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· 9 min read
Raul Jimenez Ortega
It's been a long time since I wrote about these topics...

Specifically since I launched the family blog attempt (in 2018), although I hope to find time another day to share these experiences.

The truth is that I would like to share how I am trying to get involved in my son's school. Through the AMPA and other ways, and the initiatives I have recently participated in there. For example:

  • A talk to 3rd and 4th-year ESO students (14 to 16 years old) at a career guidance event, where I shared my experience with them (starting from when I was their age until today).
  • A discussion with Gabriel Zabal, for parents with children over 10 years old, mainly focused on the risks associated with new technologies, using social networks as a guiding thread but touching on many other topics.
  • Or my experience participating with them in the sports day championships.

If you are interested in these topics, let me know in the comments (to prioritize it) 😉.

BTW, in case you need it, here is a table of course equivalencies between countries:

SpainUSACanadaIrelandUnited KingdomFranceGermany
1st ESOGrade 7Grade 71st YearYear 8Collège 5e7 Klasse
2nd ESOGrade 8Grade 82nd YearYear 9Collège 4e8 Klasse
3rd ESOGrade 9Grade 93rd YearYear 10Collège 3e9 Klasse
4th ESOGrade 10Grade 104th YearYear 11 & GCSESeconde10 Klasse
1st BachilleratoGrade 11Grade 115th YearYear 12Première11 Klasse
2nd BachilleratoGrade 12Grade 126th YearYear 13 & A LevelsTerminale12 Klasse

Those who know me know that I am used to giving training and talks to adults, but helping a 7-year-old child learn to study... is something totally different, and it is proving to be quite a challenge 😅.

So today I want to talk about my experience trying to help my son José summarize books, how I have come to feel frustrated by setting my expectations too high, and the conclusions I have reached.

The context

To give you some background:

  • Every two weeks he brings a book from school home.
  • These are books that himself and his classmates have brought to class, usually bought by the parents.
  • They are asked to fill out a worksheet after reading where they have to make a summary of about half a page.
  • These books are like Anna Kadabra, Pokémon, Marcus Pocus, Dog Man, ... which mostly have +100 pages.
  • Lastly, they have the "reading challenge" (optional), where each month they are encouraged to choose another book that meets certain characteristics. For example:
    • In January, one with a beautiful cover
    • In February, one with illustrations
    • In March, another with a number in the title
    • In April, one turned into a movie
    • In May, one with an author from your country
    • In June, a graphic novel/comic.

Although most books are recommended for children his age, in some ways it surprises me:

  • The length of the books, especially for the pace at which they have to read. Although I suppose it is good because it requires them to read almost daily a chapter, which will help them develop a reading habit.
  • The vocabulary contained in the books, sometimes quite advanced, which is good, I suppose.
note

Here's a talk (in Spanish) that my good friend Jorge Barrachina recommended to me recently, Gregorio Luri's talk "El arte de leer y el gusto por la lectura".

But I would like to know if I am the only one or if other families also have similar feelings. I encourage you to tell me in the comments 😜.

The frustration

It all starts when after several weeks, after reading my son's summaries looking for spelling mistakes, I realize that I don't understand the summaries very well. So, with the idea of helping him improve them, I start asking him questions, to see if I can understand the plot better, but still I'm missing characters, or clarifications, or anything else that makes it hard for me to understand the story.

In the end, both his mother and I decided that the best thing would be for one of us to also read the book, so we could help him because otherwise, how would we know if he had missed something important or not?

Well... something that initially didn't seem complicated, I realized was more difficult than I thought 😅.

One of the things I have noticed while reading the books is that every one or two pages, there are words that I suspect he doesn't know, like exhalation, arrogant, seep, utopian, electoral campaign, ..., so every time I read one of his books, I ask him to verify.

Indeed, many he doesn't know, and I always tell him:

José, when you don't understand something...ask what it means! Because if you don't, you're probably not understanding the story well.

I always do it... even when I'm reading Mikecrack stories to him and his brother in bed before sleeping, but no matter how much I repeat it... there comes a time when he stops asking.

But well, once the entire book is read and all the vocabulary is reviewed, we move on to the summary. There, my method consists of reminding him that every story has:

  • A beginning, where something usually happens that disrupts the order and:
    1. Creates a problem to solve.
    2. Is the trigger for an adventure.
  • Then there's the development (or middle), which is what is told in most of the book.
  • Then there's an end (or conclusion), where the situation is resolved, or the story ends, and everything returns to normal.
  • And besides this, there are some characters more important than others, without whom the story could not be told well.

And then I ask him to, using those four elements, tell me what happens at the beginning, the most important things that happen before reaching the end, how everything is resolved and returns to normal, and while doing that, explain who each of the characters are.

