North Texas Daily

Code of honor: Denton programming groups get to work

Code of honor: Denton programming groups get to work

Code of honor: Denton programming groups get to work
April 24
01:29 2014

Nicholas Friedman // Staff Writer

Every click on a computer screen has a complex language of numbers and algorithms behind it. This language is known as code.

Programming groups OpenHack and Denton Jelly, as part of the larger Denton tech initiative, seek to provide a place for seasoned coders and first timers to work on projects, pitch ideas and improve their skills.

Coding, group organizer Marshall Culpepper said, is the concept of creating software and effectively telling a computer what to do and when.

“Programming is a skill that is used in almost every single industry that exists today,” Culpepper said. “You can find yourself a niche or you can be a generalist. Pick your poison, software is everywhere.”

Cracking the code

Denton OpenHack and Denton Jelly both meet at Banter by the square, giving participants a chance to grab coffee, crack open their laptops and code freely.

OpenHack meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m., while Denton Jelly comes together every Friday morning at 10 a.m., continuing throughout the workday.

“Denton Jelly is a regular meetup of techies here in town who typically work from home or do remote work, meaning they don’t have to be anywhere near their base of employment,” learning technologies master’s student Andrew Miller said.

Miller, who works as a System Administrator for UNT, said Jelly is more for individuals who don’t necessarily collaborate, but are looking for a place to spend time with others performing similar actions.

On the other hand, OpenHack is where coders and those interested in coding can hang out, throw around ideas and meet like-minded individuals.

“Something is so amazing about this community is how willing everyone is to help you out if you’re interested in technology,” Miller said. “It’s about uniting the people who already do technology, but also opening doors for other people in Denton who are wanting to pursue that potential career path.”

Culpepper said OpenHack was founded on the idea that hackers and coders can come together and work on things they haven’t been exposed to yet.

“Sometimes programmers will bring individuals interested in coding and use these sessions to teach them how to code,” Culpepper said. “New people will come and find someone to team up with and learn. Just last week we had an entire community college class show up. They were given extra credit from their professor if they participated.”

Chul Chung, physics major at Collin College, drove in from Frisco to attend one of the Denton Jelly meetups.

“I do know how to code but only at a beginner level,” Chung said. “I’m interested in learning as much as possible. Everything I’ve learned so far has been from YouTube tutorials and other websites.”

Those interested in coding can start with websites like CodeAcademy or CodeAnywhere. These sites are aimed at providing interactive tutorials starting at a beginner level to ease newcomers into different coding languages.

“There is enough information for free on the web to teach yourself to program,” Miller said. “If you start attending meetups like Denton Jelly and OpenHack, it would rapidly increase the speed at which you’ll learn to program.”

Projects and perseverance

Culpepper said that since the groups started in December of last year they have seen attendance grow, with OpenHack and Jelly attendance usually ranging from 20 to 30 people per meeting. Culpepper said the groups have started work on three projects they hope to launch in the near future.

“Right now we’re working on a tech conference for Denton that will be on the coattails of 35Denton,” Culpepper said. “We’re hoping to set it up similar to SXSW where we have the tech festival before the music festival.”

The second project is the brainchild of web developer Kyle Taylor, active OpenHack member and organizer of yearly tech event Startup Denton. Titled OpenDenton, the project is a platform that will allow Taylor’s team to host public data for the community to use and consume freely.

“The idea is to make public data be better available to the community that can increase government transparency, spending and civic engagement,” Taylor said.

OpenDenton is also about the people who want to contribute to open data and use it for community initiatives.

Taylor said this project can mean things like creating apps which use city information that could help those in wheelchairs find accessible routes or help people identify their voting districts, a recent collaboration with city councilman Kevin Roden.

The last project is known as Compost Denton, set to launch this summer. Compost Denton is a startup from Miller that seeks to provide a residential compost pickup service for the community.

“We are completing the feedback loops of our local food system by taking your waste and turning it into soil for local urban farmers,” Miller said. “We collect volume data every time we pick up and enter it into our database. We’ll program it so that we can visualize the data online so that people can get an idea of how much certain areas are composting.”

Miller says that he hopes to “game-ify” the practice by ranking participants based on their activity and offering rewards, which will be provided by local businesses.

Culpepper said these kinds of ideas are a product of the collaboration of people in the Denton tech community, and he hopes meetups like Jelly and OpenHack will continue to foster these ideas.

“To code you have to go the way of ‘just do it to learn it,’” Culpepper said. “There is a really good mix of people here and there is no shortage if you want to learn something new.”

Feature photo: Marshall Culpepper is the Co-organizer of OpenHack and DentonJelly. OpenHack is a group of hackers and entrepreneurs working together to build projects from the ground up. They meet every third Wednesday for regular meetings. Photo by Zixian Chen / Senior Staff Photographer 

About Author

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the Editor In Chief of the North Texas Daily. In addition, he's had his work published at The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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