Looking back on Cardiff Git Workshop

By Gavin Davies on 2 December 2012

Cardiff Git Works went very well…

Yesterday saw Cardiff Git Workshop at IndyCube down Cardiff Bay. I was incredibly nervous – I’ve not organised anything like this by myself before! Unified Diff is the closest thing, and we’re a team of 5!

I arrived at 12:30, started setting up, and soon Rod and The Head Chap turned up, which did wonders for my nerves! Rod kindly agreed to go outside with an IndyCube sign to direct guys into the hard-to-find venue, which was both hilarious and practical, like some kind of coder version of a UFC ring girl!

As the attendees arrived, we all introduced ourselves. The furthest flung guys came all the way from Salisbury! They told us “there’s nothing like this round our ends”. I was really humbled that people had come from so far! No pressure!

The Head Chap’s git talk went on for over an hour and after a shaky patch went really well – the concepts of Git were clearly communicated in an easily comprehensible manner. Lots of the attendees had questions and I think everyone got the answers they needed – or at least, more to go on!

Following the talk, we split up into groups. This was totally ad-hoc and unplanned – some guys came with me to do practical stuff, some guys went into the other room to talk about workflow. I essentially used Scott Chacon’s approach to teaching Git practicals – I got the 8 or so guys who were with me to create a repo, add, commit, explained and demonstrated the staging area, and then we went through pushing, pulling, merging, and multiple remotes.

I was astonished by how much we covered and how well the guys shared information between them – there was a real mix of levels of Git experience.

I was kind of giddy at the end! What a day!

Organisation notes

I didn’t want us to get mobbed, but also I didn’t want it to be a washout with no attendees. Therefore, I capped the numbers at 16, plus as many experienced guys as I could get my hands on to help people out 1:1 with their Git queries. As time went on, a lot of folks couldn’t make it, so it became a juggling act of trying to get the places filled without the venue being swamped and us losing control of the situation!

I’m very glad it worked out!

The hardest bit was communication and organisation – to keep people’s emails private, I used BCC to message the attendees. Unfortunately, that meant that most people’s email clients treated the messages as spam! In future, I’ll use a mailing list like MailChimp to manage things. I’m a little concerned that some people might have missed out because of the email issue. Ah well, I’ve learned from it!

Organising your own events

This went well (I think!) thanks to the attendees coming ready to talk, learn and share, and because of a really good keynote speech from the Head Chap. Also, lots of Box UK developers kindly gave up their time to come down and help – and I think all of them went away having learned at least as much as they shared!

I’m not special, I’m not magic, all I did was book an event, set up a domain and build a website, set up Twitter, then I used the Unified Diff twitter follower list to notify guys who might be interested. There’s nothing stopping other people from putting on events like this. I’m fortunate in that I know a good number of programmers who are also good talkers and have a positive outlook and attitude – the culture at Box UK tends to encourage sharing of ideas.

It cost me about £70 overall to put on this event. Plus a T-shirt, but that’s a long story! A few of the guys asked if we wanted contributions, but this event was free of charge. If, however, people want to buy my book for as little as $1.99, that would be great because then they get something out of it as well 🙂 I believe in my book, I genuinely think it can help coders in their work.

If you’re looking to do something like this, then go for it! I suppose it didn’t happen overnight – I’ve been giving tech talks for 5 years now and have that experience to draw on. Small steps are important – like with TDD! It’s like punk rock – get what you can, and use it 🙂

Why did you do it?

One thing has been on my mind for a while. Luke 12:48b records Jesus saying: “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” This verse is rich with meaning, but part of it is that I have been given SO MUCH in terms of experience, smart colleagues, education and opportunity. Therefore, I want to share that around, encourage others, and get people sharing their experience and skill. I heard a lot of people saying they found Git hard, so it was as simple as wanting to help.

What’s next?

I’d definitely like to put on more workshops – perhaps something bi-monthly? I found the format worked really well, although it could easily have been a disaster!