Well, as you can imagine, despite all attempts and trying to give him hints, because to be honest, even I sometimes find it hard to summarize... I can't get the summary to meet my expectations 😅, which ends in my frustration 😡, for which I then have to apologize to him, explaining that it is not his fault but my own frustration for not being able to help him 😞.

Asking for help from the teacher

So I said to myself, "OK Raúl, you're not doing it right, ask the teacher for help!" (and that's what I did).

After talking to her, she gave me some advice. Since the books are quite long, she told me to ask José to write down "the main ideas" of each chapter on a separate sheet, and then with all of them, make the summary.

Here are the notes we made from the book Anna Kadabra 13. Danger at the Mansion:

Main ideas by chapter of: Anna Kadabra 13. Danger at the Mansion

The problem is that when taking notes and making the summary, he sometimes missed important things, like the fact that the supposed villain of the book wasn't so bad (but had been deceived), or he focused on things that caught his attention but weren't relevant, like an anecdote about a secondary character.

But of course... he's a child, how do I explain to him what is a main character or event and what is a secondary one?

I tell him: "if you remove that part of the story or character, can you still understand the story? Is it still the same?" and he says something like... "dad, if you remove anything... the story is no longer the same", and he's not wrong 🤣. So in the end, on more than one occasion, I end up telling him what I THINK is important and why.

Asking for help from my mother

In the end, I turned to my mother, because besides being my mother, she was my language teacher, and the teacher of many children in a school in Nerja.

She recommended a book that seemed promising: "In primary school, learn to learn - 6: Learn to summarize and take notes", and I, as an obedient son (sometimes 😜😜), bought it.

As you can see on Amazon, the book was published in 2001 (more than 20 years ago!), but what caught my attention was what I saw in the introduction:

Learning to learn 6 - Learn to summarize and take notes

Seeing that "in the past" it wasn't until the age of 10 that summaries were learned reassured me. This, along with the last meeting with my son's teacher, who again hinted that I shouldn't be so demanding with the summaries, I've decided to relax and see it from another perspective 🧘💆.

My conclusions

I have to get used to the fact that the summary is not that important (for now). What is important is that my son:

  • Keeps enjoying reading.
  • Continues developing his reading speed and comprehension.
  • Learns vocabulary.
  • And above all, doesn't start disliking reading because after... there's going to be a time of "dad's anger" ;(.

So now what I've asked him to do is that when he reads a book:

  • Have a blank sheet of paper at hand.
  • Write down all the words he doesn't know.
  • And ask Alexa (Echo Show) what they mean, and write them down. I was going to buy him a traditional dictionary... but honestly, I think this way will be faster and he will use it more.

Because from now on, when I read the book, I will see if he has done "his homework" and taken notes, because now instead of putting so much emphasis on the summary, we will try to get him into the habit of looking up what he doesn't understand, so he can learn vocabulary and better understand what he reads.

How do you see it? Any advice? 🙂.

Comments

· 8 min read
Raul Jimenez Ortega

Today I am writing to announce that in 🧠 My digital brain I have added a new section to collect resources for people who energize 🌈 Tech communities in the hope that they will help create more sustainable communities over time.

Photo of the CommitConf 2023 Open Space "Local communities outside big cities".

Photo of the CommitConf 2023 Open Space "Local communities outside big cities".

New resources section

Following the document I produced with help from several people(1) last year (🇪🇸) after the Open Space @ CommitConf 2023, I have published three resources:

I have also created several "placeholders" on resources that I hope to develop based on input from the upcoming Open Space(2):

(1) At the end I have added a list of people who have contributed to this work.

(2) Next week is CommitConf 2024, where the OpenSpace on "How to sustain technical communities" that Dani Rey, Oskar Calvo and I have proposed will take place, which will be "the continuation" of last year's Open Space where some of the challenges facing technical communities were discussed.

Communities in recess?

Are the communities in recess?, are the communities having more problems now than before?

After talking to many people, and in different forums, such as the Open Space, my perception is that there is a general feeling about the drop of activity in many of the technology communities (both in Spain and abroad) in the last few years, especially since the pandemic.

By "drop of activity" I mean a mix of things, but mainly I mean a lower attendance to meetings (face-to-face and online), interactions in mailing lists/IMs, etc.

And this situation, worries those of us who energize communities.

One of the concerns that I have heard recurrently is that the average age of the people who are part of these communities is growing, or said with other words, that it is difficult to attract and engage the new generations.

Personally, I am reluctant to believe that this is because the experience offered by the communities no longer provides as much value to the new generations as other new formats, channels or "forums".

But before we continue... what is a community?

What is a community?

Or rather, what do I mean by community, or technology community?

