Tag Archives: social causes

Code + Beer + Enthusiasm = Pune Hackfest

(Last weekend, the Pune Rails Meetup community organized a weekend-long Hackfest to build a Citizen Empowerment App. Gautam Rege, one of the organizers of this hackfest wrote this event report about the hackfest, which first appeared on the Josh Software blog, and is being re-published here with permission.)

Damn! Hackfests really work.

At the latest event of the Pune Rails Meetup – we organized a hackfest for the ‘second’ time (ahem – the first one ended before it started). This time however, we had a plan:

“Citizen Empowerment for Better Governance” – the aim was to complete the MVP for this in 2 days! We had a record attendance of 25-30 people on both days. I was skeptical of how much we could do, how much we can organize and if we can manage to keep everyone satisfied – it was make or break!

http://kipwiki.heroku.com — WE DID IT! This portal is almost complete (a few technical glitches but over all I would say it was success in more ways than one. The source code is hosted on github: https://github.com/punerb/kipwiki The hitch was that MongoHQ use v1.6 which does not support $nearSphere conditions for geo-spatial indexing — this causes our geo-location to go for a toss.

These are the lessons we learnt:

Pair Programming

This was not mandated but recommended (LoL — “mandatory pair-programing” — an oxymoron?). This photo says it all. Everyone paired with someone automagically — and it worked like a charm.

There were plenty of more modules build, tracked and tweaked. However, everyone was open to change, talking to everyone AND most importantly committed to “GETTING IT DONE”.

What we did

Initially,we had some mocks that we got confirmed – narrowed down the scope of work to 2 days, discussed with Peter at length what he wanted and then planned this hackfest. The first morning – we discussed the plan and with 1 hour we got down to business. This was our rails stack:

– Rails 3.0.7

– MongoDb (via Mongoid)

– Devise & omniauth for authentication

– mongoid-paperclip (with S3 as storage).

– Heroku and MongoHQ

– jQuery search result filtering

The Party continued into the night

Peter sponsored not just the lunches and dinners – but also ensured there was a steady flow of juices, snacks, fruits and beer! Shardul did not miss the chance to ‘showcase drink-fest’ 😉

Peter even bought a ‘Hackfest’ cake – what more could we ask for?

We worked on the first day till 11.30pm and then crashed to be ready for Day2. Day2 was very very productive and we were coding till 1.30am in the night to reach the finish.

Lots of beer, fun, ‘resolving conflicts’, ‘git blame’ games — and even doing something right like this one of Sergey! 😉

Coding, Designing and Testing

We were able to churn out a LOT of code indeed. But it did not start there. We had to design the web-portal with our designers, we had pivotal tracker to track stories and rspec to test the models. No we did not do ALL this. We used Pivotal tracker to check and evaluate stories and unfortunately we did not do Test Driven Development. Some of the things that we need to improve.

The excellent part of was that we had some rock-star programmers – who churned out a LOT of awesome code and we had some excellent designers who helped with designing.

“427 commits from 17 developers” and here is the impact:

We missed out on Test Driven Development!!

This is one thing that we need to do differently at the next hackfest. Its very important to see this work beautifully and always be ‘code green’.

All in all I think we are ready to be a part of RailsRumble later this year and I do intend to get Pune.rb on the RailsRumble map!


Rails Hackfest: Build a Citizen Empowerment webapp in a weekend – 11 June

Gautam Rege writes:

Pune Rails Meetup announces Hackfest: Citizen Empowerment web app for better governance.

After the post-adrenalin Rush of RubyConfIndia, we are proposing a HackFest which will get us all together to build a web-app. We cannot accommodate more than 25 people for this – so be quick to decide!

Come and go as you please at your convenience — The Hackfest is on for 48 hours!

The Brief

This is a web app to empower citizen’s to create ‘projects’ for better governance in your locality or city. For example, ‘Anna Hazare’s Anti-corruption’ campaign or the ‘Proposed Metro in Pune’ or the ‘Failure of BRTS’ or the ‘Tree Plantation Drive in Baner’, “How to Save Ramnadi” etc.

Projects can be Issues in your locality that you want the Government to look into or new Ideas to improve the locality or city that the Government should undertake. Using Viral Social Media, we can involve various representatives (RTI activist, social workers and government representatives) to take this up to the next level.


In true Aussie spirit, this Hackfest is being sponsored entirely by Peter Spiers. This project is his idea and he is keen to see how much the Pune Ruby community can deliver!

He will be providing for Beer, pizzas and soft-drinks throughout the duration of the Hackfest.

The Hackfest

The hackfest scope, stories have already been outlined and updated on Pivotal Tracker! Those interested can RSVP for this meetup. If you are interested in the pre-planning process (design, architecture, stories etc.) please send an email to Peter and he will add you to the project on Pivotal Tracker.

