Hell Oh Entropy!

Life, Code and everything in between

The new fudcon.in: Why and How

Posted: May 18, 2015, 22:31

We had a major change earlier this week, with the new fudcon.in website going live. This was a major task I was involved in over the last couple of weeks, and also one of the major reasons why we did not have a lot of visible action on the website. Hopefully you’ll see more action in the coming weeks as we come closer to the big day with just over a month to go.

Why did we do it?

The old fudcon.in website was based on Drupal 6.x with the COD module. Technically, this is a supported version of Drupal, but that is a pointless detail because every security or bug fix update was painful. The primary reason, it seemed to us, was COD. The 6.x version seemed more or less dead. We still stuck to it however, since the 7.x upgrade was far more painful than doing these updates and hacking at settings to get things working again.

That was until we decided to add the Speaker bio field to our sessions.

The COD module is very versatile and can let you ask for arbitrary information about a session. However, when you add a field, you can capture data from users, but cannot actually show it. The problem seemed to be in the way COD stored its additional data - drupal seemed unable to query it when displaying the session node and hence would refuse to show all of the additional fields, like FAS username, Twitter handle and speaker bio. Praveen and I hacked at the settings for days and couldn’t get it to work. We went live with the missing speaker bio, which apparently nobody else seemed to notice.

However, when we put out the talk list, the absence of speaker bio was evident, so I decided to take a crack at fixing it in code. I gave up because I was quickly overwhelmed by the Drupal maze of dependencies - I have spent way too long away from the web app world - and decided that I may have an easier time upgrading all of Drupal and COD to 7.x than peering at the Drupal/COD code and then maintaining a patch for it. I also felt that the upgrade would serve us better in the longer run, when we have to use the website to host a future FUDCOn - upgrading from 7.x ought to be easier than upgrading from 6.x.

How we did it

I sat back one weekend to upgrade the Drupal instance. The instructions make it sound so easy - retain the sites directory and your modules and change the rest of the code, call the Drupal update.php script and wait for it to do the magic. It is that easy, if your website does not use anything more than the popular modules. With COD, it is basically impossible to go from 6.x to 7.x, especially if you have added custom fields like we did.

Data definitions for COD seemed to have changed completely between 6.x and 7.x, making it near impossible to write a sensible migration script, especially when the migrator (yours truly) has no idea what the schema is. So I went about it the neanderthal way - remove all content, retain all users and then upgrade to Drupal 7.x from COD 6.x. That thankfully worked like a charm. This was a useful first step because it meant that at least we did not have to ask users to sign up again or add hundreds of accounts manually.

Once our user schema was on 7.x, the next task was to get COD 7.x. This again worked out quite easily since COD did not complain at all. Why would it - there was no conference content to migrate! Creating a new event and basic pages for the event was pretty straightforward and in fact, nicer since the new COD puts conference content in its own namespace. This would mean shared links being broken, but I didn’twant to bother with trying to fix that because there were only a few links that were shared out there. If this is too big a problem, we could write a .htaccess rule to do a redirect.

Adding sessions back was a challenge. It took me a while to figure out all of the data that gets added for each session and in the end I gave up due to exhaustion. Since there were just about 140 session entries to make, Praveen and I split that work and entered them ourselves. Amita and Suprith then compared content with fudcon.in to verify that it is all the same and the finally Praveen pushed the button to upgrade.

Like everything else, this upgrade taught me a few things. Web apps in general don’t think a lot about backward compatibility, which is probably justified since keeping backward compatibility often results in future designs being constrained - not something a lot of developers are comfortable with. I also had to refresh a lot of my database foo - it’s been more than 6 years since the last time I wrote any serious SQL queries.

The biggest lesson I got though was the realization that I am no longer young enough to pull an all-nighter to do a job and then come back fresh the next day.


Talk selection for FUDCon Pune 2015

Posted: Apr 14, 2015, 23:39

We received over 140 submissions for FUDCon Pune and Amit, Kushal, Neependra and I had our task cut out. We had room to select about 40 talks and some workshops given that we did not want to go over 3 main talk tracks for the conference - workshops would be treated separately since their requirements are usually completely different from the talks.

