MonthJanuary 2011

NEN First Dot 2010 – What I learnt

I was part of the team that organized NEN First Dot – a student startup showcase. I was involved from day 0, so I was able to see it evolve from a high-in-the-sky concept to something that actually did happen. It was an incredible experience, to say the least.

What I learnt

I was the ‘tech’ guy – working with a few people (Karthik, Arun, Madhu, Dinesh, etc) to take care of most things tech. The entire team that organized this was rather huge – and I was pretty much interacting with them all the time. This was the first time I felt “part of something larger than myself” – part of a large Team for real. It was an incredible learning experience, to say the least.

Here is a partial list, written a few weeks after the event ended. By no means complete.

  • “A small group of dedicated individuals will always be able to bring about large amount of changes”
  • When you see your boss work on till 3 AM, then get up at 6 AM to get back to work – it almost fills you with a sense of pride just to work with someone like that. I’ll be damned if I let myself slack off! This is incredibly important – it’s hard to respect someone who asks you to work when he is busy playing poker & partying all the time.
  • Your team is incredibly important. Dedication matters more than talent. Who isn’t part of your team is almost as important as who is.
  • Flaking is what marks you as unreliable and childish – and it’s very hard to shake that kinda reputation off.
  • Assigning blame is absolutely pointless. And counterproductive.
  • Email is an incredibly shitty way to be the sole medium of communication when organizing anything. We should’ve tried something like Basecamp. Our mailing list degenerated into unusable levels well before the event – most stuff was done via private mails with millions of people CCed – resulting in knowledge gaps and why-was-I-not-CCed-syndrome. A lot of money is there for the guys who figure out how to replace email in this context.
  • JFDI is incredible underrated.
  • NEN is doing an incredible job of what the education system is supposed to be doing – making men out of boys (and women out of girls).
  • The social landscape is rather very diverse – and major parts of it are still absolutely unexplored from my POV. While at a much better position now than I was 3 years ago, I’ll still file this bug as #needinfo
  • MBAs aren’t all useless. Some of the time. There – I said it.
  • Being in a college which doesn’t impose incredibly stupid rules frees up your mind to be worried about other things that might matter at some point (or not), rather than things that absolutely do not matter at all, in any universe. For example, you don’t have to worry about being caught and treated as a criminal for wearing a shirt with Two Pockets.
  • Don’t judge people. Don’t jump to conclusions. The world isn’t deterministic.
  • If you trust people, and give them responsibility and authority, they will often surprise you with the amount of work they are willing to put in. Don’t underestimate people.
  • You can’t hold yourself responsible for other people’s actions.

I could probably expand each of these points into a post on their own – and maybe I will someday :) This post, however, should make sure I don’t forget much of these next time around!

Functional Programming Geekweekend at Thoughtworks

[Note: I’ve a rather large backlog of blog posts to do, will push them out as soon as I can]

Saturday (22 Jan 2011) was spent at Geekweekend, organized at Thougtworks Chennai. The event had awesomeness written all over it, even before it started – how can any event where you register through a (rather limited, but still) command line interface on a website be not good? :D

I was late as usual (damn living so far away from everywhere) – and found my way walking through the underbelly of the Kathipara junction thanks to Google Maps’ Walking Directions :P


Missed the first session. Turned up for the clojure session – it was good. I’ve been meaning to learn one of the OMGPARANTHESES langueages, and from the tooling/library support – clojure seems to be the way to go. Spent time during the talk setting up my machine to do clojure dev (took forever to setup – it is a netbook, afterall). Wanted to build something small before the end of the event (like a URL Shortener!) but too late for that.

I do plan on writing something with clojure in the short term though. Looking for ideas.


Lunch. Met the usual group of geeks around. Fun, as usual :D Lunch was excellent. Me and Superkiddo continued the tradition of stealing sweets from Kishore‘s plate :D


Then came the session on Monads. I still don’t understand them. But that’s okay – the discussion was rather intellectually stimulating. It also reminded me that my mathematical/theoretical-cs foundation is incredibly weak (by geek standards) and needs updating/pushing up. Should start on SICP (again).

Purely Functional Languages on the fringe

The discussions were the most fun, productive part of the day, IMO. Most people who weren’t fully interested had already left – so the self-selected crowd was rather intense. Nobody there was actually using any purely functional language in production – which was expected. My opinion is that purely functional languages will always be on the fringe – as they should be. But features from them will trickle in slowly into mainstream, blub programming languages (even PHP has lambdas now!). Learning to think in a functional way will expand your mind, and make you a better programmer – even if you’re not programming in a purely functional language.

My Irrational Hate for Java

I’m not sure from where — perhaps the fucked up Java GUI apps, or my early stage semicolon/case-sensitivity hate (hey, I was 14, what do you expect!) or the fact that Java the language is way too verbose — I’ve had an irrational hate of all things Java/JVM. But that’s just that – irrational. So I’m taking a concerted effort to learn myself some JVM – hence clojure. I still don’t like Java the language (C# FTW!) – but the tools and libraries around JVM seem to be pretty good. Let’s see how this experiment at de-biasing turns out!

Functional Programming Users group

The idea of a Functional Language Users group was floated around. Waiting for it to turn up!

Update: Here you go. Join up and keep posting. I’m not sure how the idea of posterous groups will work out though.

Thoughtworks ‘crowd’

I’ve generally found that events organized at Thoughworks/by Thoughtworkers have higher average audience quality than most other events. Thanks for putting together events guys :)

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