James Governor's Monkchips

On Sri Lanka, Apache Synapse and casual rascism in slashdot

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I track Prabhath Sirisena and his blog Nidahas , which means “freedom” in Sinhalese. I track it partly because of where Prabhath lives. I don’t agree with Stephen that you can ignore context. If we prefer to read ideas from people rather than pitches by organizations then by definition aren’t just treating them as a stream of ideas.

I love Sri Lanka. It is the most beautiful country I have ever been to, with a wealth of history and culture. The people in my experience are beautiful and spiritual, and very aware of their place in the world (which is a lot more than I can say for many of the geeks I have met).

Anyway I was disappointed when I read today’s post by Prabath. It turns out some good news about the Sri Lankan software and services got slashdotted in a pretty unhelpful way.

Some Sri Lankan organisations last week ran a free and open source software week.

I was knocked out, and planned to blog positively, when I saw that the Apache Synapse press announcement came from Sri Lanka. This is the first mainstream IT news story I have ever seen with a location that said Colombo, the national capital of Sri Lanka. This was potentially a big step forward for a small country. WS02 is the local start up around which a network is clustering. The name WSO2 is “web services oxygen”. Covalent and SourceLabs, two LAMP stack stack adoption players, are supporting WSO2, which adds some California credibility… from a VC and networking perspective. Middleware players supporting Synapse include  Blue Titan, IONA, Infravio and Sonic Software. Anyway, good luck Davinum, Sanjiva, and Paul. Please ping me if you are interested in talking more about what you’re up to.

Most press stories have mentioned the Sri Lanka angle positively, and rightly so. After all, here is a nation trying to bootstrap itself in testing political times. A nation that needs our support so soon after getting hit by the Tsunami. 

Slashdot did not respond in terms it might have done. It would not be so bad if it was slashdot loonies making negative comments–its a free country, right–but apparently an editor decided open source initiatives in Lanka weren’t worth taking entirely seriously.

Anuradhu wrote the original slashdot post, which was “updated”, and then changed again. He is not best pleased.

With all due respect to Slashdot editors, I was a bit disappointed by the original title “Sri Lanka Declares a FOSS Week” being changed to “Sri Lanka Declares an Open Source Weak”! The spelling mistake resulted in replies such as “Microsoft declares Open Source weak”. However, this has been corrected now – after much damage has been done.

Why should Slashdot concern itself with how its stories are construed? Because of your global audience. Of course Slashdot is about taking the piss. But while I find some of the anti-company bile funny, I have to say its less funny when directed at a nation that is trying to make a contribution.

If you think Sri Lanka deserves to be the butt of jokes, read this: (from Nidahas)

I was sitting, as usual, at my home computer (piece of shit with a 14? monitor that shows signs of failing) playing with a comp for a website when I heard the kids’ laughter. Our little neighbours, brother and sister, were playing with polythene bags. They had attached strings to make the bags look like parachutes, and were throwing them up in the air. Every successful landing was cheered with a squeal of delight.

Those kids live in a single room house, made out of rough wood planks, sitting on illegally acquired government land. One wall faces a stinking canal, the kind that would make a sensitive first world citizen puke. They get water from an illegal extension from our own water supply line. As far as I know, they don’t have anything resembling proper sanitation. Life doesn’t get much more difficult than that even in a so-called third world country (unless you’re from a forgotten nation in Africa, where you’re destined to die your unheard death from starvation).

But these kids go to school. They play. Once I saw the little sister swinging like a monkey on a rope hung from the roof. They send parachutes. They laugh. They remind me of my early childhood, those beautiful days I spent in a remote village among my always-smiling third world relatives.

You see, these mundane difficulties don’t make us laugh less. Sometimes, they are the reasons why your achievements are sweeter. I see it happening everyday at work, when fellow geeks try desperately to update a site over a failing internet connection.

And when I hear someone say you need a Mac to do graphics, or you need a T3 to do websites, I laugh the laugh of a third world designer.



  1. Weak! By re-editing the post Slashdot’s editors certainly give off the impression that the misspell was intentional (as in Spin Bunny’s constant reference to PR Weak.) It is not as if the meaning of the subject is changed with proper spelling from the original. They should apologize if they haven’t already, and context does matter.

  2. It may just be that if one googles “Sri Lanka” and “ebXML” it produces far too many hits. We know how slashdot feels about ebXML — it’s just not “the right type” of open source…

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