The members of the Python-Nigeria mailing list got together for a maiden edition of meetups geared towards growing the Python community in Nigeria. The meeting had about thirty people in attendance.
Prior to the meeting, a few members had discussed the purpose and agenda for the meeting in the mailing list.
The mailing list hasn't exactly been interactive as most members often resought to reading the digests without responding. This was one of the issues the meeting sought to address: to encourage members to participate more actively.
Olabayo welcomed attendees and explained that the goal was for this group to become the driving force for the emerging Python community in Nigeria. He highlighted the need for more people to join the community, and brought up the topic of organizing a Python conference in Nigeria.
Organizer of Django Girls Lagos and Django Girls Windhoek, Aisha Bello was invited to share her opinion having recently attended PyCon Namibia where she delivered a talk. She suggested we first organize a mini Nigerian Python conference to test the waters and sensitize people towards a full blown PyCon that would follow. Narrating her experience in Namibia, she noted that the community over there has made efforts to take programming to the uninitiated. Okay more seriously, they teach Python programming to secondary school students in the country.
She also pointed out that there haven't been many PyCons in Africa; the only ones having held in South Africa and Namibia. It was interesting to know that Nigerias' would be the first in West Africa.
There was a consensus; it was just as Aisha had suggested. A committee (made up of volunteers) was then setup to begin planning towards the event.
Several members had the opportunity to address the audience during the meeting which lasted for over an hour. Notable among those who spoke was Chukwudi, a very experienced Python programmer. In his words, "I have been coding in Python everyday since 2004, except when I was sick and couldn't do anything."
In his 12 years of Python programming, Chuks as he's fondly called, has co-reviewed a Python book and has worked in Ibadan for about 10 years. He now resides in Lagos with his family. He talked about some of the projects he's worked on, including a robot that would stealthily index all ".ng" domains. He expressed his delight at finally getting to meet and possibly work with others in this Python space. He closed his speech saying,
"Python is something I code and breathe. It's a lovely language. You are welcome."
One short presentation I particularly enjoyed was that of Dipo Odumosu about his work for the National Population Commission in collaboration with UNICEF. They have an application that is used to track birth statistics in all local governments in the country. He described it as a conceptually simple app, but one that sort of has a bit of everything: built with Django and RapidSMS; a little scientific and a little regular CRUD; and aggregation is done using Pandas.
He also spoke about their recurrent challenge with number crunching on large cumulative data, welcoming suggestions from the audience as to tackling the issue. As we were constrained by time, discussion on the issue will continue in the mailing list or the newly setup Slack community.
First year student at OAU Ife, Lekan Wahab, who has been coding since secondary school stepped up to share his campus experience with the house. Explaining how his admission into the university was met with the disappointment of a non-existent programmer community, and how that inspired him to setup one by introducing his colleagues to the Python programming language,
"Before I got to school, I had this idea that I was going to meet quite a lot of programmers on campus, but I was very disappointed. The only other programmer in my class was a Java coder, and he said when he got to 'if', the stuff got really hard and he just dropped it; he said he wasn't interested in it anymore. Then I took it upon myself to start a club; I started Python Club in OAU."
Personally, not only did I find this impressive, but it was even more exciting to learn of the amazing projects Lekan's group had been able to work on; projects including a home automation system built with the Raspberry Pi, Arduino amd mobile devices, a payment/airtime recharge service and a search engine.
Speaking further, Lekan used the medium to solicit support towards a forthcoming Django Girls workshop organised by his club. The workshop is slated for April at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Volunteer mentors/coaches are needed for the workshop. Kindly visit this link to learn more about the event.
One of the items on the agenda for the evening was to come up with an idea for an open source application that the group would collaboratively work on. Olabayo welcomed interesting ideas from the audience, and these two came up:
Peter Ayeni, founder of GigCabal, who came all the way from Abuja suggested that we work on a site analytics/ratings service for Nigerian websites. He likened this with existing platforms like Alexa and Webalizer.
Olamilekan Adeniji, creator of mErgencyNG, explained the idea behind his product and suggested that we work on it collectively. The app will provide a platform for citizens to report crime/suspicions to appropriate agencies or radio corporations.
A poll was conducted, and the house voted in favor of mErgencyNG. It was at this point that Chuks once again spoke and offered to open-source a library he had developed for analysing errors, in an effort to spark some creativity among the Pythonists.
To encourage members even further, Olabayo read out a recent email from Naomi Ceder, the lady who had been moderating the mailing list, until just before the meeting when she passed this duty on to him.
This was it. Thanks were in order (especially to CcHub and organizers of Django Girls Lagos). The meeting was over.
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