Transcription · Team Melbourne's Podcast

Vi: Welcome to our podcast, I’m Vi and I’m Sarah and we’re Team Melbourne of Rails Girls Summer of Code 2015. In this podcast, we’re going to talk about our 3 month experience in this global fellowship program where we make our first open source contribution by making an advertising plugin for Discourse. So let’s get started…

Sarah: I’ll be asking Vi five pre-prepared questions today to get her view on how the program went. Then, Vi will be asking me five pre-prepared questions to get my view on how the program went. The final question on both our sides will be a surprise question so we will have no idea what the other person will ask. So, let’s get started.

First question, what is the one most surprising skill you’ve gained from this program?

Vi: Well funnily enough, I think it was online marketing because our project is an advertising plugin and as part of that project we did need to understand how advertising platforms function so we did in-depth research on how DFP (which is a Google platform) works and Amazon Affiliates. As part of understanding that functionality, we tried to understand how people use these ads to effectively generate revenue for their forums. And I think that’s one of the things I learnt alot and find surprising since it was a coding project.

Sarah: That’s great, Vi. Personally, I learnt alot about that too. Next question -

Rails or Javascript?

Vi: Well my personal preference is definitely Rails. I built a rails app for my business which helps students ace their selective and scholarship test whilst doing a 3 month course through Bloc which is an online coding bootcamp. So I’m quite familiar with how Rails works and I’m more comfortable with it. But I do understand what Javascript is a language of the future. Javascript is a programming language that is widely used, it can be used for Full Stack Development and there are other languages that can compile into JavaScript. And it is not only used for the web or networking, it can be used for robotics as well. So personally I don’t think there is one that is better than the other since it’s dependent on what it’s used for. But for my personal preference, I’m definitely a Rails Girls.

Sarah: That’s excellent. As we know, we’ve been building (an advertising plugin for) Discourse for the past 3 months.

Discourse is a 100% Open Source discussion platform? What’s cool about it?

Vi: I think first, it’s the people. And secondly, I think that it’s built for the future and uses technology that will be useful for the future. First, the people. There is a team of 6, Jeff Atwood, Robin Ward, Sam Saffron as co-founders, I think they’re just fantastic. Jeff Atwood built Stack Overflow, has his own really cool keyboard. Robin Ward did Forumwarz. Sam Saffron was at Stack Exchange as well. It’s just fantastic people to learn from, and to have such amazing people build software, you know it’s just going to be amazing. And the second thing is that it’s built for the future. Before this project, I was personally looking for an open source forum that I could use, and all the forum projects had either been discontinued or used technology that I was not familiar with, or was outdated. For example, one forum open source software used mongodb which after researching into it wasn’t going to be sustainable for me to use. And then I stumbled onto Discourse and thought it was fantastic because it used rails, ember, postgres database and was also easy to deploy using docker. So it was really a no-brainer and really cool that it was really built for the future and you don’t really get many forums that are built for the future. So they’re my two reasons why I think Discourse is absolutely cool

Sarah: That’s great Vi. It’s great to know that our project for the last 3 months has such great relevancy to such a great forum discussion platform. So, the fourth question,

Redbubble has lent us a working space for the entire duration of 3 months, which is amazing. How was the experience like working around such talented developers and artists?

Vi: Yeah, it was a fantastic experience. First of all because it’s always good to be around people who are smarter than you and that was definitely the case. We had coaches who were there in-person and who could guide us down the right track. For example, one of the things that happened during our project was that for 2 weeks, we spent time doing a personalized interface for our plugin. We had wireframed it, did documentation and even made a video on it. And, during one of our standups with the coaches they said, is this the right track we should be spending our time on? And we were spending time doing crazy container boxes and images and things like that. And on review, this wasn’t how we should have spent our time. We should be working on our functionality and we actually got more and would have been useful to work on functionality as opposed to form during that time. So we changed our direction to build on functionality. And that was fantastic because that determined the direction of our project in a way that was more effective and ultimately better for users. Overall, it was invaluable have our coaches here in person. Couldn’t have asked for a better coaching company!

Sarah: That’s amazing. Safe to say, these 3 months of experience has really taught us a lot of things, gained alot of skills, perhaps a little bit far-fetch but I would like to say, life-changing. So Vi,

What do you think is next for you after these 3 months?

Vi: Well, I would like to continue with my business and perhaps move into a different area of business that is wider-reaching. But having done my first open source contribution. Open source contributions are definitely something I would like to do in the future.

Sarah: Thank you, Vi. I will now pass on the mic to you.

