19 August 2013

How NOT to organize a FOSS workshop

This "Open Source" organization did a lot of cool projects along the time, I participated myself in a few and reported positively about them, one such project was a summer program with many workshops (mostly about development) at a local university. So I gladly accepted when I was invited as a guest at the 'graphics design and editing' workshop, which as the title says, it didn't went that smooth...

An emblematic moment was at the workshop's first day start, as part of the warming up, everyone introduced himself and students told why are they there. For the biggest largest group, this reason was "I want to learn Photoshop." At a GIMP workshop.

The trainers, designers with some years of experience, they don't use GIMP or Inkscape, the apps they were to teach, and didn't do it at all in the last few years (they had to research particularities the night before each class). He may hate me for replaying this but one of them told me "I didn't use GIMP from 5 years ago, when I discovered the features Photoshop". So imagine the amazement when I showed any advanced feature introduced in the last two release.

Also, the only mention of the "Open Source" term ("Free Software" would be waaaay too much) was in the day 4 (due to a busy schedule I was able to attend only day 1, 3 and 4) in the form of "so, see, to do such things you can use Open Source software, without paying for expensive apps".

Conclusion? if you want to organize a workshop, then is a bad idea to have both the students and trainers wanting to learn/teach something else than the declared topic and they are forced to stick to that topic. How to do it right? Make it clear what and why, be both alternative and pragmatic at the same time.

Still, there were positive things: the trainers were enthusiastic and really trying to make the students learn something and have fun and I can witness the students having a lot of fun time. Still, from a FOSS point of view (remember, it was a FOSS organization and a summer "Open Source" program) it was a failure: my guesstimate is ZERO of the students kept using the apps learned at the workshop.


  1. From the speaker view it's a disaster. Basically when a FOSS speaker gets invitation, and receives this - well, makes the feeling is you are only just to there fill the gap between two paying advertisement. Pfff. But until then, if the teachers represent FOSS as a "sidenote" category, geeks "teenager revolt" against everything.... erm... it's not your fault. Just pissing me off either. But we have to fight against this, and still remembers me that we should keep open the bazaar, and need to place in the front door of the cathedrals. Just to remind them: we aren't going anywhere, and open minds are the true freedom, creativity - the next Picasso, or the next Da Vinci. But don't be sad, some seeds on ground never get roots, even against best sun and rain.

    1. my feeling was "what the heck i am doing here?" it was a strong temptation, which i managed to resist, to step over the trainers and detour the classes my way - that would have been not productive, since the students didn't want that