Why I started a Node.js user group 27 May 2012

My decision to start NodeCPT has a couple of different motivations, which I will deal with mostly separately in this post.

The big picture.

Why a Node.js group and not just Javascript?

I firmly believe that Javascript is going to be one of the most crucial technologies in the coming years, supplanting a lot of technologies that have become very entrenched in the industry up to now. I really want to help that along however I can, because I am just incredibly excited about the what the future holds for us.

I think that the value proposition of javascript on the server is not being able to share code with the client, but rather being able to share developers. I think that the same language on the front end and back end, breaks down barriers and ultimately encourages more people to understand the ‘full stack’.

I also find Node.js exciting because it is an amazing opportunity to shake off a decade or more of technical debt and intellectual baggage. I would rather encourage people to think about the internet and technology in new and wonderful ways, than try and drag their familiar toys along with them. I’m just not interested in sitting through a presentation about how to use random jquery module X in your wordpress theme.

What is our goal?

My perception of Node.JS in Cape Town, is that there are a fair number of interested early-adopters who are tinkering with it. These developers might even have gotten the permission to build small subsystems in node for their current employers, but by-and-large you don’t have many companies that are entirely node oriented yet. I think that is a pretty common picture of how Node.js is seen outside of the valley, actually.

I think that means that the role of this user group should be to help as many people as possible to climb this learning curve. The more local developers we get using and understanding Node, the more confidence employers will be able to place in the platform, because they will actually be able to find staff who can work on node. More people being able to make a living using it, will again expand our audience.

Each new person who we attract is another opportunity for us to learn from. The amount of knowledge that is available has expanded far beyond what any single person can process and comprehend. By getting together and swapping war stories, we gain access to Tribal Knowledge that may prove invaluable to you one day.

By helping each other, we really end up helping ourselves. Also, it is just nice to get out now and then and chat to some like minded people. =).

On a personal level

For most of my adult life, I have been a South African working remotely for North American companies. This has been to my advantage, in that I have been able to work with some very intelligent people on many exciting projects using lots of cutting edge technology over the years.

Connection to peer lost

This also meant that I have become far more out of touch, and isolated with the local tech scene. I came to realize at some point last year, that I had nobody I could talk to about all the cool stuff I was learning about Node.JS.

Don’t get me wrong, I already have a large group of very technical friends, but they are still very deeply involved in Drupal and benefiting from it greatly.

I was responsible for getting them all into Drupal in the first place, but I don’t expect them to switch platforms just because I am excited about something new now. It was going to be up to me to expand my horizons a bit, and meet some new faces.

Connecting to network

For about 2 years in the early 2000’s I organized my local linux user group, and I also started the Cape Town Drupal user group (although I wasnt ever really heavily involved in it). DevelopmentSeed, my previous employer, also runs the DC Node.js User Group, where I have presented a few times.

I decided to make use of this experience, and apply it to growing the local Node.js community. I put some basic infrastructure in place, and we started organizing regularly meetings. It’s been a good learning experience so far, and it is nice to take a break from my self-imposed “exile-to-internetland” now and then.

We are still small, and we are still finding our feet, but I think that we will be able to be a real force for good in our local industry.. eventually.

Check back soon for the HOWTO guide to start your own user group.