Tentatively, this is what we are looking at:

  • Rails 3.0.x and Ruby 1.9.2
  • MongoDB as the data store
  • Devise + Omniauth for authentication
  • Cancan for authorization
  • Mongoid-geo for geo-location.
  • HAML & Sass for templating.

If you are interested in learning or contributing, don’t miss this event.

When, where, how

This event will start at 10am, on Saturday June 11 (tomorrow), and will continue for 48 hours. It will be in the offices of Webonise Software, Mantri Lavendula, Survey No. 52/4/B/2 of Village Bavdhan Khurd Pune.

You can join at any time, and leave at any time. The event is free. It is also officially “closed”, but that shouldn’t really stop a passionate Rails hacker from being able to attend. Just contact the organizers Gautam Rege, Anthony Hsiao or venue sponsor Shardul Mohite and plead until they allow you in.

See the Pune Rails Meetup page for details.

C-DAC-ACTS Pune offers free IT courses for underprivileged minority students

To increase the opportunities available to poor minority students the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India has started a new initiative to offer job oriented training programmes through various institutes throughout India. Pune’s C-DAC, one of the premiere Government institutes for R&D in the information technology sector, will provide this training via their C-DAC ACTS (Advanced Computing Training School) center in Aundh, Pune.


ACTS is C-DAC’s existing insitute that provides IT training to graduate students. Here is an overview of ACTS from their website:

C-DAC Advanced Computing Training School (ACTS) was set up in 1993 to impart quality training in high-end technologies to existing and prospective users of advanced computing. Over the last sixteen years, the activities of ACTS have extended nationally through a network of more than 46 training centres spread across the country. C-DAC is committed to nation building through its Advanced Computing Training School (ACTS) and is the first Government Lab that has expanded its horizons globally, extending its high quality training services to countries like Mauritius, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Myanmar,Tanzania, Dubai and Japan.

Now ACTS will start offering free training under this new scheme. The objectives of the scheme are to assist students belonging to the minority communities by way of special coaching for Coaching/training for jobs in the private sector such as in airlines, shipping, fisheries, information technology (IT), business process outsourcing (BPO) and other IT enabled services job oriented courses as per the emerging trend of employment in the private sector.

More details of eligibility criteria are given here.

Currently, two courses (both are 5 month courses) are offered:

  1. Diploma in Embedded Programming. Minimum qualification BE/ MSC. This is a 5-month course.
  2. Diploma in Java Programming. Minimum qaulification 10+3(BSc)

For more details, and other courses offered, see the C-DAC ACTS ‘Coaching for Minority Community’ site

Breast cancer awareness drive needs help from Pune’s techies – Please help

(Monday, 8th March, is women’s day. PuneTech has decided to use that excuse to start a new series of articles highlighting inspiring stories about Pune’s women. For this purpose, we are roping in women techies who are active in the Pune tech community, and asking them to interview women who have great career stories and can serve as role models. Basically, by Pune’s women, of Pune’s women, for all of us. See this TechCrunch article by Vivek Wadhwa to get an idea of why this is important to do. We’re hoping that this will not just be an article or two in March, but a continuing series. We already have a number of interview candidates identified – but we need more interviewers. If you’re interested, please get in touch with us.

Normally, we expect to highlight women techies – those who have achieved something in the tech field. However, for the first post of this series, we’ve chosen a non-techie; but one who needs help from techies. We are hoping that Pune’s tech community will rally around her. Also note: women bloggers, twitterers will get a chance to interact with her at the Pune women’s blog/tweetup on Sunday 7th March.

This article has been written by Poonam Sharma, an instructional designer at an e-Learning company in Pune, and a prominent blogger.)

Dr. Capt. Ritu Biyani is a breast cancer survivor. Based in Pune, this lady has earned several feathers in her cap: ex-dental surgeon in army, first lady officer paratrooper from the army dental corps, a mountaineer, skydiver and a thorough nomad.

Her story is not important only because she is a cancer survivor, but because she chooses to dedicate her life for cancer awareness activism.  In her zeal to reach out to people around the country, she has driven solo across the country!

solo driving map
This is a map of the road trip that Dr. Ritu took across India with her daughter. They personally delivered breast cancer awareness workshops to over 26000 people in the remotest corners of India. Click on the map for a larger picture.

Along with her then 14-year-old daughter Tista, she drove to the four tips of India in a Ford endeavour for 177 days!

Together she and Tista (her daughter) hold the Limca Book of Records for first mother-daughter duo  expedition on cancer awareness across the country.

