by Koustuv Sinha

Waking up a sleeping city with JavaScript

Image Credits : Debayan Bhattacharya

Not once, but twice, our college became a part of an International community of highly productive and engaging people. The most recent installment took place on last Saturday, May 21st, 2016. From Lisbon to Lahore, from Belgrade to Bengaluru, from Berlin to Bainbridge, we all came together on a single day to celebrate a Global event, a fun event of teaching, learning & hacking together the concepts of JavaScript / NodeJS. Divided by borders, united by JavaScript! Yes, I’m talking about NodeSchool International Day!

A brief history of NodeSchool

On a fine day, a few people from a little upcoming community of daring open source hackers decided to challenge the world with the powers of a language that others dismissed as “too slow”, “a toy language”, and “web only”. They came together to build what would be a simple “workshopper” module, called stream-adventure.

What’s a workshopper? It’s a simple framework displaying a set of challenges to be completed right in your terminal, and has a test runner incorporated within it to test your code solutions.

javascripting Workshopper

These guys then went on to create the initial workshopper modules, such as javascripting and learnyounode, which consisted of beginner level JS and NodeJS problems. They thought, “Well, this is fun. We should have an event focused on these things!”

Soon, ideas came pouring in, which became modules in the NodeJS ecosystem (npm). Participants created repositories and set up websites. And in late 2013, the first official NodeSchool event was underway in Silicon Valley.

The community started to grow, and local chapters sprang up all over the world. By May 2016, there were more than 165 worldwide city-based chapters, which have hosted more than 500 events so far!

NodeSchool Upcoming and Past Events

Node Comes to Kolkata

In July of last year, I hit upon the idea of hosting a NodeSchool event in my city. Tech-wise, Kolkata is a laid back city with few meetups or hackathons to speak of. Most of the cool events are either in Bangalore or Hyderabad. We have an IT Park — known here as Sector V — which was a promised utopia of budding startups and big companies alike. But let’s just say that it hasn’t flourished as much as those of other metropolitan areas in India.

There are tech companies here, but most are service based. There isn’t much of a product or startup footprint. Undergraduates and graduates in my city miss out on the most important medium for networking and skill learning just because of the current landscape. And thus, they resort to joining service-based IT behemoths, which just treat them as a disposable resource.

Sector V, Kolkata, India

With only a short time to set everything up, I reached out to a NodeSchool core team member, Adam Brady, and asked him to guide me. I had three priorities for the event:

  • Create awareness in my city and my college
  • Train college students and help them shape up with new technologies
  • Put our college to the global map

All NodeSchool Chapters are city based. This meant that, technically speaking, I had to host NodeSchool Kolkata. But due to time and space constraints, I had a better idea. Why not setup a smaller college-level chapter instead? After talking it over with Adam, he agreed to my proposal, and hence the NodeSchool IEM Kolkata Chapter was born on August 2015.

We had our inaugural workshop on August 31st, 2015, with 25 participants. Together, we coded together on mainly beginner NodeSchool modules using JavaScript and Git.

As far as new beginnings go, it exceeded my expectations, to say the least! The attendees went home with a little hands-on knowledge, some freebie stickers, and a lot more confidence! IEM Kolkata was added to the world map, and Max Odgen (principle founder of NodeSchool) commented on our pics!

NodeSchool Workshop in IEM Kolkata on 31st August, 2015

As the Second Law of Thermodynamics predicts, post workshop, the interest disappeared to a minimum. But that didn’t deter me from my goal. I found a few long-term interested people, and started a little newsletter among them. We kept in touch, and shared important links, resources, and tutorials among ourselves.

Fast forward to May 2016. NodeSchool International Day was just right around the corner, and planning started barely one week before it! Himanshu Kashyap, a final-year student, helped me out this time by publicizing the event, handling back-end tasks, and mentoring. We sent out invitations, cached the workshop software so we could use it offline, configured our website, and enrolled in the International Day Chapter. We were get-set-go for the event! We even got the Indian School of Ethical Hacking — a startup founded by our alumnus Kirit Sankar Gupta — to sponsor the event!

Nature worked against us this time. Heavy rains throughout the city prevented half the people who had already registered for the event from showing up. Still we went ahead, with the true spirit of Nodeschool International Day, and started the proceedings with the Bengaluru and Osaka teams.

Last time we had some hiccups setting everything up, but this time since the workshops were already cached in my system (local-npm), and installations were a breeze.

By lunchtime, everyone had completed the basic javascripting module, and was hungry for more! After lunch, we proceeded with Git, Github, and NodeJS basics with the git-it and learnyounode module. We also had a live Appear.in chat with Ian Crowther, London Chapter host, as well as the Tokyo and Berlin Chapters! At the end of the day, we distributed stickers and coasters, and then popped by Bisk Farm for a round of snacks and drinks.

I eventually plan to merge our chapter with a bigger NodeSchool Kolkata chapter once we get enough interested people. It takes time to develop interest and awareness in our city, but we should all strive for it nonetheless.

According to The Guardian, India will have over 1 million people turning 18 every month for the next two to three years! That is a huge load for our society to bear at once. Also, our country is facing an acute shortage of skilled engineers, and 80% of the current crop of engineers are considered unemployable by some studies. Why? Causes range from mediocre engineering colleges, low quality classroom education, less opportunity, and most importantly, less networking.

Not all is bad about my city, though. We are experiencing a slow influx of city-based startups, thanks to some cool entrepreneurs, such as Sumeet Chawla, who founded JustStickers.in, where we buy cool stickers and coasters for our events. His love for this city dragged him away from Bangalore, and he brought back his experience and immediately put it to use. We need more entrepreneurs like him to build innovative products and in turn help our city inch toward becoming a more technology-friendly place.

Stickers and Coasters from JustStickers at our Nodeschool Event, May 2016

Members of NodeSchool and Free Code Camp communities have something much more important than raw expertise. They have heart, a desire to network, and an eagerness to help others. This drives up the competency level of each and every participant.

Collaboration is the key to success. We hope to build a better tech community in our city by holding regular events like Nodeschool, Free Code Camp, and keep pushing our city toward becoming a more informed, skilled and proactive generation.

Join me in this Quest. For the City of Joy.

Many thanks to Arijit Layek for the awesome edits and constant motivation. If you would like to get in touch, contact me on Gitter. Help us plan a bigger Nodeschool Kolkata event.