This past month I decided to go to my local developer meetups in Orlando. I’m starting to stagnate in terms of learning. So I thought this would be a great time to meet more experienced developers who I could learn from. It has been something I wanted to do for some time. But never did because I didn’t feel comfortable with how competent I was as a developer.
I went to 3 meetups so far.
- Code for Orlando
- Orlando Tech
- Orlando JS
Code for Orlando / Code for America
The first one I went to was Code for Orlando, which is part of a larger organization called Code for America. Its based in downtown Orlando at Starter Studio.
I wanted to do local developer volunteer work. So I figured code for Orlando would be both a good place to start and learn. And find software projects happening in my area. Something I could contribute to. Maybe my expectations were different, but I didn’t feel like I really clicked in this meetup
I was surprised at how fast people asked: “What do you do, or what kind of developer are you?”. It seemed sort of weird. Straight to the point and no small talk at all. That people want to instantly assign a tag to you before finding anything about you as a person. Such as “so and so is a backend developer that specializes in XYZ, etc”. I mostly do frontend e-commerce development right now. I only view technology as a means to an end, to solve business problems. I prefer, “What problems are you solving right now, how did you go about solving it, and why did you choose ABC solution”? That is a far more interesting question to ask.
Which brings me to my next point. Some of the actual projects in my area sounded interesting (pet adoption, street art, etc). But it felt like most the proposed solutions were… overkill for what amounted to a simple CRUD app. Most of these could be made with a simple WordPress site, with a few plugin extensions and tada! But it seemed like most of these projects were an excuse for developers to try out new languages, technologies, tools, or libraries. I might be wrong here, but that was my general impression.
If I wasn’t familiar with that technology stack, they didn’t really want me on board. Instead, I learned a lot by asking an android developer how they organized their codebase. I treated it more as a learning opportunity if anything.
I spent a good deal of time explaining to another developer about some of my mini projects. One was my Dedicated Desktop Icon Shortcut Keys. I was excited to find that he had the same problem I did and benefited from my post. That was actually one of the first few times I actually used my WordPress site here as a form of communication.
Most of my time I ended up teaching a junior developer the importance of markdown notation. I spent an hour explaining how sites like reddit and github rely on the same standards for formatting text. I suck at teaching, so this was a great way to practice explaining things.
I didn’t find any mentors or projects worth persuing yet here.
There was a meetup here for photonics and lasers. Presented by Luminar Technologies, a company specializing in car automation with computer vision technology. I had heard about them since I actually did some work for them. In quoting some equipment they needed.
The meetup was at the grand opening of “industrious”, another “WeWork” start-up coworking environment. This seems like one of the new trends in real estate.
The topic itself was fascinating. Jason Eichenholz (CTO) gave a presentation on the future of vehicle automation. I learned quite a few things about the different “levels” of AI-based driving. For instance, there’s different tiers of vehicle automation. Level 5 refers to a vehicle that drives completely on its own without any human intervention.
The people attending the meetup varied. Some were engineers, patent attorneys, students, tech recruiters, wannabe-entrepreneurs, and desperate job seekers. I didn’t really click with the group as a whole – but I did make 1 or 2 meaningful connections though.
The talk was given by Nate, an app developer who works for envylabs. The presentation was “Building a Progressive Web app [PWA] with Ember”. Personally, I have never touched ember at all, but the framework itself competes with other known ones such as react, angular, and vue. So learning how an offline app (PWA) in one framework applies to another.
When I came to the meetup, I arrived about 45 minutes early. I just waited outside starter studio (e.g. it’s like a smaller version of ycombinator). I figured people would be leaving work around this time so I could get in. Only to be greeted by the chief marketing officer of starter studio, David.
I got a really cool tour of the building and its history. During the conversation, he asked what I did for a living. I told him about how I built and designed restaurants for a living and did development on the side. And the difficulties of running a business operation.
The conversation eventually led to finding what tools could be used to improve managing a “WeWork” type environment. We talked about Airtable, a relational database system. I mentioned briefly I wrote a popular excel VBA script for it in my poorly written post here. He was pretty excited about the whole ordeal. I mentioned that there’s a sample database of WeWork freely available. So that he could use it to solve his issues, instead of whatever complex tech stack he had in place.
The meeting then began. Nate talked about PWA’s and offline apps, and some of the history of ember and rails. I had lots of stupid questions. Such as what a “service worker” is. Or what the magical web browser is really doing behind the scenes. And what well-known apps are currently using PWA technology. Because I had never come across or noticed an offline app before.
Some things I learned were the following
- PWAs are like local CDN (cache delivery networks) on your machine.
- PWAs lets you have a faster-native experience for a web app
- PWA is a service work that is directly tied to the browser
- PWA’s store data in appdata\local in a windows environment, that’s where the local database is at.
- The browser knows a PWA is in place from a
- The service worker acts as a middleman for fetching and pushing data. Its also asynchronous.
- When you see like 10 instances of chrome.exe in task manager, those are service workers
- If you kill every chrome.exe instance, you don’t have a service worker in the background
After the meetup, a few people gave presentations on things they worked on. Some of these projects include
- A ethereum bitcoin mining app
- A SoundCloud Pomodoro-type “chill-hop” web app
- A GO-based raspberry pi system to use automate smart-home lights
This was the the type of meetup I enjoy going to. People talking passionately about things they do for fun in their freetime, related to development.
I talked for an hour with Chris, a developer with specializes in blockchain development. I had a blog post I drafted about simple analogies to cryptocurrencies. But didn’t know if the content was correct so I needed to explain to someone.
I went to many other meetups in Los Angeles, CA. I didn’t know what to expect about the Orlando tech meetup environment.
My takeaway from these 3 meetups I went to so far has been interesting.