Attending the Southampton Code Dojo

 

Last week I attended the Southampton Code Dojo (http://southamptoncodedojo.com/). My objective was primarily to see how these folks ran their dojo, meet people and have some fun learning new things.

dojo-logo

The Dojo itself is run by folks attached to Southampton University, though they did appeal for help with both running sessions in future, and in terms of finding sponsorship for future sessions.

The first challenge for me was to find the venue. In this case the 4th floor of the Maths/Computing department on Southampton Uni campus. A beer and pizza helped start the conversations, and generally putting people at ease. I’d guess about half of the (25-ish) attendees were attached to the college in some way, the rest were local software developers/coders/engineers/hobbyists.

The organisation of programming teams was random. People were given numbers 1-7 and all the folks with the same number gathered into small groups (~3 people), huddled around a laptop which one of the group had to bring, and waited for the programming exercise to be explained.

After abandoning the initial exercise because of a network/technical issue, we voted on which programming challenge to take on in this session. The winner was “write a program which creates poetry”. And off we went…

The three of us didn’t really know where to start, introductions over, I suggested Haiku were a constrained form of poetry (first line has 5 sylabbles, 2nd line has 7, third line has 5) which might be easier than free-form poetry as there were some constraints to satisfy at least. We chose to use Python (I wanted to learn it more, and a previous email suggested that would be used).

In our team at least, only one person did the typing (the laptop owner), and that meant the other two were less involved (commenting, suggesting, reviewing as we went..etc). Not the most engaging small team structure, but I still felt pretty involved.

By the time we’d got hold of a python-friendly syllable counter library, and a dictionary of words, stuck it together to output random-word haiku, our 2 hours was up.

Everyone showed off their programs, and talked through their approach used… and the veriety was pretty extensive.

One entry did random-slicing of pre-canned lines of haiku together to get composites, with attention to display them with a pretty japanese background. One took the words of all the Harry Potter books and used the frequency of words occurring after other words as inspiration. One created lymerics using rhyming pairs from the web and a name from the user. My favourite asked for a town name, and created a poem-like construct from the weather forecast from the web, and read it out using text-to-speech.

I drew some satisfaction that our team at least had a few unit tests, which seemed to be missing from the other submissions.

Conclusions:

 

There was lots of laughing and joking, emphasizing the fun aspect programming in a light-hearted way. The relaxed atmosphere meant I felt safe to suggest ideas. These folks are very welcoming, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again if I can make the time…

Though I don’t think it’s the ideal environment to learn a programming language you’re unfamiliar with in depth, practicing using a language you’re already trying to learn may be a good idea in this format.

See page relating to the evening, with posts of  some of the code submissions http://southamptoncodedojo.com/reports/8.html.

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