Uganda Web Developer Workshops: Rotary Style – Idea looking for Partners and Direction

This is an idea that has been growing in my mind, and I seem to finally have a handle on it. I have been a professional PHP web developer for the last 12 years, and have gone through the learning and transition cycles from learning a new language from Visual Basic 6 and MS Access to Java/JSP/Servlets to PHP, and developing in the language from direct database access using mysql_query through a custom developed database class into Zend Framework for 2 years with Doctrine 1 and 2 ORMs.

My biggest challenge has to do with the fact that there are no places to go and talk code, PHP/Javascript/Database in Uganda, along with the experiences and challenges facing web development with “need-to-have” practices like:

  1. Refactoring
  2. MVC design for web applications
  3. Version control – branching, merging, version tagging and management
  4. Testing – unit and functional testing, load testing
  5. API development (okay this is pushing the enveloper)
  6. Continuous integration, code quality metrics – complexity, modular development, cyclomatic complexity
  7. Team Style development – PSR 0 and PSR 1 compatibility
  8. Frameworks – Symfony, Zend Framework, Kohana, JQuery, Twitter Bootstrap
  9. Advanced CSS and HTML 5 – style guides, browser targetting, mobile development

I am also looking at doing this Rotary style, 1 hour developer meetings once in 2 weeks, then later once a week, same night, same location.

The bottom line is that we develop the quality of the available pool of web developers by growing a community, having role models, to also put a brighter face on the industry, improve perceptions and make it clear that this is an area that has professional practices. It is a win-win for all involved

Any ideas who has done this before, what were your challenges and trials, who would like to partner on this?

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27 responses to this post.

  1. Al-right this is a great idea …For some of us who are looking for developers this also would be a good pond to catch a better Mputa 🙂 (NB: Add me on the invitation list)

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  2. Yay, you! As Lukas said, really it just takes one person with desire and motivation to get things rolling. You have some great advice here, so I will only add a few things:

    1- I think a regular meeting time at a regular place is more important than top notch speakers. It will get easier to draw a crowd if things are consistent and people always know where you’ll be and when. Moving it around might cause some confusion, just a heads up.
    2- Formal talks are nice, but roundtable discussions are also valuable.As Stefan said, you can encourage participation and group ownership by tapping into their own expertise. You can have people bring to the group issues they’re struggling with and crowdsource a solution.
    3- I don’t know about there, but giving plenty of time for socializing is usually a good thing. Allow people to see the group as more than just an extension of their day job. It’s ok to talk about things that aren’t PHP and to spend time building some friendships. Over a few beers is usually a good way to do that. 🙂
    4- Sometimes local companies are willing to pitch in for free food or drinks, that’s always a good thing.
    5- Tapping into other local groups is also a good way to bring in others. For instance, if there is a Drupal or WordPress group nearby, you can join forces sometimes and cross promote each other.
    6- Although our local group does have a site of its own, we’ve gotten most of our traffic through Meetup.com. If you’re looking for a home for the group, I’d recommend that site.
    7- Publishers have a pretty active user group sponsorship, and they’re usually willing to send you books or offer your group members discounts. http://ug.oreilly.com/ http://www.wrox.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-311026.html and http://www.apress.com/user-group-program/ for instance.

    One other thing- there is a mailing list for other user group leaders who are going through similar issues. Feel free to join it at ug-admins@lists.php.net and tap into that community there. They’re quite awesome. 🙂

    Good luck to you!

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  3. This is good stuff and am sure we can pull it off. My thoughts for this group are to develop something that will stand out while sharing knowledge. How many of us have contributed to PHP or any other language? Any frameworks developed in Ug? We download lots of stuff from SourceForge or Launchpad but have ever built something for the community out there or for our country?

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  4. Hi Stephen,

    First kudos to you for taking the initiative. Like already mentioned, it just takes one to take the first step.

    I know you’re eager to get started and get things going, but keep it manageable for yourself at first. Some pointers I can give from my own experiences:

    1) start with a monthly meeting. The easiest way is to go to meetup.com and set up a page where you announce your meetings. This will get you started without investing too much in setting up your own community page.

    2) contact Zend, Microsoft, IBM, phparchitect and Engine Yard to include your meetup page and details in their newsletters. They are more than willing to announce meetings in your part of the world.

    3) If you’re targeting a local audience, find a venue that allows you to have regular sessions. If you’re covering a more broader area you can think about moving around (like we do with PHPBenelux) but this is something you need to try and figure out what works best.

    How to find venues: look at local schools, bars with “private” rooms, companies with meeting rooms or public areas like libraries. See if they offer room for free or if they want to sponsor your meeting by offering a venue.

    How you organise your meetings is all up to you at first, but listen to your community. Sessions and talks work well in most cases, but sometimes community members just like to hang out and drink beer. You can do a mix of both. And these sessions can be talks, round table discussions or just a hackathon.

    I had recently a talk regarding how communities work, this might be of great insights for you: https://speakerdeck.com/u/dragonbe/p/community-works-boston-php-north-east-2012

    Best regards and good luck,

    Michelangelo

    PS: once you have your first meetup.com page ready, give us a shout and we’ll broadcast it over the wire.

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  5. Stephen,

    Elizabeth and others have already given most of the thoughts I had, but here are a few “soft” tips I’ve given other people:

    – Talk to as many people as you can and find out what they want from a user group. (This will also help you gauge the technical level of your members, so you can tailor speakers, possible educational or training opportunities and so on.) Try new things and different formats like full length speakers, shorter “show-and-tell” sessions, general Q&A, etc. and see what works best. Don’t be afraid to change it around.

    – Caveat regarding “technical level” of your members: you’ll have a wide range of experience levels in your members, so don’t worry that any given speaker or topic is too basic or too advanced. You can’t cover all experience levels all the time, but people will auto-adjust. My group has people who come to every meeting no matter what the topic may be, and some come only for advanced topics.

    – Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to reach your level of “expectation”, e.g. I want to have 75 people meeting monthly at LocationX with a guest speaker and food and drinks provided. Groups take time to develop and evolve, so give things a chance.

    – Once you reach a critical mass, put together a few trusted people to help you. You can do everything yourself, but you can get bogged down once you find lots of interesting things you can do.

    As others have said, the community is more than willing to help, answer questions, and so on, so don’t hesitate to ask.

    Congrats for wanting to get a group started! You may not fully realize yet what you’re getting yourself into, but it’s *well* worth the journey. 🙂

    Best wishes!

    Chris Spruck,
    AtlantaPHP

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    • Chris,

      Thanks for the soft tips, and yes I am not sure what I am getting myself into but I am all giddy with butterflies in my stomach over it.

      Stephen

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  6. hello Chris, I have read the views from other people and all are good. However, there is a lot that needs to carryout the assessment to come up with the objectives and goals of this meet ups.

    I can join you this meetings because your idea is closely related to what I am trying to to do. We can get in touch and discuss more. Send me an email r.adieku@italentx.org

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  7. I am greatly interested in such an idea. I am looking forward to that first invite.
    Considering the fact that you posted this in august, how far have you gone in making it a reality.

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    • I am spending some time putting together the concept documentation to sell to potential partners, based on the feedback that I have got the idea is great, implementation is key and a challenge hence the need to plan. I will be releasing an update before the end of the year

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