Sahana Annual Meeting: A Google Summer of Code Student’s perspective

I am not a newcomer to Sahana, having participated as a Google Summer of Code in 2011 as well. However, I dismissed last year’s Sahana Annual Meeting as something way over my head, and not applicable to me. How wrong I was.

The Sahana Software Foundation makes a provision to accommodate their Google Summer of Code students at the Annual Meeting, as a laudable move to bring new blood in to the organization. I must admit, after attending the meeting and seeing first-hand (or in some cases, second) all the great work and innovation that goes in to building Sahana and keeping it going, I believe I would never be inclined to leave this wonderful and exciting organization.

The Sahana Annual Meeting for 2012 was held from 26-28 May in New York. Being a Sri Lankan, it was an unbelievably exciting prospect for me to be able to attend such a prestigious event while being able to visit the Big Apple at the same time. When Mark sent out an email inviting GSoC students to participate, I was quick to take up the offer.

I arrived in New York on the 24th, tired and disoriented, but had the opportunity to meet Martin Thomsen, Dominic König and Michael Howden at Mark’s place, where we were all gracefully accepted by Mark’s family as guests.

On the next day, I went along with the others to attend the last day of SahanaCamp NYC, and although I am not that familiar with Sahana Eden which we were hacking on that day, I had fun talking to Jeremy, a Wikipedia/Debian veteran who is one of the latest additions to the Sahana Community. Meeting Fran Boon, who is quite a character, was fun as well. Bhaavan Merchant, another Google Summer of Code student from India who was attending the meeting, turned up that day, and we became fast friends.

The next 3 days were a blur of discussions, arguments and ideas as I dove in head-first in to the world of Sahana beyond simple coding, and I found out that developing Sahana products is only a minor part of what the Sahana Software Foundation does. There is so much more of planning, communication and interaction with the people who need Sahana that goes in to delivering the humanitarian services that the Foundation provides.

For me, some points that really stood out during the meeting were:

  • The decision for the Sahana Software Foundation to become a member of OASIS.
  • A major re-structuring of the way the Foundation functions and provides support for each of its products.

It was an honor to be sitting with the top brass of the Sahana Software Foundation and to hear their personal stories of how they became involved in the development of the Foundation. There were many laughs and hilarious moments proving to me that this is an organization built on the shoulders of kind-hearted people totally committed to saving the world.

Bhaavan and I were put up at the Pennsylvania Hotel in the heart of New York by the Foundation, and we went on many sightseeing trips accompanied by Pat Tressel, who was quite interesting to travel with and talk to.

At the end of it all, it was with sadness in my heart that I boarded the plane from JFK Airport to return home, and would like to thank the Sahana Software Foundation for having me for their Annual Meeting. It would be wrong if I did not thank Mark and his wonderful family for taking great care of me as their guest. I hope to see them again soon. I would like to express my immense gratitude to the members of the Foundation who attended the meeting as well; you made my experience a colorful one.

The Sahana Software Foundation’s Annual Meeting was a truly novel and important event in my life. I can assure you that, after this, the Sahana Software Foundation has me for life. I want to help save the world.


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