Pradyumna Taduri
Pradyumna Taduri MSc Digital Society, Ex coder.

Visits to Iruway, COWKit, FTP and more from this April

April 2022 Update

Let’s start with an important update: Janastu, #3354 KR Road is now Janastu, Iruway Farms, Devarayanadurga!

Earlier this year, the team has moved its HQ to its long standing weekend work-cation site near Tumkur. However, most of the team continue to work from home. Black coffee, home made wine and animated conversations about Javascript libraries continue to be available minus the traffic sounds of busy KR road. In fact, the farm has gone silent with an electric cycle and three wheeler, more on that soon.

March and April have been very active months. Here are a few of the projects and activities involving the team:

  1. The team has been learning from Raja, a permaculturalist who has been hacking home-made crop care products to serve as cheap/free alternatives to mainstream products. See here for more on our plan to workshop the making of home-made crop care products as a potential source of income for farmers.
  2. Students of RV college of Engineering in Bangalore visited the farm to see the COWMesh project first hand. Student visits at our offices are always enjoyable with students showing interest in our projects. In the past, these visits have turned into fruitful internships. On that note, if you or someone you know is interested to intern at Janastu, you can always drop by at the farm or write to us, team at servelots dot com.
  3. Not just RV college, organizations working with communities in various remote locations of our country, have visited us and shown interest in implementing COWMesh. To let them experience a sample of COWMesh, our team is in the initial stages of making a Do-It-Yourself Community Owned Wireless Kit: DIY COWKit. In the coming weeks, we will be testing early prototypes at sites in Karnataka and Odisha. If you too are interested in a sample, do write to us, team at servelots dot com.
  4. Papad - An audio, video publishing and annotation platform is back on the drawing board to re-architect in a way to accomodate different use cases and applications. The new stack, with the help of Ram from Chiguru, is going to be built on Django for backend and API’s and the frontend is going to be in reactJS. We will be working with different groups on various frontend applications depending upon their usecases. On that note, we are stoked to share that a Papad prototype has been tested in a community in South Africa and initial response suggests much interest in having a contexualized versions of Papad!
  5. We played host to Marali Mannige, a workshop on sustainable living practices. Follow them on instagram to keep up with the updates.
  6. For tech boffins, FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol. In the context of the work we’ve been doing, lead by Shafali Jain, Micah Alex and Upasana Bhattacharjee, it stands for Feminist Technology Playground. As part of our Work 4 Progress project whose larger goal is to provide functional literacy for women, we aim to examine how the term feminist can be understood. We aim to do this through interactive sessions where we will among other approaches screen curated feminist documentaries.

Janastuvina Janaru (Janastu’s people)

Starting with April, we aim to feature a member of our team or collaborators from Janastu’s wide reaching network every month to give us an inside look into Janastu’s people.

“Every project I’m part of, I make sure it’s memorable for me”
Many baithaks that has happened under this tree overlooked by the wise Owl at 3354  

Experience at Janastu

We kick off our Janastuvina Janaru feature with Bhanu Prakash, wearer of many hats at Janastu - Application developer, user feedback specialist, bug fixer, mentor, product manager and documenter (which explains why his nickname is Scribe) and recently he’s exploring his love for teaching in the form of workshop facilations and trainings that happened through March and April for folks at Sangama for digital literacy & awareness and Enable India for archiving practices both organized by Design Beku. In 2012, Bhanu was invited by his friends to visit #3354 and after a few visits, he decided to take a leap of faith to move away from his BPO job and have a go at web development. Bhanu felt disconnected from his MNC job where there are always some “Dinosaurs or Fossils” messing up with the work culture. At Janastu, he saw stark contrast - a small team with freedom and autonomy. He gradually grew fond of the team and Dinesh’s hand’s-off approach and made his way from an intern to a “wearer of many hats”. Bhanu has provided support in some capacity to all our projects so far.

Beyond the technical skills developed over the last decade, Bhanu has found that his journey at Janastu has provided exposure to diverse backgrounds - “You can’t quantify how valuable it is to interact with a diverse network of people from a variety of backgrounds working with you, staying in touch.” Exposure comes in the form of a wide range of Janastu’s extended network partners, collaborators and clients, artists co-sharing the space, guests staying over, the open house culture cultivated at #3354 and the annual anthillhacks events that draws participants from all over the country and abroad.

Amongst the projects he has worked on, Bhanu fondly recalls his 2019 winter collaboration with Gerbern and Dinesh on the Firefox audio bookmarklet addon The addon allows one to bookmark a fragment from audio and label so that one can re-visit those fragments. It’s memorable to him because he felt he learnt a lot of new things. The late nights spent with Venkat and Janastu team for the NCBS 25 exhibit is another unforgettable moment, reasons best known to all of them who worked on it, even otherwise staying over night at 3354 wasn’t so rare for him.

Pandemic blues and new beginnings

Like most teams, COVID-19 and the many lockdowns presented new challenges to overcome. What was once a lively space with dogs and djembes, #3354 became bare with vistors and team members working from home. As things started to look up and some of the team members occasionally visiting the office, #3354 closed permanently. This affected the team according to Bhanu: “The post-pandemic way of working didn’t go well with the team, #3354, the physical space had a character to it, we made the space our own over the years… It’s absence will continue to be a factor.” Consequently, Janastu has moved its base of operations to Halekote under the shadow of the Devarayandurga hills. For Bhanu, the pandemic and the shift has offered new perspectives. He finds that his recent week long visits to Iruway has allowed him to more closely observe and work with end users of the products he develops. In fact, in the latest anthillhacks, he conducted cooking events with the local village residents which presented an opporuntity to directly interact and bond.

i learnt a lot more than what i knew.

Also, many development organisation are coming out of the pandemic blues, and trying to find ways of coping post covid. He conducted a 3 day workshop for Sangama, who had identified a need for digital literacy training and awareness program for their staff who came from all over Karnataka to Belgaum. At the end of the workshop the participants were able to understand topics like Internet, Phones, Privacy, Security, Online Safety. He seems to have learnt a lot more from these activities.

Bhanu can be reached at bhanu at servelots dot com