We decided to do this in multiple passes, reducing the number of talks till we had a list that we were satisfied with. We started by individually scoring all of the talks and then comparing notes. This gave us an indication of talks we had full agreement over and with that out of the way, we just had to fight it out over the remaining talks. We quickly found out that this was time consuming, but there seemed to be no other way, so we stuck to it and asked for our original self-imposed deadline to be pushed over from 3rd April to 15th April.

Docker, Docker Docker, Gluster, Gluster, Gluster...

One thing that stood out during our selection process was the sheer number of submissions for Container technologies (Atomic, Docker), Software defined storage (Gluster, Ceph) and OpenStack. We did not want to reject a lot of these talks but at the same time we did not want to turn a Fedora conference into a Cloud conference, so after discussing in the FUDCon planning meeting, we decided to have 3 separate tracks for these talks. Each track would run for a day, with an introductory talk in the main track followed by sessions and workshops in a separate dedicated track. On the last day, a representative from each track would give a 10 minute summary of what happened at their track.

This format obviously meant that these talks were not suitable for inclusion in the tracks as is - speakers would have to get together and work on the kind of talks they want to see at their track so that they tell a coherent story around that technology. We also identified leaders for each track to coordinate this effort, but the leaders do not decide what goes in their track. It is the job of the entire group to come to a consensus about their talks and what their track looks like. We have begun communicating this to the speakers now and are looking forward to their active participation.

And the speakers are...

This has been the slowest bit. The mass mailer module on the Drupal COD is not working for us for some reason and we’re now trying to figure out how to not do the busy work of sending individual emails and using a script to do this at least for accepted proposals. The rejections are a bit trickier because we haven’t declined a lot of talks outright. There are a lot of cases where we want to request speakers to run a BoF for their topics or merge their workshop with another workshop proposal if possible, to provide more complete coverage on the topic. Even for those that we have declined outright, we would like to make sure that they still come since we would like to hear from them at the barcamp or at the lightning talks. We would like to try as much as we can to get space for everybody to share their experience and knowledge at FUDCon.

All of this means that we have to send out a lot of personal emails and that is taking time. We would like to hold off publishing the list until we have sent out these emails, so we hope to come up with a finished list by the end of the week, or latest by the next meeting.

Travel and Stay

As we have mentioned before, if you are an active Fedora contributor or a speaker and want to come to FUDCon but don’t have the resources to travel or the means to stay in the city for the duration of the conference, then let us know. We have a limited budget to support travel and stay, which we can use to help some of you. Being selected as a speaker does not necessarily entitle you to travel and stay, you need to make this request regardless of the result if you need assistance. The deadline for submitting these requests is 30th April, but we’re processing them every week, so don’t wait till the last day to make your request.

Every week brings FUDCon Pune closer and we’re very excited about sharing ideas with some very interesting people. See you all at FUDCon!


FUDCon Pune Planning meeting minutes: 2015-04-07

Posted: Apr 07, 2015, 04:33

The FUDCon volunteer team met again today after a week to discuss progress. Todays meeting had sparse attendance and we mostly just skimmed over the main points. The main highlight was the acceptance of a number of travel sponsorship tickets. If you intend to come to FUDCon Pune and need travel assistance, please file a ticket for sponsorship. We’re accepting requests till 30th April 2015.

The other highlight was that the talk selection process wasn’t going as fast as we had thought. We will need another week before we can come up with a list of selected talks. The deadline for it is now revised to 14th April.

We also had some movement on the SWAG front, with a couple of volunteers (including yours truly) to get quotes for various swag items. The full minutes follow; most points are a repeat of last week to maintain a current state of each of the main points.

7 April 2015

Agenda + Minutes


FUDCon will be in Pune this June!

Posted: Jan 24, 2015, 08:16

We had to wait 4 years for this, but it is finally happening again. The 2015 APAC chapter of FUDCon will be in Pune this year and it will be from 26-28 June.

After a great event at COEP in 2011, this year our hosts will be MIT College of Engineering. MITCOE has offered us great infrastructure, which paired with their enthusiastic staff and eager students makes for a great place to have this years FUDCon. As in 2011, we will try our best to keep all our decisions and arrangements transparent. Amit has mentioned a list of channels we intend to use for our communication, so hop on if you have suggestions or even just want to lurk to find out how things are going.

And finally, if you’re interested in speaking at the event, make sure you plan your travel accordingly. The official CfP will be out real soon.

See y’all in Pune!