Gearing Up For 2012 (Plans, and a New Site!)

Posted on by admin

(This was also sent as an email to the NUS Hackers mailing list.) Hi everyone,

This is Cedric (aka Eli online), the current president of NUS Hackers.

I’m here to tell you about some of the things we have planned for the next semester, as well as to ask for your input on how we can do certain things better. This will be a long email, but I hope for your patience as I explain some of the initiatives, partnerships and decisions we’ve made behind the scenes. (This closed-door decision-making is also something that will change, but more on that in a bit).

As most of you already know, the NUS Hackers is a club dedicated to the spread of hacker culture and open source software in NUS. Historically, most SoC students don’t really have a culture of building things for fun. We know this because our seniors told us, employers outside tell us, and entrepreneurs tell us the same things over and over again: where are the good programmers? Where can I hire good programmers? Why are SoC students not like MIT/Stanford/X university ones, who build things and learn things on their own, outside school?

(For a taste of what employers think of NUS SoC grads, refer to this Hackerspace.sg thread)

Our response to this is to get more people hacking. This isn’t a completely altruistic motive - the more you hack, the more you release open source code, the more attractive you become to future employers. (i, you display initiative when you launch your own projects ii, tech-savvy employers (the good kind) can read your code before they hire you).

Also, if we get enough hackers together, it benefits everyone in the group, as NUS Hackers will be the go-to place to look for talent for startups, employers, and professors in NUS (research).

We are a long away from that. We did a few new things that were in the right direction last semester, but we were disorganized:

  • Friday Hacks were announced too late in the week
  • The venue kept changing
  • We didn’t pursue opportunities to pass down to members as aggressively.
  • Nobody released open source code.
Here’s what we’re going to do about it.

Friday Hacks - Talks:

We have found that attendance increases when there’s a talk announced early in the week. With that in mind:
  • Friday Hacks will be in one venue for the whole of next semester. I will try to lock down Seminar Room 2 ERC @ Utown, but if that’s not possible, I will announce it here and on the blog.
  • Talks will be announced on the site in advance. I have redesigned the nushackers.org front page to display a list of speakers and topics for all the weeks in the semester, as well as open slots that students, professors, and outside speakers might want to pick to speak. I have also created a general information page for speakers - including a map and parking locations.
  • I want to provide free dinners to everyone, for every Friday Hacks. Coreteam members have good working relationships with several large companies, and I am will find sponsorships to make this happen. (Free pizza makes sense, by the way - we want to build community amongst hackers. Plus speakers from various companies can join right in).

Hacking

Last semester, we found that not many people knew what to hack on. OR that they did homework. That’s not completely cool: a big value-add of hacking is that you learn and build things outside the curriculum. Here’s what we’re doing about that:
  • I spent a week building, and just released Treehouse - a dashboard for NUS Hackers projects. A post may be found here: (I’ll do a proper announcement post soon)
  • Check the project page and the people page out. I’m pushing updates as we go along.
  • Going forward, we will use Treehouse to keep track of all hacking activity in NUS Hackers. :)
  • The site is capable of parsing git repositories, so as long as you have a publicly available git clone address, it will grab it and parse it and attribute it to the right contributors.
  • It also has social features, and karma, meaning there is some built-in troll-protection. I will moderate and build extra anti-flamewar controls if required.
  • Please sign up, and remember to use the email address you use to sign your git commits.

What we will use Treehouse for:

  • Next semester, for a four week period at the start of the semester, we will get everyone to work on projects, with a show-and-tell and the end of the four weeks.
  • <li>What kind of projects? Any kind - but preferably ones that benefit the NUS community. E.g. I'm planning to do a Javascript skinner for IVLE, to make it user-friendly and awesome-looking. You can also choose to build mashups on top of the CORS API we released a few weeks back. Plus: let's do it in teams! (Anyone want to work with me?)</li>
    
    <li>This hacking will take place during Friday Hacks, for four sessions. (You can also work on it in your spare time, of course, which means):</li>
    
    <li>Treehouse will be used to keep track of these projects. </li>
    
    <li>More details on how we're going to organize this next week.</li>

Of course, it goes unsaid that coreteam should set the example for the rest of us. So I’m going to make sure everyone builds something ;-)

Communication

I realize that we’ve not been clear on everything that’s going on in the club. Consider this email my apology, and know that I’ll work on pushing atomized updates to the mailing list in the near future. (Or we might move to Treehouse, I don’t know).

I also realize that the coreteam has two options in achieving our goal: grow the team, or write more software to make managing the club easier. For the time being, I believe the latter option is the answer. Because: i) we’re hackers, ii) we want to avoid bureaucracy like NES or NUSSU. Being small and scrappy has its benefits.

That’s all from me folks.

Please chime in if you have suggestions, ideas, or pointers.

Thank you for your time,

Ced

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