You can also read much more details about her story and her initiative at her full interview at the Visceral Observations blog, to know her cause and why another road trip.

On her first expedition, Dr. Ritu reached out to 26000 people. She plans to go on second expedition this time focused on North, Central and South India. However, for her endeavour, Dr. Ritu needs our help in several ways to make this expedition happen.

What is the foremost thing you need help with to make your expedition happen?

The first I need is a sturdy car, preferably 4X 4, since this is a road trip. A SUV with good ground clearance is a necessity. As a woman, safety is an additional concern.  I do not want to be stranded with an unreliable car that breaks down in a remote, distant inaccessible place. Last time I travelled on Ford Endeavour, which served well for the purpose.

Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.
Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.

This time I am looking for sponsors who believe in the cause enough to arrange funds for a car and other necessities like a data card and BSNL connection on roads. BSNL is the only one that works everywhere and phone is the only way I keep in touch with my family while I am on roads.

I would further need volunteers who can help me organise workshops locally during the expedition.

So you must be in touch with organisations that carry out corporate social responsibility initiatives?

Yes, I have few leads. But I am required to submit proposals. Since I have no prior experience in drafting such proposals, I am counting on help from your readers who are adept at this sort of thing. Further, any leads on possible sponsors are encouraged from the PuneTech readers.

What social media networking Websites have you been using to connect with possible volunteers for your cause?

I rely mostly on my email and phone. Thankfully, so far I have had considerable media coverage, all such articles carry my email and phone. People contact me through both. Then there is a Web site for my foundation Highways Infinite, which I admit requires an overhaul to reflect teh details of my work. I aim to add a section there where anyone can interact with the cancer experts.

I have never used social media networking, but yes I am waking up to its benefits. I am planning to open a twitter and facebook account. My challenge is that due to my schedule, I might not have enough time to manage these profiles. Moreover, I have a long way to go before I can be called ‘web savvy’. J

Perhaps it would help if we had volunteers who manage the twitter and facebook accounts for you. You mentioned something about requiring volunteers to organise the workshops.

Yes, though I have not yet planned my itinerary and exact date of my trips. It would be great if some local volunteers in different parts of India could step forward to organise the workshops in their area. Key assistance required is that they can coordinate and get together people from their community.  I also want to identify few volunteers, who could further be trained to conduct workshops in their own. This way even after I am gone, cancer awareness will continue.

This, as I understand, is a call for the volunteers in other parts of India, especially those living in north, central and south India along the central axis, the route on which you are planning your second expedition.  Is there anything that the volunteers from Pune can help you with?

Yes, I can think of at least two ways. I have been meaning to create a documentary of my first expedition and the recent cancer walk conducted in Pune. The latter is a short-time task. I have video footage that needs to be edited. I am learning to edit my videos, but any help in this task is appreciated.

However, creating documentary out of hours of amateur footage (me and my daughter have shot mostof it. )  is tedious. It requires more work. I also hired an video editor but it did not work out. Hopefully, through your readers I can find me someone who can help me with this mammoth task.

You mentioned a second way Pune volunteers can help you?

Yes, when I conduct workshops on my road trip. I would like to leave behind some posters on cancer awareness, facts and myths. I need help from some creative people who can create as many posters as possible. I have few templates for some such posters, but more creative ideas for the same are also welcome.

So there you go, techies and creative folks, you have it from Dr. Ritu herself as to how you can be part of her noble cancer awareness endeavour. You can brainstorm and suggest web-savvy ideas/strategies to spread her work, organise fund-raisers, and arrange for people who need workshops. Please step forward and extend your helping hand.

In case you want to contribute to Dr. Ritu’s project financially, you are more than welcome. NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL. Her foundation is called Highways Infinite. All donations are exempted under 80G [5] of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Dr. Ritu is a guest speaker at Women’s Day Tweet up in Pune on this Sunday , 7th March, 2010). If you are a women in Pune, you can register here and participate.

Contact details of Dr. Ritu Biyani

  • Email: missionhighways at gmail dot com
  • Phone:  +91 98812 32744

About the Author – Poonam Sharma

Poonam Sharma is an instructional designer by profession. She is a bibliophile, movie and theater lover, who doesn’t think twice to take up social causes. She calls herself a small-time activist and blogs at Visceral Observations.

(Editors note for those planning on helping out: Remember that Dr. Ritu is doing a lot of work by just herself. As such, she does not really have the time to do all the things that really could be done. So, rather than simply offering guidance, it would be better if you could actually offer to do things for her. For example, guiding her on how to use a facebook fan page to reach people is of limited use; much better is if you volunteer to not only create the fan page, but to run it (with inputs from Ritu), for the next 6 months. -PuneTech ed.)

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