Vi: Thanks, Sarah. So here are my 5 questions. So the first one is:

We came together initially as stranger who paired, and we haven’t killed each other during the 3 month period – what do you think makes this partnership successful, just for other people thinking about pairing and thinking about going into this program?

Sarah: I think the most important thing for us was constant communication, sort of being open and honest with our views and rationalizing what we think is important for the project. I think a key to our great teamwork is that we are not afraid to speak about differing views. For example, just recently we found ourselves debating the pros and cons of certain features in the plugin. So we had a whole debate about whether we should be using drop down boxes or user input boxes. And it can seem a little trivial but I think small features like these can make a huge difference to users. And I’m glad that we broke down the problem and saw each other’s viewpoints. It really allowed us to see the different aspects of what we can do for this advertising plugin that people want to use and really choose the best options.

Vi: That’s great, Sarah. It is a big project and like you said, small features can make a big deal sometimes. And things like communication would be really important. In this project, there were coaches, remote coaches, coaches locally in the office, mentor in Canada, supervisor in Berlin. So, communication is important.

How do you ensure that communication flows well?

Sarah: That’s a great question Vi. I think we started out trying alot of different things. Our coaches gave us advice, Trello is pretty good. At the same time we had Gmail, but also Dropbox and at times we would use Google Drive. I felt like it took awhile for us to choose which platforms were best for communication. In the end we decided on a couple, Slack to inform our coaches about our progress. This is especially important for remote coaches who are working in other parts of Melbourne not necessarily in Redbubble. We also take turns doing daily updates on the team app to let the Rails Girls Summer of Code organization team know what we’ve been up to. We do use Trello to decide our progress, and that’s just between Vi and I. We’ve also learnt about daily-standups and that’s conducted with our Redbubble coaches where we inform them of our progress as well as schedule help requests where they sit down and debug problems with us. This really helps. As for our google hangouts, we do conduct google hangouts with our mentor in Toronto, Robin. As well as our weekly hangouts with our supervisor Sara, in Berlin. It’s tricky to navigate around timezones, but it seems to work out. It definitely takes two hands to clap - someone’s going to have to do it in the morning or someone’s going to have to do it in the evening. We’re really grateful that we managed to reach a compromise at the start of the program. Lastly, Github is definitely a great place to get direct feedback for our code. So it’s alot of platforms, but after a few weeks we really got into the hang of using these in the most optimum level that we could have.

Vi: The other question I had was -

When was a really challenging time for you in this program and how did you overcome it? Because we always talk about the best parts. What was challenging?

Sarah: For me, it would be something that happened really recently. I had to make a quick trip back home to my home country due to a family emergency. And this was quite last minute. Thankfully, I had constant and good communication with Vi which allowed me to leave on short notice and know that the project is in good hands. Which is why teamwork and good communication is key! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Rails Girls Summer of Code organization team for their understanding as it was a family emergency, but they were really understanding.

Vi: And this is the last question, oh, no the second last question. People often go through a program with different goals and it’s always great to see what happens after.

So what’s next for you Sarah and how has this program been beneficial to you?

Sarah: As someone who has never contributed to open source before, this program has taught me and given me the confidence to approach open source in the future and contribute effectively. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who wants to get started somewhere, doesn’t know how to. Because you’re going to be working with amazing mentors on amazing projects with great coaches and a pair. And I think these are important and intangible, I mean transferrable skills, that can really help you in the future. I’m also keen from now on to contribute to open source in my free time, alongside university studies. I also hope to get more involved with the different communities.

Vi: And this is the final last question.

Why do you think there is a lack of women contributing to open source and how is this program, or how do you think this program helps the wider community in terms of encouraging more diversity?

Sarah: I think the reason why there’s a lack of women in the community is because it can seem like a very daunting thing. For example, in University, I’m enrolled in a couple of computing classes, and safe to say I think 80% or more are male. If we sort of have that impression since we’re young, I think that really affects what we decide to do in the future. We’ll start to think that engineering is more for men and not for women, and that kind of sticks with you. I think it’s great if we can overcome that sort of outlook. I think in coding we learn of logical thinking, and anyone can do it, really. Which is why I think Rails Girls Summer of Code is a great platform to elevate women’s contribution into open source. It’ll require a societal change to see more women into open source. I hope that with so many determined and great groups out there hoping to promote women in ICT, I hope that this will be able to continue and we’ll be able to see that shift.

Vi: That was the last question (laughs), but that is fantastic!

Sarah: So that concludes our podcast for today, we’d like to thank Rails Girls for giving us the opportunity, Redbubble for being our coaching company and for building something amazing!

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Written on September 15, 2015