We, the Indians, in open source communities

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Though this post makes many generalisations against Indians, it refers to a section of Indian members involved in polluting open source communities. I have great reverence for the hundreds of Indian contributors like Gopal Vijayaraghavan, Atul Chitnis etc doing great work in their respective OS projects. This post aims at providing a couple of guidelines for those who are stuck at being leechers and willing to contribute to the community, but not sure of how to give back. It can also not be ignored, that India has got vibrant local OS communities (like Drupal Bangalore) that have been collectively contributing to their OS projects by leaps and bounds. As Alolitha Sharma rightly said - Open source is becoming more mainstream in the Indian economy. India is poised to begin to leverage open source software in a bigger way.

The best of India is yet to come!


Reasons aside, though not always acknowledged, it is true that the perspective of most other people towards Indians is a bit on the lower side in many of the technology communities. We are annoying half-knowledged self-proclaimed technical geeks with little or no real expertise in most cases. Well, atleast in some of the open source communities, this is definitely the case.

We ourselves are primarily responsible for this. A quick look at any community will reveal that:

  • Majority of the spam posts (manual, not the automated bot ones) out there, are from Indians, claiming themselves to be SEO experts doing link building
  • Posts with English worse than what a kindergarten kid in most western countries speak - Yeah they are ours
  • Posts desperately asking for work, on inappropriate threads, - Yeah, they are all ours
  • Posts asking for help - without doing any research before reaching out for help - having no clue of what you are working on, but just looking for someone to put their work aside to come and help you - Yeah, most of these posts are ours

 

Here is something that we should be looking it, in making quality contributions, than being scorned at for polluting the communities:

  • Be there for the community, than just reaching out for help. Every time you take help, ensure you help out someone with an issue in the community.
  • Do not desperately beg for work. Show your expertise in the form of community contribution. Work/Oppurtunities flow in by themselves. At the very least, if you were to publish somewhere that you are available for hire, do it at the appropriate place. Most community places have something called Marketplace or something similar.
  • Use atleast minimally decent English. I understand that English is not a native language for most of us. Not knowing English should not be stop you from reaching out to the community. But come on, there is Google Translator now. Use it to translate text from your language to English. Though Google Translator is no where near to perfection, its English looks lot cleaner than the language of most of us out there. So, your English should be atleast as good as Google translates it. With little care and effort, it won't take long to draft a post/comment with decent and legible English.
  • Do not reach out for help thinking someone is joblessly waiting for you out there. Before reaching out for help, make sure you do some research and try to find the answer yourself. Give some details in your post/message/comment about - What have you tried? What happened? What were you expecting? Where were you struck?
  • Let's cut down the spam we post, in the form of comments on others' blogs etc in the name of SEO. Gone are the days that you could trick Google. Even if you get to succeed, it will be only short-lived before another update like Panda collapses your business strategy.

 

The above traits are not restricted to Indians, but the ratio of people showing such desparism to the number of quality contributors is generally high in India.

Get a Mentor
It is high time that we act more responsibly and earn good-will in the communities that we are involved in. There are many exemplary Indian contributors in all of these communities, whom we can look upto. Get a mentor in the community. I had the privilege to work with/under some of really fantastic Indian contributors in Drupal Community - Shyamala Rajaram, Ravi Julapalli, Jacob Singh. (Though the mentorship I received has been mostly in the Eklavya model, sometimes without the knowledge of the mentor)  I am sure there is someone out there willing to help you out!

Be more transparent
It is our responsibility to build our credibility in the eyes of the world. I don't have any benchmark statistics here, but yeah - the ratio of (actual skills possessed) : (skills claimed in Résumé) - is the lowest when it comes to our case. We should collectively work towards being more reliable, credible and display integrity in every action of ours.

Do-It-Yourself
There are many self-help tools and videos available today. Technical Education is no more a privilege. All you need is an internet connection. Before shouting out for help, google it. There would have definitely been a cool guy, who instead of bragging about the issue or shouting for help, has been able to figure it out himself and has documented it in his blog to help us. Search to see if there is a video available on youtube. There are people who take all the pain for you and make super cool videos to help you learn. 

Stop Stealing
Last, but not the least, if a resource is not available for free and if you can not afford it, do not go for a pirated copy. Piracy is definitely, in no way, restricted to India. But we are the ones who are the most merciless. At least when it comes to technical resources like Books and Videos, a great amount of pain and research goes into making each of those. If you are a student and if you really can't afford, reach out to the author. And I am sure most of the authors would be glad enough to give you a review copy or a sample copy or a highly-subsidised copy appreciating the fact that you at least, did not grab a pirated copy yourself. And when you start earning, pay them back :-)

Let us work collectively towards being something more than just being the most-economical (mediocre) talent for hire!

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