Amit Zur

@amitzur

Goodness Squad

A new initiative has started in Javascript Israel. We call it Goodness Squad.

The main objective is to meet once a month for a coding event which is all about fun, learn and contribution.

The event is structured as a hackathon. First of all, there’s beer. Then, a list of 4–6 projects are presented. We pick these projects before the event, and make sure each project has an owner, a project lead. Each project lead makes sure the project is accessible for newcomers. This means it should be clear what contribution the project is expecting. Either there’s a list of good first bugs, or just unassigned issues, documentation, unit tests, user feedback etc. A project can define for itself what help is needed from the community. In addition, it should be super easy to setup the environment for local development.

Our first event was 2 weeks ago, on January 17. We were kindly hosted by the amazing Wix at their offices in Tel Aviv port. There were 25 participants and 6 projects:

  1. MobX
  2. Debugger.html by Mozilla
  3. Angular CLI
  4. Angular Material
  5. Redash
  6. write.io

What I absolutely love about this list is the diversity. Some projects are big community projects, some are backed by organizations, some maintained by small startups and some are just initiatives of individuals. We had at least one of everything.

This is how it looked:

What can a developer do in 3 hours?

The most prominent drawback people had when hearing about this was —

“Are 3 hours really enough time to get into a new project?”

The answer is yes. The added value is that each project’s mentor is able to get people rapidly into an existing project’s process and code. It was a very positive experience for people to be able to spot a bug and after 2 minutes of consultation with the project mentor do the triage and spot the relevant line of code. As one developer put it — “you just saved me weeks of work”.

Let’s back that up with data — here’s a list of issues and PR’s that Goodness Squad touched:
https://github.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=%22%23GoodnessSquad%22&type=Issues&ref=searchresults

It’s not just about knowing lines of code. Process is also important. For example, Mozilla communicates in IRC. For a new contributor it’s sometimes intimidating to get on a channel and start spamming it with total noob questions. But in the event everyone opened up IRC and communicated directly with debugger.html maintainer, Jason. It was a real celebration.

A response from the other side

What turned this into a truly unprecedented event (for me, at least) was the response from the project owners themselves. MobX author Michel Weststrate tweeted back at us with cheers. Debugger.html lead Jason Laster wrote a direct thank you message to the contributors.

This was received really well. Our slack channel was roaming with party parrots. People enjoy seeing impact and instant gratitude. We have reached win-win.

FTF FTW

It’s not only about contribution. It’s also about interaction and community. I strongly believe that we as developers cannot reduce our work to interface only via the machine. And Goodness Squad is a real opportunity to make programmers meet one another, discuss, have fun together and leverage the common ground which is our passion for creating in code.

I do plan to make improvements to the program. Most of all, I want people to feel comfortable coming even if they feel they don’t have enough knowledge. It’s also a learning opportunity, and I’m sure everyone has something to contribute.

Second, I do care about balancing women participation. In January we had zero women on board. For next event we already make sure to have women both participating and leading projects.

Third, I would love to play music during the coding session. This might become a challenge to find something that works for everyone. I’ll keep you updated on that :)

That’s is. February event (Wednesday 15th) is just around the corner and we’re working hard to make a great evening of coding, beer, fun and goodness.

Peace out.

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