Tuesday, 23 August 2016

CODATA-RDA School of Research Data Science

I recently attended the 'CODATA-RDA School of Research Data Science' at International Centre for Theoretical Physics,Trieste, Italy. With participants from almost 16 developing countries from varied academic backgrounds, we had an amazing workshop with all hands-on training with specific tools and softwares.
Middle East and South-east Asia
Opinions from Africa

Ideas about Open Science from East and Australia

Reasons not to share data and counter-arguments

The idea of Open Science and it's principles was the key focus of our workshop. We discussed a lot of myths and stereotypes surrounding our individual ideas of Open Science and how different factors influence different regions for open sharing.

While accessibility to Internet connection  is a major issue in Cuba, unwillingness to share one's work before publishing it is mostly common among all regions.
With hands-on practice, we learned about topics ranging from basics like Unix, R, SQL and Git to advance like Neural Networks, High Performance Computing, Distributed Environment and Visualization.

A peak into one of the visualization ideas

Participants experimenting with visual ideas through pen and paper

 We got lucky enough to grab the recent journal of 'Open Data in a Big world', too.

Apart from technical expertise, I met so many people and learned about new culture and places due to the global immersion. It was a lot of learning.The fact that how 'where we are born' can influence our lives so much, amazed me. How subtly we get entitled to so many things and we don't appreciate them enough!
A Saudi Arabian friend told me that there are still walls within the university classrooms to segregate boys and girls.While a Cuban guy shared that there is no internet there, for general people. Just because he's a professor, he can access the web at 36Kbps. I can't even imagine, both the situations!

Somehow, they depict how important and hard , open access and sharing of research is, for some communities. And it's a bigger and much needed goal!

My favorite success story from the workshop is about my roommate from India. With no technical background at all and complaints of how her programmer colleagues from office used to trick her by telling how complex work they are doing, she gained a huge confidence after the workshop and learned a lot of 'know-hows' about Data Science.

In and all, it was an amazing experience with lot of learning. I learned about international standards of Open access and data sharing. I got a huge community to keep the spirit of 'Open Science' high and spread across our own local communities.
Thank you all organizers, directors and sponsors for making it possible.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Jagriti Yatra 2015

JY is about living life with some 450 random strange souls.
It is about that feeling of owning the whole train.
It's about that care a random yatri shows, when you are freezing in the cold nights of Deoria.
It's about exposing oneself into the rural sands of India, while all you did until now was visiting malls.
It's about being introduced in new cultures, states and languages.

JY is about exploration of self and outside.
It is about hidden heroes and unsung stories of India.
It's about letting go of your own personal opinion and putting oneself in other's shoes.
It's about couples, lasting relationships and business partnerships.
It's about summarizing 15 days into 'Who are you?' , 'What do you do?', 'From which part of the world, do you belong?'

JY is then about forgetting a fellow yatri's name with whom you had an introduction hour before.
It's about sleeping in the bumpy buses, moving trains, longer sessions and comforting auditoriums.
It's about those continuous complaints regarding food which we can't stop eating.
It's about looking for friends from all the states and 23 countries to crash, while traveling
It is about breaking myths and stereotypes about middle India and their real problems

JY is about that bio-gas plant working in a self sustainable village of Bihar.
It's about that family business being replicated around the world.
It's about realizing the fact that not only bitcoin, but clothing can be used as a currency
It's about interaction with grandmothers who never learned to read and write, but pursuing careers as solar engineers
It's about stories that defines success in variable terms

JY is about physical strain, mental boggling and transformation, no matter how little
It's about that yatri who is keeping record of 450 numbers, e-mails and adding friends on facebook
It's about thousand selfies everybody took on their voyage of exploring India.
It's about learning French and teaching Hindi to an Algerian woman.
It's about forming new opinions

JY is about celebrating new year's eve in train that one will never forget,for life
It's about a conversation with both not knowing each other's languages
It's about having meals on the platform and days of continuous eating
It's about that experience of bathing in the train and hanging clothes around
It's about reminiscing this feeling of owning the train,every time one steps onto a station.

for some, it's life changing
for others, a travel exploration
for some, it's about new friends
for others, new ideas and enterprises
for some, meeting inspiring role models
for others, those ever lasting bonds
for some, that feeling of not missing home
for others, finding a new comfort zone

We learned to unlearn
we demystified, we criticized
we agreed to disagree
we brainstormed, we pondered

JY is about resonating with same views, ideas and people
JY is about ordinary souls with an extraordinary story
JY is just about a train with a very crazy idea.

