FOSSmy: The Malaysian Open-Source World is just Awesome

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | 10:47 PM

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After finishing up the DevFest tour in Southeast Asia (with some voice loss after excessive rapping in Manila), I took my first trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to be a speaker at FOSSmy. FOSSmy is a 2-day conference that revolves around open-source development, and is modeled after other FOSS conferences in the world - FOSSin, FOSDEM, etc. Several dedicated Malaysian developers started organizing the conference just 2 months ago, and managed to secure a great venue (stable WiFi, ftw!), a diverse lineup of speakers from both Malaysia and abroad, and an audience of over 250 people - many of them developers that had heard about the awesomeness of open-source, and wanted to use the conference to get a kickstart in it.

My personal FOSSmy experience began at the speakers party, where I met the other speakers (like Toru, memcache + mixi hacker extraordinaire), found out that I lack the patience to play "Mao" (Pie's favorite game), and discovered a use for my growing collection of foreign coins (make-shift poker chips!). The next day commenced with a talk from Ditesh, one of the organizers and my gracious chauffear from the airport. Ditesh gave us a whirlwind tour of the various open-source activities going on in Malaysia, both enlightening the audience about some of the very popular OS projects that originated in the country (like ADOdb and Hex Live CD), and highlighting the future work needed to increase OS activity ("dedicated stuff/funding"). Throughout the day, I also listened to Kamal's talk on git (from slides: "Learn a new version control system every year"), Pia's talk on OLPC(favorite part: Pie fervently dropping the laptop on the floor to demonstrate its robustness), and Jerome's talk on SaaS/PaaS (with great comparisons of offerings like AppEngine, Zoho, Amazon EC2).

I also gave two talks myself. At the first talk (organized by the girls of ), I discussed my experiences with university outreach and introduced an initiative called "webdevedu" that aims to create easily re-usable lessons and labs about web development. I got great feedback from Pie, who recommended reaching out to Australian universities and using the open-source Moodle system to actually host the content. At the second talk, I explained the goals and history of the HTML5 specification, and then showed a bunch of HTML5 demos in various browsers, proving that there's already features that developers can start playing with right now, and finally, I encouraged developers to join the mailing lists and send feedback on the spec. According to the twitter stream, the audience was learning (or "getting schooled") from the talk:

yoonkit: "HTML5: Drag&Drop without hacky JavaScript code. Supports events"

kamal_fariz: getting schooled on iframe hacks for cross-domain communication by @pamelafox

brianritchie: #fossmy participants are the first people that have seen HTML 5 canvas Car Nav implementation thx to @pamelafox .. cool..very

You can check out the slides below, or watch the tech talk by Ian Hickson that inspired my talk:

Overall, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and attitude of the Malaysian developers. They're going out of their way to push forward the state of open source in their country, and also going through the effort needed to create more of an actual community of developers. In the next few weeks, there will be a StartupCamp in Kuala Lumpur and a BarCamp in Johor Bahru. The Malaysians prove that developers anywhere can find a way to band together, communicate, collaborate, and form a community around their common interests. I'm now living in Sydney, Australia, for the next 5 months, and I look forward to finding out the ways in which Aussie developers form communities.