The Code Retreat

2020 started out pretty well for the Pyladies community. We were happy to build upon the achievements of the year, 2019. Despite deferring some of our annual activities like the Python Sprint because of a lack of funds, we had achieved quite a lot in our curriculum. We had covered much of our web development roadmap and could quite comfortably assert that our community was aware of the resources available to learn from.

We set out to focus the year 2021 on contribution to open source and had swiftly started that journey with a number of community members signing up and going through to the first round for the Outreachy and RGSoC competitions. We were flying high! Unfortunately for us, the COVID19 pandemic happened, with a few programs like RGSoC shutting down and meetup venues closing to comply with government directives.

However, there was an undetected silver lining in the chaos that ensued! All events were moved to a virtual setting. This meant that anyone could attend any event anywhere in the world if they had an internet connection and when the mobbing community reached out to other communities on Twitter, I was able to pick up the banner for the Pyladies Kampala community. They wanted to introduce the Ensemble Programming technique to other communities around the world.

Together with the other Pyladies Kampala organisers, we prepared to hold a code retreat on the 15th of August 2020 with the help of Christian Hujer, one of the members of the mobbing community and a C.E.O at Nelkinda Software Craft in India. He was to guide us in solving Conway’s game of life in a pair programming setting and show us the dynamics of programming in groups of pairs. He also suggested that we needed to perhaps get accustomed to the workings of a mobbing session to get familiar with this concept of programming before we could comfortably hold any events of this nature. As luck had it, there was a global day of mob retreat on 18th July 2020 and I decided to take part, attending the Mob Retreat with the Agile PDX community in Portland(US). Besides being a surreal event, I met new people and was introduced to the ensemble programming technique and with my new-found knowledge, I was fully equipped to successfully organise a Code Retreat in my community.

One of the things I discovered is that unlike the usual two to three hour meetups that we held for the community, this event was to last an entire day and for events like these, we naturally needed funding. Similar to a physical meetup, we needed funds for an internet connection, event advertising and virtual meetup software to have a successful event.However, all organisations had their operations hit by the pandemic and our usual places of refuge like the Python Software Foundation (PSF) would be unable to help out either. Fortunately, we got some funding from Nelkinda Software Craft to market our event on meetup.com and they helped out with virtual meetup software as well. We also emptied our treasury to ensure that all participating members had an internet connection.

With everything in place, we started our event at 10:00 am on 15th August 2020, created pairs, assigned roles and started discussing the logic of Conway’s game of life. It is fair to say that we didn’t anticipate the terrible internet connections from different parts of the country. Participants started dropping off and getting back into the cycle. Consequently, this affected the flow of the program and together with the facilitator, we decided to change the format of the event. The facilitator decided to go through Conway’s game of life following the concept of Test-Driven Development and although the event didn’t quite turn out as we had hoped, it opened our eyes to the challenges of programming online, including the channels that could work for us. We discovered that zoom was not good for a country that has terrible netwrork problems such as ours. We also laid ground for other events in the future like the mobbing session that we had within our Data Science Sprint in November of 2020.

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I am a budding data scientist with a background in web development. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python. Cat lover, Nature enthusiast.

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Eva. N

Eva. N

I am a budding data scientist with a background in web development. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python. Cat lover, Nature enthusiast.

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