Mozilla Developer Roadshow events are fun, informative sessions for people who build the Web. Over the past eight months we’ve held thirty-six events all over the world sharing the word about the latest in Mozilla and Firefox technologies. Now we’re heading to Asia with the goals of finding local experts and connecting the community. Some of our most successful moments have been when we were able to bring local event organizers together to forge lasting relationships. Our first Asia event is in Singapore at the PayPal headquarters on September 19. (Check here for a full list of the cities.)
I’m excited to be coming along and be part of some of those events and so wanted to know what to anticipate plus get a little perspective from someone immersed in the local developer community. To do that I chatted with Hui Jing Chen, a front-end engineer based in Singapore who speaks globally on CSS Grid.
Q: What would you like to have come out of the event in Singapore? Should we look forward to more opportunities for collaboration between Mozilla and developers in Singapore and Asia?
Hui Jing (HJ): I definitely want to have more collaboration between Mozilla and developers in this region (Southeast Asia). I am aware that a lot of the work on web technologies comes out from Europe or North America, and there are lots of factors at play here, including the fact that digital computing was kickstarted in those regions. But it is the WORLD wide web, and I think it is important that developers from other regions contribute to the development of the web as well. For example, WebRTC expert Dr. Alex. Gouaillard, runs CoSMo Software Consultancy out of Singapore, and they are the key contributors to WebRTC’s development. Understandably, it will take time for our region to catch up, but I hope events like this encourage developers in the region to not only be users of web technologies, but shapers of them as well.
David (DB): And independent of where the technology might come from, clearly the use of the web on a day-to-day basis is as much if not more so driven by what people are doing in Asia and the information (or experiences) they need. We know from our steady stream of developer relations efforts and our Tech Speakers activities that the more engaged we are with developers in this region the richer the web will be and the better sense we’ll have of where the web needs to go. So yes, more opportunities for collaboration would be marvelous!
Q: Meetups have been great regional allies for our Developer Roadshows — What are the unique cultural aspects of the Singapore/Malaysia MeetUp Communities?
HJ: My web development career has taken place completely in Singapore, so I can only speak about the Singapore meetup community, but I find that there is less “networking” at the meetups, in that, you’ll see pockets of people chatting with each other, but a large number of people show up to listen to the talk then leave immediately after. Maybe this happens universally, I can’t say for sure that this is unique though.
DB: That’s something we’ve heard and seen elsewhere too. In part that’s why we like the smaller, more frequent, more community-oriented approach we’ve taken for our Developer Roadshows as opposed to more traditional conference-style events. Our hope is that keeping it more intimate, hosting jointly with well-established local partners, and engaging with an existing local community will give people a more comfortable way of considering ongoing collaboration opportunities yet still have an informative core topic that brings them together in the first place.
Q: Tell me a little bit about some challenges working with and participating with the community.
HJ: I’m the co-organizer of Talk.CSS, which is Singapore’s CSS meetup, and in general, the challenge is in finding new speakers. The community in Singapore is really great, so finding venues is never the problem, it’s usually getting people to speak that is much trickier. I sometimes joke that I’m amazed I still have friends left because I’ve almost strong-armed all of them to speak at my meetup at some point in time, and they’re all too polite to say no. This could be an Asian thing, but people here are a bit more reserved, and if they’ve done something cool, they’re less compelled to stand up in front of everyone and share what they did.
DB: Hmmm, perhaps that’s something we can help you with. (And I mean the finding speakers part, not the still having friends part. :-)
Q: Every region has its particular special interests and strengths. What are some things that the Singapore and possibly Malaysian community does exceptionally well?
HJ: Singapore has an exceptionally strong tech community (at least from what I’ve heard from my friends outside of Singapore). This can be attributed to the efforts from key people, who we will hopefully meet in Singapore, who are super active when it comes to organizing events, helping out newbies, encouraging developers to start their own meetups, and generally just making the tech community in Singapore really vibrant.
For example, webuild.sg is the go-to resource for all the tech meetups in Singapore, which is especially helpful if you want to start your own. They also have their own podcast, where they interview developers on their respective areas of expertise. Engineers.sg was originally a one-man operation which records almost every tech meetup in Singapore, and has now expanded into an entirely volunteer run team.
DB: I wasn’t familiar with webuild.sg, but now that you’ve pointed it out to me I keep finding valuable and informative information on the site, for example on organizing events and contributing to open source. So it’s not only a vital resource for the community in Singapore but valuable elsewhere too.
Q: What expectations should we have as a team visiting from the US/Europe?
HJ: Locals are generally more reserved, in that, usually the people who ask questions or speak up more are foreigners from Western countries. There is a sizeable population of developers from all over the world here in Singapore, so meetup attendance is very diverse. It seems that most people are more comfortable approaching speakers individually after the talk rather than during an open Q&A session.
DB: Individual conversations afterward are something I know our presenters and Roadshow team like very much too. I think our format for the Developer Roadshow works well for that so am looking forward to meeting people and talking to them one-on-one.
Q: Diversity and inclusion are very much highlighted in our tech communities — is this an issue of discussion here in Singapore?
HJ: These issues are not as hotly discussed here as in America, I think, largely because Singapore has always been a multicultural society. I’m not saying racism and misogyny do not exist here, but I dare say very few people are overtly so. I think the gender ratio in tech is male-dominated all over the world, including here.
DB: Certainly this is an issue that varies by region, though we’re committed to expressing our support for diversity and inclusion across all developer communities. That means, for example, having a clear code of conduct for events to promote the largest number of participants with the most varied backgrounds. And we love having these Developer Roadshow events play a part in that, having heard attendees express their delight when they meet other folks from similar backgrounds or come to hear presenters with diverse backgrounds. I know from talking to other people about their company’s developer outreach efforts that we’re going to see even more progress in this space going forward.
Our Developer Roadshow events have been enjoyable and very popular, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming sessions in Asia. We’ll have more later on in the year in other locations around the world too, and by time 2017 is over will have held about fifty-five sessions — more than one a week. Hopefully one has been near enough to you for you to take part, and as we’re keen to keep the program will be again soon. Let us know if not, though, and we’ll see what we can do!