and ability to build a scientific temperament in our youth.
We have achieved a lot in the past last three decades and we are on the correct path to achieve more do talk to me on how to implement my ideas in you labs.
Success has different meanings to different people so for now lets just focus on Jobs since in this Society being employed and making money is equated to a successful person.
There are several issues in our education system particularly our technical education systems where in we are taught to test rather than learning by doing.The whole premise of having labs was to do the second but it did not realize its true potential. The reasons could be many but the two prime i can think of is lack of trainers and lab assistants.
i have seen in make colleges seniors becoming lab assitants and training there juniors , i have got no issue with this approach but what good a trainer or assitant can be if they are working in there own silos and have only one point of view.