Perhaps it is good to start with this question, since for example, during the Open Space, in my opinion, there were times when the conversation revolved around different concepts of "community".

Vibrant meeting space, technologists gather with faces animated by enthusiasm.

In my case, I talk about what is known as "communities of practice", which in short are groups of people(user groups, associations, meetups...) that:

  • organize regular meetings (face-to-face and/or online).
  • share a passion / profession / concerns, ... for technology (software, hardware, methodologies or best practices, ...).
  • mainly, seek to collaborate with each other, voluntarily and altruistically.
  • they seek the common benefit above the particular one (including the particular interest of the organizations that may support/sponsor them).
  • are always open to new people.
  • feel part of the group and identify with it.

So, I just wanted to clarify that:

  1. All this is in my experience and is based primarily on the type of communities I just described.
  2. I believe that most of the ideas and tips shared in the documents, can be applied to this type of communities, whether they are local (in small and in big cities), as much as online/virtual, regardless of the fact that each one has its peculiarities.

Having said all of the above, it does not detract from the fact that some of the tips can also be applied to people who are in the business of disseminating online content, or people who organize large conferences.

What has changed?

Why do those of us who have been energizing communities have this feeling/perception?

To give some context, I started to get involved with this particular type of communities at the university (in ~2009), and since then I have participated, contributed, founded and co-organized quite a few communities, organizing hundreds of meetings (of all kinds).

Based on this experience, I would say that the feeling that activity is declining is mainly due to the fact that it is harder for us to provide value as we did before.

Now the offer is wider and the attention is diversifying with the increase of communities, channels/media (Discords, Slacks, social newtwords, ...), but also the rise of influencers.

The image shows a cluttered room, a person hiding behind his hands, drowned between screens and cables.

Personally I also think that digital contact is eating more ground to the physical, just see that almost everything is done through apps: order food, a cab, talk / chat, procedures with the administration, ... even flirting! 😅 and I have no doubt that this also has consequences.

That is why I believe that it is not that communities do not provide value, but that they simply have to take into account this change of context and reinvent/modernize themselves. Remember, as Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

I hope that sharing some of the advice I heard at the Open Space, and some of my own, will serve to help refloat some communities and help new ones to emerge.

A book I really like that talks about adapting to change is Who Moved My Cheese? 🧀🐁.

Anatomy of communities

And before I finish, I wanted to share some ideas and resources to share my understanding of communities.

The most basic are the degrees of involvement. I used to explain them this way to my Esri colleagues several years ago (~2017):

Anatomy of a community diagram

Anatomy of a community.

After that, Jorge taught me several theories:

  • The Orbit Model, which serves as a model to explain that to increase the feeling of belonging to a group, it is necessary to increase the number of interactions and positive impacts between people, and that bonds are forged.
  • The 1% rule, which I use to adjust expectations that no more than ~1% will help to energize, nor ~10% participate, although really measuring this is often quite subjective, just like trying to measure a friendship (because at the end of the day, that's what they are).
  • The Community Maturity Model, an interesting framework for classifying different types of communities.

Community Maturity Model - The Community RoundTable

Contributions

I would like to start by thank Dani Rey (@kdarrey) from XantarDev and the Commit team, who made it possible for us to meet last year to share experiences and reflections about this very interesting topic and that has been the germ of these resources.

Below is a list of the names I was able to capture during the Open Space held in April 2023 at CommitConf.

Photo of the CommitConf 2023 community meeting.

Photo by Santiago B. / @Santyx_Error from Open Space.

Sorry for those people I left out!!!, if you read the article you can leave me a message in the comments to add you (or make a PR) 😜😂.

And I also want to explicitly thank: Soraya Muñoz, Juanma Ruiz, and Mariano Pérez Caro for their contributions and reviews to the papers I have shared.

Comments

· 6 min read
Raul Jimenez Ortega

📄 Note: The interactive version of this article is available at Dev.to 🇺🇸🇬🇧 & Medium.com 🇪🇸.


If you want to know what the benefits of attending developer conferences like CommitConf and why you should consider submitting a proposal for a talk or workshop, keep reading! 😄.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend CommitConf. It is one of the largest events for developers that is held annually in Spain. It is well attended and draws strong participation from around 50 Spanish technical communities.

Photo of the venue's lobby during event registration

Why attend conferences like CommitConf?

At the conference, developers were brought together to retrain, discover, and share new insight and knowledge about our profession. For example, attendees shared information about:

  • New tools and languages.
  • New capabilities for the tools and languages already used by the community.
  • How companies solve different software development challenges.
  • Best practices in accessibility, security, and design patterns.
  • New trends.

Additionally, the conference provided a place to meet new people and reconnect with those already known. At events like this, it’s not uncommon to run into people you know! In my case, I bumped into some of my former colleagues, and some developers who use ArcGIS to create Location-Aware apps or map applications.