Friday, 19 June 2015


Be it the wooden telescope, discussion on un-gendered spaces, difference of spirituality and religion,pizza making sessions without oven by Paola,, an unplanned first trek to Snowline Cafe, tents as sleeping beds, yoga lessons by freeman and a lot of interesting things, Hillhacks is just the place to be. 

Organized by awesome bunch of people, these guys are doing some great stuff in the nature's realm in the most random way possible.Leaving aside city's hectic schedule and taking usual naps from office hours, people came here, to be in the continuous flow of learning and hence, hacking and making in the Himalayas.

Interdisciplinary just as most of my attended events, it also had an edge of having people from countries like Spain, Japan,and inspiring travelers more.
As spontaneous as it could be possible, I packed my bags in the sunny afternoon of 29th May and somehow convinced my cousin, to leave for Meclodganj in the evening. Super-excited as I was and welcomed by this piece of board, I figured out what to expect and quick enough,that I am at the right place.

And,then began a series of introduction with people around, meeting awesome hackers,makers and travelers. And when like-minded people get together, it calls for an unexpected and sudden plan, which ended up in unplanned trek to Triund.
We just didn't stop there. And mind you too, if you ever plan a trek to Triund, don't stop there. Snowline Cafe is the place, that you shouldn't miss.

Slept in tents at hills, star-gazed, hopped through mountains, made breakfast by lightning a fire, almost tried to explore a cave, but left that for the next time. And,got amazed by waking up to this view, next morning!

Trekking is undoubtedly lot of fun, but what mesmerized and made us hold on to this place, was an uncalled hailstorm, giving an awe-struck moment to around 30 people who were taking a shade in a little cafe. We got hooked to this place for three more hours because of snow. Neither the weather allowed us to move, nor we wanted to.

And we reached back to Shiv Shakti, next evening. Oh, its the place where we stayed, where hillhacks was organised. More than half of the people taunted us that we went there,just to trek. And,so do I feel.

Coming back to hillhacks, amazing stuff kept going at a great pace, even in our absence. Regular afternoon sessions on technical topics like computer security & protection etc. An outreach program for the school kids was also organized and kids participated quite enthusiastically.
We bid farewell everyone on 3rd June and took our own self-printed t-shirts as a souvenir. 

Hacker's Paradise,may be!  !

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

'Memoir'- Disruptive Design Innovation expedited by MIT Media Lab

"Once you have an innovation culture, even those who are not scientists or engineers - poets, actors, journalists - they, as communities, embrace the meaning of what it is to be scientifically literate. They embrace the concept of an innovation culture. They vote in ways that promote it. They don't fight science and they don't fight technology". -Neil deGrasse Tyson


And,that's what MIT Media Lab promotes upto an extent.Well, MIT Media Lab India Initiative was more than just a design workshop.The initiative helped in building up a community of awesome bunch of people from around India. Those awesome 7 days gave an enthralling experience to each one of us. Learning was fun to such an extent that I am pretty sure, its going to be really hard for most of us to attend the college lectures now.

80 Projects. 10 Tracks.280 students across India.10 Start-ups. 25 MIT Mentors.

Bringing much diversity and intersection of unconventional ideas at a place with people from all domains and thus strengthening the spirit of 'anti-disciplinary approach', Kshitij Marwah and all other organizers really pulled off a great event.Thanks to the amazing mentors and whole MIT Media Lab for making it possible.

It all started with field trips followed by excessive brainstorming,ideation processes and walls filled with sticky notes and posters.Participants were so passionate about their ideas that pulling off an all-nighter was a piece of cake.Wrapping up with a working prototype in seven days and pulling up our sleeves for an open-house session is what we all cared about.Overall,it had been an amazing week with 'lot-to-learn' experiences and 'forever-to-cherish' moments.

A week bunched with insanity, fun, innovation, ideas,brainstorming,cool projects and amazing people.One hell of an astounding experience!. I would like to end it with the words from Benjamin Franklin. "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

Saturday, 20 December 2014

'Reminiscence'- Winter School at IIM-A

"We all have our time machines. Some take us back,they are called memories.Some take us forward,they are called dreams" - Jeremy Irons.

Those five days can't be easily put up on a paper. It was just more than a 'Winter School'. And,it started with a broader vision and huge enthusiasm.I am sure that it has changed many perceptions of people there,no matter how little.

My thoughts on education,literacy and learning changed completely.It was like that you have been brought up by learning some structured lessons and forming particular opinions and one has always thought that way.And then one day,someone contradicted you and you realized that it too,does make sense and you just never thought that way. I felt the same.

