[TOS] POSSE Malaysia bid document

Mel Chua mel at redhat.com
Wed Aug 17 03:12:41 UTC 2011

Harish got this document from Malaysia -- following 
http://teachingopensource.org/index.php/POSSE_bid_process. My comments 
are below.


Let me start off by saying that I think the initiative being taken by 
the folks at UPM (the host university in Malaysia) is great, and that 
these comments might sound blunt, but they're meant in the spirit of a 
bug report ("what do we need to fix in order to get this to happen?") 
rather than "this is a terrible idea, let me squash it down."

With that disclaimer:

First of all, this is Really Short Notice; they want to do a 5-day 
workshop (we're counterproposing 2-day) starting August 22nd, which is 6 
days from now. I don't think that timeline is realistic for fixing the 
remainder of my concerns.

My biggest concern is that there are no applicants; we don't know who is 
coming, why they want to do this, and what their background and 
expectations are. This concern alone would make me worry. Is there a way 
we can get to know these folks before flying out to teach a workshop to 

Secondly, they propose a focus on git as a project; is there a local git 
developer that could be present for the workshop? Right now, no 
instructors (that I'm aware of) have experience contributing to that 
community. Also, git is a pretty complex project that I would imagine to 
be difficult to contribute to without (at minimum) understanding and 
using version control -- and git in particular -- first. If attendees 
come in without that background, I highly doubt we'd be able to help 
them understand how to contribute to the project in a code-based 
technical manner in 2 days. (I'm guessing there may be nontechnical or 
more peripheral tasks they could do, but it doesn't sound like that's 
the primary interest -- perhaps it should be, though, as POSSE workshops 
are a lot more about cultural immersion than technical skill 
acquisition; the first you need to sink into with a bunch of good 
mentors, the second you can read documentation at home for.)

Finally: I have no doubt that Harish (who is awesome) can fly out to 
Malaysia in a week and teach a completely kickass workshop for 
professors, be it 2 or 5 days, on something related to open source 
contribution. But we've been working to move POSSE towards a common 
upstream curriculum and experience, and I'd want to see consistency for 
more than "it's for professors and it's about teaching open source." How 
can we get there?

One option is to say "the materials are open and remixable," and have 
Harish go out on the short notice indicated and do a workshop, but not 
call that POSSE (and not worry about it having to be consistent).

Another option is to push the workshop date back at least a month or 
two, and bring in one or more of the instructors from this summer's 
Raleigh POSSE to get some continuity going. That stands a chance of 
being consistent enough to be called a POSSE, though it's more expensive 
and logistically difficult.

In the back of my mind, I think "you can't learn everything about open 
source in a weekend; it's the sustained little bits of follow-up 
throughout the school year that really make the difference" (just like 
you can't learn Spanish in a weekend; 16 hours spread evenly over 16 
weeks will get you farther than 16 hours in 2 days) and wonder if the 
right long-term solution is to see if next year's budget can expand 
enough to have *two* POSSE cohorts -- one in North America, and one in 
Asia. And I wonder what the proposers in Malaysia would say to that.

Wow, this email sounded much more pessimistic than I thought it would; I 
feel a bit like an evil person putting up barriers to entry. Any ideas 
for what I can do to unblock folks while still ensuring quality & 
consistency of experience?

And any further thoughts on Malaysia?


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