Thursday, September 4, 2014

Making of a Maker Party

Mozilla is asking all of us to throw parties all over the world from July 15 to September 15. Webmakers all over the world are responding by hosting "Maker Parties" wherever they can.

I did one too.

This is a report for the sake of other webmakers.

To begin with there was me. I have been getting a lot interested in the web ever since the Firefox 29 launch party in Bangalore a few months ago. Also, I was learning web developer's power tools like yeoman after getting stuck with optimization of saMMsCRIthi '14 website.

And there was Swathi. The moment she heard about maker party she was excited and wanted to host one at her home. Since she had WiFi all we wanted was some participants.

After postponing the event twice about 10 people were all set to attend on August 31, Sunday. I registered the event only two days before the party. And therefore there was no point asking Mozilla for some stickers or banners. So Swathi took colour prints of the webmaker logo, firefox logo, etc and made some awesome goodies on her own!

The awesome self-made goodies by Swathi. Note that the maker party stickers on the left had double sided sticky tape behind it so that they could be stick-ed anywhere.
Since our event was from 12 noon to 7 in the night, Swathi also had to take care of lunch. Thanks to her awesome mom for the nice food!

I'd remixed a teaching kit and made this kit for a small maker party. But it was very boring what I came up with. So, most of the activities were planned an hour before they happened.

I reached the venue at 10 am, well in advance to make sure everything would work fine, but that wasn't necessary because the host had taken care of it all. All I had to do was get the WiFi password and make sure it was connectable. 10-12 I made a small webpage for the event which was useful in demonstration of some activities too.

Luckily not all 12 of the people who wanted to come did come. Therefore everyone could sit in 2 couches + 3 chairs in one room.

See how cramped everyone was. But that made working together easy.

Around 1 we started with the IP by hand activity. I believe that people should understand the chain of events that happen whenever they do anything, and if they do they can easily understand everything else surrounding it. So the participants assumed the roles of browser, router, ISP, DNS, internet backbone, server, and domain name registrar. And then we sent IP like requests with originating address, to address, etc in a piece of paper.

Immediately after that I could explain how the router works, how our 6 computers were connected to each other even if we removed the wire connection from Airtel. We went to 192.168.1.1 and learned how to configure the router. Then we went to 192.168.1.2 where I had the local version of the event webpage running and I explained how a server works. We pinged each other on the local network, we pinged google and was surprised at how different people got different IP addresses to ping (although we were all connected via the same internet connection). I explained the various load balancing issues involved.

After that we started learning browser shortcuts. This could have been planned better with some competitive activity between teams. Instead we were just opening new tab, closing that, searching google, etc without using the mouse.

An ultra-small quiz was held when we were all on India wiki. I would ask a question based on some sentence in the page like "Who ruled Gangetic plains from 606 to 647 CE?" and the teams would ctrl+f to find the answer.

Then we had lunch.
All plates were clean when we were done
Following lunch I talked about domian name, URL structure, https connection, certificate. And the importance of making sure these are proper when we're banking or shopping.

Then we solved 3 privacy challenges. There could have been more challenges using the myriad privacy settings in facebook to hide things from people.

Then I gave a small intro to all the tools available in google using the more -> even more page. We started typing on a Google doc, all of us at the same time.

Then we used google search tricks, to uncover secrets about the participants and people we hate. We would use queries like:
  • "name of person"
  • name of person site:rguhs.ac.in
  • "name of person" +mysore
Since most government details are put online (without any consideration of privacy) we could easily find some interesting stuff.

To introduce the need for HTML I asked everyone to draw a small webpage for themselves in a piece of paper. They made nice shining pages. Then I asked them to reproduce what they did in notepad. Everyone would get stuck at line 1, because there's no center align in notepad. Once stuck, I introduced thimble, and the need for mark up. With the concept in their head, all I had to tell them were "h1", "p", "a href=''", etc , and they soon started asking me the tag for inserting images, the attribute to restrict image size, etc. And they made these. I missed telling them to tag the makes and now it is difficult to find the beautiful makes.

To wrap things I spoke about Mozilla and the open web.

That web which makes you read this. Without which life would have been much more difficult. Which is consistently denied to many people in certain parts of the world. Which is under-utilized in most places sheerly due to ignorance. Which is scary for some, which is the only way to communicate for some. Which is the one biggest reason the world feels so small.

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