Baptism By Code: A Meetup Experience With The Coders From DevCongress

PHP. Python. Ruby. Javascript.

If you’re someone who’s not into coding or programming, the words above mean nothing to you. But to most of the folks at DevCongress who sit behind computers and use these programming languages, it’s like their bread and butter.

On April 8th, DevCongress had a meetup with some of its members at iSpace at Labone.

First off, if you’re not familiar with iSpace, it’s a technology hub which offers a coworking space and tools for entrepreneurs and startups.

So what exactly is DevCongress? Consider it as a community of developers in the Ghanaian tech space. It’s a community with different people with different skillsets sharing a collective knowledge about programming.

And yes, it sounds like a giant nerd club. (But that’s a good thing!)

I’ve been a lurker on the DevCongress Slack channel and honestly, I can’t understand half of the conversations that goes on there. But for the 500+ members on the channel, most of the chats are normal everyday conversations.

So at the DevCongress meetup, I wanted to see what the community was like and to get some insights into this club of programming warriors.


Developer Jargon, Communication and Mapping Debates

What is JAMstack? Well, until today, I had no idea what it was. Not going into detail, JAMStack is an acronym for Javascript, APIs and Markup.

Still lost?

Just imagine a simpler form of WordPress or a content management system which helps in building your website.

An overview of JAMstack was the first presentation by David Oddoye of AdGeek. I’ll be honest: 80% of the talk flew right over my head. The only thing I could grasp from the talk was that JAMStack still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream. Looks like I’m sticking with WordPress in the interim.

First talk was about JAMStack, 80% of which went over my head

It seems most of the DevCongress talks are like this: Exploring new developer technologies and languages, tips and news and sharing them with the other members of the group.

The next speaker was Wendy Smith (of SilentWorks). She gave a talk about Communication. This was something I could easily grasp because this was right up my alley. The talk was basically about communicating with clients or significant others to gain a better understanding of the other side.

Wendy Smith giving a talk about communication

The best quote from the talk was that we sometimes listen to respond to people instead of actually listening to them.

But the highlight of the day was the presentation by Savior, another programmer. His presentation was about geolocation and mapping.

If you haven’t heard by now, Ghana isn’t really the best when it comes to property location (Actually wrote a piece about how Ghanaians are terrible with giving directions)

Savior’s talk was about a company called “What Three Words (W3W)” , a mapping company trying to map every part of the word using just longitudes and latitudes and just three words for a particular destination.

Savior showing how the What Three Words software works

Confusing?

Just imagine opening the W3W app and you wanted to find iSpace. You would type in ispace.labone.house and the app would pinpoint the location on a map. If anybody wanted to find iSpace, they would just type in those three words.

Even though I understood the logic behind it, I didn’t get the point especially when I could just use Google Maps to find that iSpace location. Regardless, it’s an interesting concept and if you want to find out more, you can check out the company’s website.

So, according to Savior, W3W has actually been in touch with the Ghana government to help with the national addressing challenge. Without going into too much detail, the mapping company gave the government a price for customizing their software for the government.

Then the debate started.

Why would the government pay (lots of) money to use an open source platform?

Lots of theories were tossed around. Some said maybe it was part of a licensing agreement. But on the other side, it was argued that if it’s an open source software, why wouldn’t members of DevCongress just develop a solution and pitch it to the government and undersell What Three Words.

Suffice to say, it was a very lively and fun debate. It’s one of those debates that you can see people are passionate about especially when it comes to finding solutions to fix problems in the country using code.

Geek Squad

DevCongress has a bunch of interesting personalities and most of them seem to know their stuff. The DevCongress concept came about with a bunch of guys from the Meltwater Incubator and it has blossomed from there with other people joining in later and providing support.

As a community, what exactly is the mission of the DevCongress group? I asked Andrew Smith, one of the guys who helps out with DevCongress. For now, he sees DevCongress as a group of developers sharing ideas and knowledge. But in addition to their own internal meetups, they also help with workshops for people interested in coding.

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I said earlier in the post that the DevCongress slack had 300+ members. Andrew hopes the group grows bigger and has more capacity. The plan is to have more regular meetups, more workshops and eventually more sponsored events. (That’s you Corporate Ghana)

As the world gets more competitive, especially with companies looking for talented coders and programmers, Ghana can say that they have a great group of developers right in their backyard doing cool stuff. But are they being nurtured and given enough attention?

Yes and No. Hubs like iSpace are doing enough to help out and the Meltwater Schools helps produce some great startups. But if we want to compete and go toe to toe with the likes of Nigeria and even Senegal, devs in Ghana need more opportunities and support from corporations, businesses and even the government.

I’ll be catching up more with the super geek squad from DevCongress in the future. Maybe I can pitch them my super top secret plan for a side project I’m working on (Don’t tell anybody).

So I’ll just keep lurking in the DevCongress slack channel, reading chats and conversations of Java and PHP and trying to decipher everything like a cryptologist in a top secret facility. Maybe eventually, I can break the code and start speaking like those guys.

Maybe. Hopefully.


If you want to know more about this special group of individuals, you can check out DevCongress.org. If you want to be a lurker like me, you can join their slack channel  if you have interest in development and programming. Thanks to Andrew (@silentworks) for the insight on some of the questions I asked.