• Защо имаме този глад за програмисти?

    After nearly an year without blogging, it is time for a second restart. This time, I am going to write in Bulgarian, because the topic is contextual for what’s happening in Bulgaria.

    Programming

    Programming

    На IT сектора в България не достигат X на брой хора, които да започнат работа.

    През последните няколко години, X беше замествано с числа като 5000, 10 000, 20 000 и т.н. За точността на числото може да говорим в изцяло отделна статия.

    Това, което всеки занимаващ се по някакъв начин с IT индустрията в България, може да забележи е, че постоянно има търсене.

    “Познаваш ли някой JavaScript програмист?” е често задаван въпрос.

    Обяви за работа за програмисти се появяват по билборди, в метрото, по радиото. Споменаване на няколко ключови думи в LinkedIn ще доведе до буря от HR хора, които ви питат как сте и дали случайно си търсите работа.

    В деня преди HackFMI 6, таксиджията, който ме караше, ме попита дали мога да му намеря 1-2 програмистa, за една бизнес идея.

    На кратко, има търсене за програмисти, което не намира съответното предлагане.

    И тъй като това е бизнесът с една от най-големите добавени стойности в България (и позволява добър стандарт на живот), то въпросът е важен.

    Като човек, който се занимава с преподаване и обучаване на програмисти, постоянно си задавам този въпрос – Защо го има този глад?

    От наблюденията ми досега, следват няколко идеи, които искам да ви споделя.

    И преди да започнем, три много важни disclaimer–а:

    • Статията ще се фокусира върху хората, които вече са завършили училище и са влезли в някакъв университет или пък работят. За учениците ще пиша накрая.
    • Като следващи стъпки, ще се опитам да вляза в повече подробности с референции и данни от нашия опит в Хак България. Сега споделям моето наблюдение.
    • Където се срещне думата образование, имам предвид “IT образование”.

    Време

    Read more

  • Blog Restart

    It’s been a year since I’ve posted something here. Shame on me!

    At least, I can say that my year was quite dynamic and full of interesting things which left me no time for my personal blog. At some point, I forgot I had a blog and one Google search, hitting my own article reminded me of that.

    So it’s time to restart the blog with fresh content. There are a lot of stories I want to share too.

    And if you ask – what was the reason you forgot your blog? The answer here is easy – HackBulgaria!

    This is the project that I was working on during the entire year.  Hack Bulgaria is a hacker school, based in Sofia, where we deliver world-class programming education and preparing people to be above-the-average on skill level and find a better job in the IT ecosystem in Bulgaria.

    You should check out HackBulgaria’s GitHub – everything we have done for 2014 is there.

    Think. Code. Test. Deploy

    Think. Code. Test. Deploy

    Some updates

    That’s it 😉

    Thanks for reading!

  • Scratching the Surface and High Drop-out rates from MOOCs

    Yesterday, I was reading some articles (Here and Here) about MOOCs drop-out rates and was thinking – Why the hell most of the students don’t finish their entire online course, even when it’s taught by the best of best (Both universities and professors) ?
    This drop-out rate can be a very bad thing, when you have to convince someone that MOOCs are a good idea.

    But, I opened my Coursera account and saw the same effect – in dozens of courses that i signed up for, watched the videos for week 1 and week 2 and after this, dropped out.

    But wait a minute, I have finished one course of Cryptography and right now, I am doing pretty well with the Machine Learning in Coursera.
    For the rest of the courses, I contributed to the high drop-out rate by not sticking with them.

    Mooc

    Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg#filelinks

    So what can be the problem with MOOCs ?

    As I checked my YouTube subscription’s list, I realized something – I enrolled for 80% of the courses in Coursera (and edX) out of pure curiosity for the topic.
    All I wanted to do is to scratch the surface – get to know the topic and see some examples. After that, I had no motivation to finish an entire course in Sociology, for example.

    RadoRado's YouTube Subscriptions

    RadoRado’s YouTube Subscriptions

    I love to watch YouTube channels like Numberphile, Veritasium, CGP Grey, MinutePhysics etc., because they produce short (10 to 15 minutes long) videos on different topics (From Math, to Geography and Quantum Physics)
    I scratch the surface of those topics.
    And when something gets more interesting for me, I research it & dive deeper into it. If I don’t go deeper into it straight ahead, it’s not that I am dropping out of a given topic – maybe it’s not the right time.

    Curiosity for a topic vs. I want to take this entire course

    And then I realized that I use Coursera as if it was a YouTube. If there’s an interesting course, I enroll for it, because I want to know more about it.
    And after Week 1 or 2, I stop watching videos, because my curiosity has been satisfied for that moment.

    I believe most of the people who use Coursera tend to do the same – they see an interesting topic with great introduction video, but they don’t care about all the details as they would in a university. Not for the first time in that topic.
    And so they drop out, because the course is too long, the material is too hard, they don’t care anymore or they simply forgot about the course.

    To sum it up, this is what happens:

    1. An interesting course is coming in Coursera.
    2. I would love to learn more about that topic, so I Enroll.
    3. After week 1 or 2, when I got enough from the topic for that given moment, I stop waiting for next videos or watch next week videos.
    4. And because I have to enroll, in order to watch the videos, I contribute to the high drop-out rate

    Now imagine with the marketing efforts of Coursera and the good video introductions for most of the courses – lots of people are doing the same thing!

    Wrong or not ?

    Of course, such behavior is not wrong. People are curious enough to enroll, but not sure if they want to finish the entire 12 week course there.

