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‘Birds Of A Feather Flock Together’
Shivani Mody
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Open source software adoption is rising rapidly, particularly in India and China, believes Gartner. The research further predicts that by 2010 the open source software will account for 20 percent of the global software market, displacing over $100 billion in revenues from traditional software vendors.

“There has been a substantial uptake of open source adoption in India,” noted Michael Tiemann, President (Open Source Initiative) Red Hat Inc. and a pioneer of the open source movement. “But India is a big country and it’s not easy for 800 million people to move in the same direction at the same time.”

This is where the FOSS.IN group (free and open source software) chips in. Its grand goal: to build an ecosystem and create a platform for the open source initiative in India. The group also aggressively encourages Indian techies to contribute to the open source community. But this, like they say, is a Herculean task. The open source software is available, but the need for users to innovate and localize the content needs a power-drive.

In 1995, the FOSS.IN group (erstwhile Bangalore linux user group) met as a 20-member-team. They were mostly from the academia, users of the linux operating system. Their interest lay in sharing their experience, discussing best practices and talking about licensing systems.

Their milestone was to get more members on board. For this group managers used personal contacts, sending out mailing lists. Their major breakthrough came when they got an opportunity to showcase themselves in the BangaloreIT.com event in 1998. Under the motto “Seeing is Believing”, the FOSS.IN community astonished audiences about the power and advances of open source software. They continued doing this by organizing theme-based conferences demonstrating the utility of open source in government, business and education.

One such theme BoFs (birds of a feather flock together) became an instant hit; here teams of people with a common interest huddle together in tents—having impromptu discussions on a variety of subjects. They carry out discussions related to the use of open source software for web development, kernel development, embedded systems, operating systems, development tools and languages, telecom and mobile devices, servers and services, and localization issues.

Among the prominent supporters of the group are the academic institutions. Visveswaraiah Technology University, for instance, took suggestions from the group to include open source in their curriculum. Some colleges also have open source festivals, inviting group members as speakers. The group also has garnered support from companies such as ABB, Google, Sun Microsystems, CDAC, IBM, Geodesic Information Systems, and Wipro.

Membership to the group is on a no-charge basis. Members can avail the facility of the jobs mailing list—a list that throws up open source jobs available across India. Currently it has about 1174 members registered online, but the attendees of the conferences are well over 3000 members.

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