An Unknown Indian

Thoughts of a FOSS enthusiast

“Contributing” to FOSS and some rants on “mailing lists”

Posted by Balachandran on October 6, 2008

     The ‘Omlette” post of the FOSS.in list made by Mr. Atull Chitnis triggered me to write this post. I may be too dumb in not knowing what Mr. Atul Chitnis’ contribution to FOSS is. But definitely the omlette post was of the wrong tone, though its intentions were good. If you find this post harsh on you, I am really sorry Mr. Atul Chitnis.

{For those who had not gone through the post, here is the link,  http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/foss-in/message/5219)

      When Atul made his “Omelette post” to the foss.in mailing list, it created a huge uproar in it. The reason was he had called “translation” and “packagin” as low-hanging fruit. Then, after the large protest that it created, he made another “clarification” post through which he stressed that he was correct and that it ws the mistake of the list members that they didn’t know english. At point went to say that he is well versed in English and FOSS. Is that an outburst of his ego ? Does he mean to say that others are inferior to him in english ? Well, not just Atul, anyone who converses in english is that, it idioms are lifeless and depend much on the tone of the speaker. This is one good example of that. Though the idiom is not deregatory, the way he used it, that is, his tone was definitely demeaning. May be he is good at english and its idoms and other great tools. It is just that he doesn’t know how to talk or express.

      Without delving much into what Atul knows and what he doesn’t, I though of having a post on what all I think as a significant contribution to FOSS. First of all, every contribution is as important as every other one. Just like most graduates feel that testing inferior, there is a thought among a few people that jobs like distro specific packaging and translation is not that as great as writing a kernel. On the otherhand, the reality is that the person who translates a document or a man page into his/her native language knows much more than the person who implemented it, atleast from my view point. It is because, the person knows the intricacies of the software and in addition to that has a literary mind to translate a document from english or some other language to his/her own language.

      Coming to packaging, not everybody on this earth can compile, solve dependencies and install software on GNU/Linux. most people want to have it just like the windows world, that is a “Next… Next.. Finish” kind of installation. And when people feel that packaging for distros is not as great as actual coding, the software the those “geeks” code will be used noly by them and the geek community that surrounds them. It will never the reach the common man, who was the original intended user.

     I do agree that contribution in the form of code directly to the projects and kernel are of importance. But that doesn’t mean localisation, translation and distro specific packaging are not important. After all, when you target the third world audience, it is the latter that takes up higher priority.

     And coming to the language used in mailing lists… In a country like India(or any other country where english is not a native language), where you *should not* and *cannot* expect everybody to be an expert in english(yes, we are excellent in grammar, but we believe in simplicity. I personaly feel that there is no necessity for all those blows and whistles of idioms in a FOSS mailing list. You may be a excellent programmer. But keep it at that. You need not show off your english skills), you are supposed to send an email in simple english. For example, since FOSS.in is an ‘Indian” event, shall I post to its list in Hindi/Tamil/Kannada/… and complain when the non native sepakers of that language in the list don’t understand ? So, it must be uderstood that all users of a mailing list must write in such a way that the intended people get your message easily. If your intended target is just the elite english speaking community or the Hindi speakng community of the list, then please mention so.

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3 Responses to ““Contributing” to FOSS and some rants on “mailing lists””

  1. […] “Contributing” to FOSS and some rants on “mailing lists” […]

  2. Annamalai said

    good work 🙂

  3. @Annamalai

    Thanks da.

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