25 March, 2012

Restartless Firefox Add-on Workshop - Carte Blanche 2012

=================================== tl;dr ======================================
__________ Workshop at Carte Blanche: MIT, Chennai - 25th March, 2012 __________
Slides: debloper.github.com/talks/RestartlessAddons
EtherPad: etherpad.mozilla.org/addon-workshop-cbmit (Revision 2)
Flickr Album: www.flickr.com/photos/77461019@N07/show/with/7017119283
Walkthrough: thecodeplayer.com/walkthrough/making-of-restartless-firefox-add-ons

It's not always that you get an opportunity to be a speaker in an event at one of the most respected academic/technical institution of your country - which is, coincidentally, the graduation-college of the most honorable aerospace scientist & former president of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam!

The computer-society of Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) organizes an yearly tech-fest, called "Carte Blanche" (read: blank paper). Alongside with lots of talks & presentations, a handful of workshops are also hosted in this incredibly popular event. All of them are primarily focused to bring in more students into open-source and its derivatives. The workshops held, were on Arduino open hardware, wikipedia, BOSS project & last but not the least, the hand on Restartless Firefox Add-on workshop.

Mozilla India rep Dwaraka Nath was the primary contact to the organizers for conducting the add-on workshop. The session was on the 2nd day of the event, i.e. March 25. Expected audience size was 50 for the 4hr session. I planned to take the entire workshop in two parts, with a lunch break within, to not get the participants bored of the one single stretch of the session, otherwise.

The organizers (CS-MIT) planned for a minimal registration fee to arrange the certification for attending the workshop, refreshments & to keep the crowd to a limited number. Although, despite of this, the enthusiasm around this particular add-on workshop was overwhelming - the organizers had to stop online registration after 70 registrants, of which 63 attended it full-length.

CS-MIT had to move the workshop from presentation room to the largest computer-lab of the institute to accommodate everyone. This in fact lead to a situation of having no projectors, but two large-screen HD displays in both end of the room. Glad that I made my slides in HTML & had all my presentations available online, the distant view of the screens weren't an issue - everyone could access them on their own systems.

Primarily, I was expecting to have a test after the first-half, so that in the next half we will have more technically skilled students for the relatively challenging & detailed part of the add-on making. But, as the event progressed, it was evident that most of the crowd were technically sound enough to carry-through & seemed to be enjoying the session. Although I was a little trembled to think of managing the entire crowd, but I didn't wanna be the bad guy to deprive some of them from the hand-on experience - plus, the volunteer team of Harvish, Naresh etc. led by Dwaraka did an awesome job of troubleshooting the students having issues to follow through.

In the first half, the participants got the in-depth idea of general Firefox add-ons - structure of an addon, good-practice factors to consider, AMO submission/review process, how to set up development environment, find the required tools etc. That session ended with everyone being fully setup add-on development machine, with a traditional (restartful) "Hello World" skeleton add-on installed and ready to be worked upon. In the second half, we started digging deep with the online Add-on Builder web-app. I wanted them to make a completely working useful add-on, and having an easily accessible Firefox about: pages item in the context-menu seemed fun! To ease & speed up the development, I provided the base code - and many of them figured out how to hack onto it all by themselves. They seemed to be enjoying a lot & some of them asked some interesting questions.

The workshop ended with the participants receiving their certificates from CS-MIT for attending, and the Mozilla Reps arranged little goodies (buttons, stickers) for them (unfortunately, the Mozilla Swag Pack wasn't shipped till the event occurred). The overall enthusiasm was prominent, and I'm really glad this event exceeded the expectations of every level of success!

Thanks everyone who attended, thanks Mozilla Reps of Chennai - you guys are awesome, thanks the organizers for the kind hospitality - for me, this weekend just couldn't be better!


  1. Firefox - it is very un buggy share. Write extensions for it is possible only if you have a lot of free time. High barrier to entry.
    (Firefox - очень глючное поделие. Писать расширения под него можно, только если у вас - куча свободного времени. Высокий порог вхождения, не предназначен для новичков).

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