It’s 5.00 PM on a Tuesday evening at the ThoughtWorks office in Kampala, Uganda and a group of 15 developers are getting ready for something we call a Code Jam. Code jams are programming sessions in which a group of developers work on specific features/enhancements/defects of a product for a number of hours. Tonight, as with many previous Code Jams organized around the world over the past several years—from New York and Porto Alegre to London and Chennai—our focus is on RapidFTR, an innovation that aims to expedite the family tracing and reunification process of unaccompanied and separated children in emergencies.

The idea of any Code Jam is to make the features as small as possible so developers can complete them during the session. Our session began with contributors setting up their workstations by installing various prerequisites for working on the RapidFTR code base. This was a fun activity with pizza and refreshments on the menu – a must for any Code Jam.

Developers working on RapidFTR. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu
Developers working on RapidFTR. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu

After setting up their workstations, contributors quickly signed up for features to work on by scanning through the list of issues in Github and pitching their understanding to the rest of the group. The contributors then proceeded to work on the feature in pairs in order to ensure code quality and good coding practices.

Pair programming for a cause. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu
Pair programming for a cause. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu

Paul Kawalya, a freelance graduate of Software Engineering from Makerere University and a first time contributor to RapidFTR said, “I have always wanted to contribute to an open source project the size of RapidFTR. Writing code that actually solves real challenges is the reason I came to this code jam. I strongly believe that RapidFTR will help parents looking for their children in emergency situations”.

A RapidFTR contributor pitching a feature to the rest of the group. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu
A RapidFTR contributor pitching a feature to the rest of the group. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu

During the break, the contributors listened to Stuart Campo from UNICEF, who talked about the vision of RapidFTR, the role of the open source community in the product’s evolution, and the fact that the app is now being used in a number of emergency operations.

Stuart Campo from UNICEF talking to contributors. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu
Stuart Campo from UNICEF talking to contributors. Photo credit: Raymond Matovu

After four straight hours of coding, the event finally came to an end with contributors committing their new features into the project’s repository on Github and feeling satisfied with what they achieved.

Another code jam was officially over, but our dedication to the project runs deep. We continue our search for more Rails and Android developers to become contributors and any volunteers across the globe to organise similar code jams in order to contribute to a better and safer world for children. Anyone interested in joining the global community of RapidFTR contributors can learn more on the RapidFTR Wiki and start contributing today.

For more information about RapidFTR, visit rapidftr.com.
To contribute to RapidFTR, visit the project’s Github page to get started.
For more information about code jams, read Martin Fowler’s blog on the subject.

By Raymond Matovu
ThoughtWorks Kampala

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