30 April 2014

Community-ness in Malaysia at its last breath?

It has been almost close to 5 years that I have set my foot on the Malaysian soil. Came over to Malaysia in July, 2009 with the aim of studying a bachelor, and now that I have completed, the journey in Malaysia is almost coming to an end in 2 months.

I have moved around quite a bit, so, it's pretty easy to not give much thoughts when leaving. But Malaysia is one which I spent the better half of my teenage years, and the one where I got into free & open source software (more of the ideology and appreciation, than contributing) and volunteering at events.

I have worked/volunteer for/with notable communities in Malaysia in the span of the last 3 or so years. I even helped grow a community with Beard-0 (the notable Cyber Security & Forensics Club of A.P.U ) I helped make Fedora Users' and Developers Conference APAC happen in Malaysia, along with Izhar, as the main event owner and many other volunteers. And I helped organise a few Fedora events in Kuala Lumpur and at my previous university. Also, me, Beard-0, naavinm and KE started a Capture The Flag (CTF) team called, GliderSwirley. We still try to play most CTF(s) that we could (please pardon the 0xn00bness, if you see us on CTFTime :P ). I also volunteer at Hack In The Box Security Conference and manage most of HackWEEKDAY (Hopefully, the sponsors and participants were happy about it).

Being a part of these communities have been the best extracurricular activities I could ask for. I know there are others like music, martial arts and whatever clubs in the university, but they don't align with my real interests. :P

The problem(s) I find in the way communities are running (not in any particular order);
  • the community leaders are >mid 20s-30s, they have full time jobs,
  • needs to be backed by a larger corp
  • not much passion for knowledge sharing (they just want to suck us dry :P )
When you look at communities like Python Malaysia, Fedora Malaysia and others, the real notable faces of the community have full time jobs. Although, they are pretty active at different events and theirs, there is no other person, especially from college/university students, to take over the leadership or just helping out at organizing events. I try to help most free and open source software (FOSS) communities because look at almost all the software(s) that we use, it's somehow based on FOSS, one way or another.

I find that college/university students like being a part of communities that are backed by larger corps (I will not name them here, don't want to offend anyone). I can't blame them though, they get good SWAG(s)!! like all the time. I'm not exactly sure if every other communities need to start distributing swag(s) just to attract more members? It's something I have not figure out yet. Or is it that there is no monetary rewards involved and students are not motivated because of that? :(

I have done quite a bit of workshops at CSFC, especially python. Because I find that the programming classes in the uni isn't on par with making students actually want to program and I find that python is easier to teach to/learn for beginners. Also, since a lot of security software(s)/scripts are based on python, I hopped that would kill 2 birds with 1 stone, by helping students learn a (new) programming language as well as be able to extend the security software(s), if they find lacking in features. Obviously, I did not have a full-on course figured out like how most classes are, the workshop(s) are aimed more towards motivating the members to start learning programming language(s) and understand how software(s) work, and are mostly 1session/week. I have only recently found out you could get funding from the Python Software Foundation, but now I have other adventures away from Malaysia. :(

It so happens that students just want to learn the stuff they learn at workshop, go back home and come back the next time without much thoughts about it. Although, some are really talented/works hard and comes up with questions/errors that I have not come across. Whenever a discussion takes place on a particular problem, not many wants to chime in with their ideas, they like to just keep quiet or agree to it. Not sure if the agreeing part is for the sake of agreeing or they're just afraid to voice out their opinions?

Also, I guess most students visioned that coming to CSFC means we will teach them which buttons to click on vulnerability/exploit finding software(s) and they can start being 1337 H4x0rs. But the sad reality of life is that being good at something doesn't just come from learning to click buttons and knowing how to use a mouse. I, myself, is not a security professional, there are a ton of knowledge I need to gather too, but I am pretty sure it doesn't always just involve clicking buttons and moving your mouse here and there.

So, after being a part of various communities in Malaysia for awhile, I have come to believe and decided (after thinking hard about it for the past ~4months, having discussed various times with Beard-0 and having talked to a few folks) that the community-ness in Malaysia is certainly at its last breath, don't want to call it dead though. Maybe some still believes it is still growing strong. But to me, it's at its last breath. I'd be lucky to attend/help out a few more community events in June (I know there is one in planning for Fedora Malaysia, if you're interested, please have a look at the agenda - https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Ambassadors/MalaysianTeam/Events/Fedora_Malaysia_Planning_Meeting_2014, we're still getting the date/venue sorted)

Although, my inner voice do hope that someone from the "younger/college/university" group in the community step-up and rekindle that community-ness fire in Malaysia. But I know that if I ever need to take a vacation in Malaysia and wants to meet the community folks, I can always find the Fedora/Python/Mozilla Malaysia, Code Equality (they're AWESOME!) and some of the HITB folks. :)

So long and thanks for all the fish!

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