Monday, October 29, 2012

A week in Philliphines with OpenMRS Implementers Meeting 2012

There was one month had been passed after the GSoC 2012 programme had officially ended, where i completed my project, HTML FormEntry module with the guidance of my mentor Mark Goodrich, and i was informed about a real surprise. It is from the OpenMRS mailing list that I first saw that they are willing to offer a limited amount of scholarships for those who are interested to be in the OpenMRS Implementers Meeting this year in Silang, Cavite, Philippines. Michael who is our GSoC coordinator, had also sent a specific mail to the interns’ mailing list, highlighting that we as student developers can also attend to this meeting. The first thing I did after that was searching for information on meetings in previous years and, after reading about that past stories I was really excitingly wishing that how great it would be if i too can attend :) Therefore i  applied for the scholarship mentioning my contribution so far and what i would like to do in future.

And yeah, I got selected! At first I couldn’t believe my eyes reading the scholarship mail. Ever since then I was counting my days to be in Philippines to meet all the people I have known from IRC, mailing lists and to learn about how the development work we do are used in real world applications and, especially to meet two of my fellow GSoC friends Jordan and Harsha who were also supposed to attend.

As this was my first out of country I was pretty nervous about managing everything on my own in a different country. But thanks to Dawn, Michael from organizing committee and Ana in the host committee, everything was well arranged. As soon as we landed in Manila we were picked up by a guide, driven to the IIRR (International Institution of Rural Reconstruction, which is the meeting venue) and then guided straight to our accommodation area too. Ellen, my roommate who was from PIH (Partners in Health) was a great companion, she helped me a lot to get familiar with everything around.

Day 1 and 2 .......

At 9th Tuesday morning after the breakfast, we all were there for the opening ceremony and the roadmap of OpenMRS as well as the current state of OpenMRS is explained by Dr. Paul Biondich and Dr. Burke Mamlin, who are the co-founders of OpenMRS.  The first two days of the meeting was filled with lot of unconference sessions where there were three sessions happened parallel and we were given chance to attend whatever the session important and interested to us. 

Just before the commencement of Opening Ceremony

Right after the opening ceremony everybody was invited to join on expressing themselves about the things they would like to be discussed here. I was very amazed to see that how eagerly everybody participated in doing this, without a single forcing, almost all people just volunteered to say what they willing to know during next few days. Within few minutes there are a whole lot of ideas and we were out there, arranging each topic under session slots and deciding who will lead the session.

Helping with making the Conference schedule
There were lot of interesting topics and I was bit worried that there are more than one interested session happens at the same time, because as a newbie I saw a lot value in each topic for me.

The sessions were very much informal where everyone interested were welcome to join. We gathered around and listened to the speakers to know what they say, while everyone expressing their ideas and asking questions in middle. I did like the nature of the sessions a lot as it was easy to join and learn things in this way than being in a big formal talk.

I was able to learn lot of new things by attending the sessions. As I have only involved in coding, I didn’t have a clear idea on how our code is customized and used in real applications in large scale. From listening to various speakers in their sessions, I learnt that how they use OpenMRS in Kenya, Rwanda, Philippines, Malawi, Israel India, Pakistan, Haiti and a few more countries. They were giving out details as how many centers in each country, what modules they use, how many patient entries in database etc. I was very happy to hear that HFE module in which I am working is being used widely with lot of implementations.

Unconference Sessions
There were many different sessions and various informal chats (BoF sessions, lightening talks) happening throughout the meeting. I found lightening talks were very interesting where each person was giving five minute presentation of a topic of his/her choice. It was a good way to get quick introductions on many things.

Lightening Talks

So that is how the first few days went. My next post will be on the remaining days which were the best days of the meeting :) 

To be continued.................

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