And,then IIM-A taught this by doing what they are best at. We got lessons on different aspects of research and education.From the Cake experiment to teach us about how to distribute resources,field trips,workshop sessions on community building to bonfire night,everything was perfectly in place.

Bringing together people from different educational institutions with varied experiences and ideas was like icing on the cake. We shared ideas,brainstormed and learned a lot of things from each other's opinions.I met some best set of people. Penning down everything which happened during those five days would be really difficult. And,even if one would be able to document that,I doubt that he/she will be able to recreate that same aura that we experienced.

I appreciate the organizers for pulling off an event like that,such brilliantly.I look forward to that little change that we are going to make in our society. I applaud the initiative and responsibility that IIM-A took, for being a part of this change.
I thank everyone there for igniting that spark in me to contribute for society and do my bit. It was a wonderful experience and one worth remembering.

Thank you,IIM-A.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Startup Weekend @IIT Delhi

Imagine you enter a place with random thoughts and complete strangers,pitch your idea, convince ,brainstorm and end up with a prototype at the end of two-day event. Yes!, I just described a Startup Weekend event in one line.

Bring randomness to the moment,fun and curiosity will follow.

Sounds quite bizarre? I know. Well obviously, discussing an idea and raising a startup in a two-day span sounds ideal in theory. But,the event made a brilliant attempt to give an emotion of 'what it feels like to start a startup or work in one'. It gave an experience of 'what one should expect if they are willing to go on that path'. And,it taught that a startup is not all that fancy as it sounds.
Well, all of this is coming from a perception of student's observation,who learned a lot about a lot of new things.

It began with most bizarre seventy-seven ideas pitched on the first night.Out of which,20 got selected with much convincing efforts for further collaboration and building a prototype.

“If you're not embarrassed when you ship your first version, you waited too long.” ― Matt Mullenweg (Founder of Wordpress). 
We were continuously slogging away for straight 48 hours,to meet the two-day's deadline and working on our projects.And,the teams left judges in surprise with the prototype that they had come up with,in such span.But,we better know where we missed.

Not to forget,I was pretty much surprised with the way the whole event was co-ordinated.And,the organizers were pretty amazing and kept everyone's spirits high.People of different domains brought varying perceptions in ideas and their executions.

If I would say that winning is not everything,then I would probably be lying.But,I agree that it was one hell of an experience .

Friday, 5 September 2014

My Book Bucket Challenge

From pouts and poses to selfies to ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to Book Bucket challenge, everything that has been there on Facebook now or before,creates a fad among the youth. Yes, I suppose 'fad' defines the situation correctly. Let me take you through the definition once, Wikipedia defines fad as any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed enthusiastically for a period of time, generally as a result of the behavior being perceived as popular by one's peers or being deemed "cool" by social media. It is said to "catch on" when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly.

Undoubtedly,I am happy to see that the focus finally shifted from pouts and selfies to something that helped to raise the money for a good cause. Despite of the fact that many people were completely unaware of the "Lou Gehrig's Disease" or the ALS association,for that matter.I am satisfied that people stood up for this,with an intention of helping a cause, just by throwing a bucket of ice water on their head. Well, I have never thought that it is this easy on our part, to make such a difference.Pity, my small brain!

This rage inspired other challenges like Rice Bucket Challenge and what not. So, Book Bucket Challenge is one among those. The extent of happiness, when one see his/her Facebook Timeline filled with sensible stuff,famous authors and book names was followed by complete despondency of the fact that how the word 'influenced' is mis-interpreted with 'just-read' in this context.

Well,I am not an avid reader of books.Most of my literary reads were,from school.I won't try to escape by giving a shallow excuse of over-burdened schedule in engineering colleges(though,such is the case).I read and a lot,but most of them includes blogs,magazines,quotes and answers on quora.

Though,I could have easily stated 10 books that I have read.But, seriously, going on the 'influencing' part, I found none.Well, that's too narrow range of reads,on my part. And to the every post on my timeline (not generalizing,though!), I would really love to know how they were influenced by those books. The only 'literary reads' that have really influenced me,are as follows :

1. Quotes from Mark Twain,Oscar Wilde and Charles Bukowski (read on blogs,pages and websites)
2. Where the mind is without fear- A poem by Rabindranath Tagore
3. That excerpt from Julius Caesar, we read in tenth.
4. A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens.

Well,I should read more often because "A man who reads lives a thousand lives".Keep reading!