22 03 2010
This even was organized locally by a team of very motivated Thai Debian enthusiasts and contributors, such as Theppitak Karoonboonyanan (*the* Thai DD), Neutron Soutmun, Kitt Tientanopajai, and all those whose name I'm not remembering as of now (I hope they won't mind).
The even had kinda the structure of DebConfs, with a few days of "Debcamp" to begin. See the full schedule.
We were hosted in Khon Kaen University (KKU), one one the most famous universities in Thailand, a small "town in town" in a city with a few hundred thousand inhabitants (dunno exactly). Lodging was done in a hotel located inside the university. Interestingly, the hotel was also hosting youg students participating to "Summer Camps" (apparently training systems to get good school results) gving to all this a very young atmosphere.
The hacking lab and talks location was a 30-seat room in the university library, and meals were brought in there very efficiently, with the very specific way that Thai people have to transport each and every kind of meal (in small plastic bags closed by rubber).
I arrived only in the 3rd day because I had commitments at home that made it impossible to me to come for the first day. During these days, people have been very busy hacking and participating to the Bug Squashing Party. During that BSP, about 50 bugs have been touched, without about 15 or so closed.
Other non Thai attendees were Andrew Lee from TW, Paul Wise from AU, Daiki Ueno and Yukiharu Yabuki from JP. Organizers were expecting some attendees from neighbouring countries such as Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia. Unfortunately, none of them could come, including Anousak Soupavanh, leader of Lao free software localization efforts, who I was very impatient to meet. Transport difficulties, or visa problems, do not make things easy in that part of the world.
On Wednesday we had a "DayTrip" as it is common for such event. We went abotu 50 km away from Khon Kaen, to visit a nice place, close to a dam lake, and climbed a hill surrounded by a big temple and a giant Buddha statue. Then we had a wonderful lunch in a fish restaurant in the very specific Thai way to share stuff: everything is on the table and you pick your food here and there, at you rconvenience. Of course, local advice before trying apparently innocent food is always worth it because the fire might be hidden anywhere (for instance in that soja plate which I tried and that set my mouth as a burning hell for 20 minutes). The journey ended by a visit of a great temple in Khon Kaen and, very noticeably by a dinner in a very popular barbecue restaurant in "all you can eat" style for...100Bath (so, about 2.5 euros). Maybe only vegetarian people had more trouble enjoying the meal as it was mostly made of various meat (and sea food).
The talk days were very intense, at least in my opinion. Probably because I ended up giving four talks, some of them completely improvised (about IP-over-DNS, which I was using at the hotel and about which many wanted to learn a little bit more, and GPG keysigning processes). It turned out that the GPG talk was well received and, discussing with Paul later on, we agreed that such a talk, mostly meant to explain the DOs and DON'Ts For good GPG keys signing, could be a good idea even for Debconfs.
There were also a few talks about local initiatives and efforts to develop (and not only promote) free software. We have no recordings of these talks as we were infortunately missing some video recording installation (maybe next time, Thep) just like the miniConf that was happening in Panama at about the same time was having.
Due to local regulation on the university network, we had some limitations with Internet access (some firewalling that for instance was preventing SIP to work properly, which made a video-conference with a japanese user group fail, unfurtunately).
The event ended in a round table discussion about ideas to organize something bigger in the future. The local community in Thailand has apparently the energy, maybe ressources and local support to be able to organize a slightly bigger event as first try (somethign like an Asian DebConf or something similar, targeting mostly Asian contributors and about 50-100 people. Thailand seems to be a good target to host such event, with many things being relatively inexpensive (and not only beer!). And they even think about possibly hosting a Debconf at some time in the future (actually, Martin Krafft should also be credited for bringing this idea). That isn't as crazy as it seems and, provided that potential organizers start involving themselves in the current Debconfs, everything seems to be possible.
After all, if we look back to 2005, only one person (hello, Safir) was seriously thinking that Debconf could really happen in Bosnia and Herzegovina, right?
After this week (followed by 2.5 days of sightseeing in Bangkok for me, plus a small meeting today with local Thai Linux corporate users and IT company owners), I feel like the mood in Asia about Debian development is high and full of potential. The miniconf last year in Taiwan was already a good success, by establishing a good connection between people.....we need to keep that alive and, hopefully, there will be other miniconfs in this part of the world. And, well, if I can be there, I'll be there.