Saturday, February 26, 2011

BarCamp Yangon 2011, Myanmar

Living in Hanoi, Vietnam, and working with the local Hanoi Linux User Group have been a great experience. They have helped me observe how community driven localization effort works and understand its problems. On January 8, 2011, few Hanoi Linux User Group members organized FLOSS Translation Camp to discuss how to promote localization and to address the problems of Vietnamese FLOSS localization efforts. Following this event and as a result of few off-line discussion with various community members, I decided to design a framework to introduce software localization to new contributors and to create an effective peer review process for improving the quality of the existing software translations. Dietrich who had been following those events closely suggested that I go to BarCamp Yangon 2011. Attending this would be a unique opportunity to know and engage the FLOSS community in Myanmar.

BarCamp Yangon logo

BarCamp Yangon is the biggest bar camp in South East Asia. Last year over 2000 people participated and more people are expected this year. Thanks to the efforts of Mike Amy and the BarCamp Yangon team, I was able to get the paper-work needed for the Myanmar visa. The international participants were received by the BarCamp volunteers upon arrival and everything went as planned if one were not to count the fact that I was stranded at the airport after arriving on a much delayed flight. I planned to stay at the Yangon YMCA but after visiting the latter, I made the wise decision to check into a hotel which offered clean sheets and a hot shower - a much welcomed treat.

BarCamp Yangon 2011 was held at the Myanmar Info-Tech campus on February 19th and 20th. The Myanmar Info-tech campus is situated near the Yangon University on the outskirts of the city. It was already crowded when I reached the venue at 8:30 AM. The registration counter did not have any information about my online registration so I skipped registration and headed to the main auditorium for the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony was very brief. The MC spoke in Burmese and then a dozen or so international barcampers were asked to go on stage to introduce themselves.

There were few machines setup for internet access in the main hall as well as free coffee. The media team was tweeting on the other side. The wireless internet was available, but it was painfully slow considering the number of people who were using it and the waiting one had to endure to get to it.

 BarCamp Yangon Myanmar Main Hall

Unlike other conferences, BarCamps is a different beast. It takes a lot of jousting, pushing and shoving to get your talk posted on the white board that announces the day's sessions. Few of us who had sessions planned the titles of our sessions and handed them to a BarCamp organizer who promptly disappeared leaving us session less and in the dark. Luckily, I managed to swap a session with Luke,an attendee at the Barcamp, who had planned his talk for the next day. The sessions spread across various rooms in different buildings on the campus. Each room had a volunteer with a wireless radio that was helpful in getting across up to the minute messages. Closed circuit cameras were used in some of the rooms for the sole purpose of figuring out which rooms were available.

 BarCamp Yangon 2011 Sessions for day one
 BarCamp Yangon 2011, video feed screen

Please visit the page for more pictures from BarCamp Yangon 2011

Intellectual property Lawyer and avid BarCamper John Young's talk on IP and Domain names was really interesting. Perhaps this kind of talks and the later off-line discussions sum up the joy of attending a BarCamp.

 John Young talk at BarCamp Yangon
Audience at the BarCamp Yangon 2011,  Myanmar

After the talk I ducked into a few sessions that were not very interesting. After a quick lunch we headed to my 'Make FLOSS Software Speak Your Language' Free Software localization talk. This talk is covered in the my next post.

Talk in progress at BarCamp Yangon 2011,  Myanmar

While in Myanmar, I also attended The Software & Solutions Exhibition 2011 which was organized by MCF and was held at the Strand Hotel in downtown Yangon. The exhibition had stalls from Software vendors, IT training schools, and surveillance equipment vendors.

John Young blogged about his experience at the exhibition in this blog post “Bridging IT and Business” in Myanmar

Software Solutions exhibitions in  Yangon Myanmar
Software Solutions exhibitions in Strand Hotel,  Yangon Myanmar

Walking back from Strand Hotel onto the busy Sule Pagoda Road, I ducked into a pirate CD shop that offered everything from pirated Windows CD, Mac OSx, Android and Linux distributions. In a country with very little internet bandwidth, I was quite happy to see that it is possible to buy a Linux CD for less than one dollar.

Software CDs in downtown yangon
software CDs in downtown

Stay tuned. More about this event to come!

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