Selfies taken by Raul with other developers during the event.

What made this conference special?

This event, like many others, gives us, developers, the opportunity to present talks, workshops, and even Open Spaces.

For attendees, a unique factor that sets this event apart from others is the system used to create the event‘s agenda, allowing the communities themselves to be involved in the selection process of talks. This system is called Koliseo and is free for anyone to use.

Why submit a proposal?

Going to an event like CommitConf is an opportunity to learn from and contribute to the developer community. And, there are many different motivations for a person to send a proposal.

  • There are people who simply enjoy sharing knowledge and experiences.
  • Other attendees want to increase the visibility of their company and to raise awareness of the cool work they do, with the hope of attracting new talent.
  • Some attendees want to create a personal brand.
  • While others want to discuss and find solutions to a problem with their colleagues.

And if you are lucky enough to have a proposal accepted, as in my case, you can attend the speakers’ dinner the day before the event, where you meet a lot of experts on different topics 😍.

What did Esri bring to the conference?

From the company I work for (Esri), they have always encouraged me to attend to conferences and to send proposals that I thought might be relevant to other developers.

This time, I presented a variety of proposals:

  • DataViz & Map Optimization
  • Designing Beautiful and Intelligent Maps
  • Using and Creating Collections in Postman Like a Pro
  • 🔑🔒 OAuth, OpenID Connect and JWT for Dummies

I was lucky that the conference organizers accepted “OAuth, OpenID Connect, and JWT for Dummies” because it gave me the opportunity to share what these auth standards are and how they work. I showed practical examples based on some of the resources that we have created from Esri's Developer Experience team, like the Authentication workspace in Postman.

Photo of Raul's talk during his talk on oAuth showing Raul speaking and the audience of about 100 people.

In case you want, you can check the slides out here. If you are interested in the topic and want me to repeat this talk online, just let me know in the comments!

What did I learn at the conference?

Below are some of the takeaways from the sessions that I attended:

  • Local Communities Outside Big Cities (Open Space): This session was super interesting. I had the opportunity to share tips and ideas to overcome challenges in creating and maintaining developer communities with approximately thirty other people. Among them were representatives from different communities about Python, Software Crafting, Data, Machine Learning, generalists’ communities, Free Software, GNU/Linux, DevOps, Drupal, and us representing the GeoDevelopers community.

Note: After the session, I decided to create a guide with what we learned and our own experience. If you are interested, save the article in favourites because we will add it [here] in a few weeks.

Photo of the Open Space on communities showing about thirty attendees seated in a circle.

  • Detecting Web Performance Issues with Chrome DevTools: @nucliweb gave an overview of the Chrome DevTools and showed us how they keep adding new tools like Recorder and Coverage to help evaluate your web performance and optimize it. Also, he showed us how the new AVIF image format improves WebP performance. More info at web.dev.

  • Don’t Yell at Me, I Can’t See You: @javierabadia and @jameshedaweng explained to us how to divide the responsibilities between an Engineering Manager and a Product Manager to avoid failure when creating a product. In summary, a PM must be responsible for what features to add and why, and the EM in the how and the who. The when should be a shared responsibility.

  • Why I Decided to Pursue the Developer Relations Path: @kinisoftware told us about his experience as a Staff Developer Relations Engineer, where he works to promote the expertise of Criteo’s technical team by facilitating participation in events and communities.

  • Testing Web Accessibility: @bolonio showed us a multitude of tools and resources for testing web accessibility: axe-core, eslint-plugin-jsx-a11y, jest-axe, axe-core/cli, pa11y, pa11y-ci, axe chrome extension, arc toolkit, accessibilityinsights.io, wave.webaim.org, and more.

  • The Mistake of Becoming a Manager: @npatarino explained to us that becoming a manager of people is not the only way to have leadership or increase your salary. He said that for those senior software engineers who want to continue growing, there are other positions such as Staff Software Engineer, Principal Software Engineer, Distinguished Software Engineer and Technical Fellow.

  • Past, Present and Future of EducaMadrid: @asanzdiego talked to us about the educational platform of the Community of Madrid that he leads; he told us about the technical challenges they suffered during the pandemic, when the number of active users grew exponentially, along with the strengths and limitations of his team and his technological stack based on free software.

Composition of photographs of different sessions attended by Raul.

In summary, if you don't use to go to developer conferences, I hope my experience has encouraged you and given you arguments to attend in the future. I would say also to the Esri Developer Summit in the USA (or in Europe), although this rather applies if you are an Esri partner or customer 😉.

Remember, although much of the content of these conferences is then made available online, there are many other things that can only be achieved by attending.

If you want to leave comments, you can do it in the article published in Dev.to