    And because enrollment is easy & required – in the end, you have a huge drop-out rate.

    And people are saying – “You see, MOOCs are not working ! See this 90% drop-out rate!”
    I think, this is a win for MOOCs, because more and more people are getting interested in topics, they never expected to learn from MIT or Harvard professors before.
    And they may not finish a course from the first time, but the curiosity counts. The drop-out rate should not be such a key metric.

    This means that there is a room for improvement and a market for new players. Get people hooked up on a certain topic by removing most of the Academic stuff out of it. And when a given person is ready – offer them a university course about the topic!

  • Тhoughts after HackFMI 2.0

    HackFMI 2.0

    HackFMI 2.0

    It’s been a while since I blogged for the last time, so here goes – an article to write down my thoughts, after the successful HackFMI 2.0.
    Also, as a disclaimer, I will try not to leave my blog empty for months!

    After the first hackathon we did, one thing was clear – HackFMI should become a tradition, taking place each semester, until the end of time!
    And in order to make this happen, we pulled of HackFMI 2.0 – the second hackathon for this year, in the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics.

    HackFMI 2.0 took place on 25th, 26th and 27th of October, again, in the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics.

    Picking topics

    For the second hackathon, we decided to ask the students, what they want to code by creating a simple google docs poll.
    The answers included topics like Hack for FMI, Hack for Education, Game Dev Hackathon, Startup Hachathon and many others.

    Asking the students turned out to be a great idea, because people started suggesting topics and giving arguments why it would be cool, to have such a theme for HackFMI 2.0.
    In the end, we decided to go with two, instead of just one topic. The poll results can be found here.

    One thing that we are going to do again, for the next hackathon is, to ask the students, what the theme should be.

    Hack for FMI, Hack for Education

    With what software and hardware solutions can we come up with, in order to change the environment in the University and in the entire educational system ?

    Hack for FMI was the topic from the first hackathon, but Hack for Education came out as a winner from the poll. And since everyone are talking about “What should we do about education in Bulgaria ?”, we decided to give it a try and see how it’s going to turn out.

    With two different topics, we have two different sets of winners (Which you can read about here [In Bulgarian])

    From organizational point of view, having two different topics (and two different sets of winners) was a bit of a nightmare. The entire hackathon lost some of its focus.
    In the end, it was worth it, because the solutions in Hack for Education were outstanding!

    The team who won, created an online judge system, for programming contests, that addresses all the weaknesses of other judge systems – scalability, not crashing when everyone submits in the end, easy to install (Just a script) and supports virtual contests. You can basically run your programming interviews with that system.

    The second team created a mobile game, that helps little children learn English – the app receives in realtime a word, speaks it (Via text 2 speech) and the child should write the word correctly back to the phone.
    The entire game supports web application too, where you can enter an entire paragraph of english text, and have it dictated to you (At a regulated speed) and after you submit the text back, you get a detailed diff (Up to a character) where you did wrong.

    The third team created an entire platform for classroom gamification, where every child has a skill tree of spells and can use different spells during the class.
    The teacher has a tablet, where he can see what kind of spells are being casted and by who.
    The entire process of studying turns into a game, close to what kids play nowadays – Leauge of Legends, Dota, etc.

    Magic School

    Magic School – the third place idea

    For the next hackathon, I think we are going to return to one topic only, in order to retain the focus. And if there are many interesting topics, HackFMI will increase it’s frequency.

    Open for High Schools from Sofia

    HackFMI 2.0 was open not only for students from FMI, but for students from other Universities and High Schools.
    This was one of the best decisions we made, because we had visitors from ELSYS, NPMG and SMG (which are one of the best high schools in Sofia)
    Read more

  • Тhoughts after the Summer HackFMI

    Last week we pulled off a HackFMI event during the summer break in the university.
    The Summer hackathon was with a different format than the standard HackFMI – 5 days long, everyone is on the same team and we have a clear goal for what we have to do.

    And since you can read this article, to get a sense of the entire hackathon, I will skip the summary and go straight to some observations and thoughts about the format and the work we have done.

    Diaphanum

    That’s the name of the system we were working on, during the hackathon.
    It means “transparent” in latin and its purpose is to serve as a public archive of the Student Council’s work in the university.

    The set of the hackathon was the following:

    • 10 people writing code in 2 different teams – backend (Python and Django), and frontend (HTML and JavaScript).
    • A full document with specifications about the system.
    • Two project managers, reading the specifications and handling a Trello board
    • Github as a main repo and source control system

    I will go through each part from the work on the project and share some insights 🙂

    The setup of the project

    Making Python / Django and PostgreSQL work on Windows is not a trivial thing.

    We started off by creating a README.md file in the repo, that explains how to set up your environment and run the project, which saved us tons of time.
    Read more

  • Results from the University Course for Web Programming

    Today we had the final exam for the “Web Programming with PHP and JavaScript” course in the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics (shortly – FMI) and I would like to share some interesting data and observations from my experience as one of the teachers in that course.

    First, some background information – I am studying Computer Science at FMI and I am part of the guys, that teach the Web Programming course.
    This is the 3rd year of the course since it’s beginning.
    The course is an elective one and it aims to provide General knowledge in Web Programming (With PHP, as a backend language).

    How the course works

    Read more

  • The Awakening in Bulgaria – A Protest By-product

    In Bulgaria right now, there is a massive unrest. Every evening, approximately 20k people gather to protest against the current government – The Bulgarian Socialist Party.

    And while there are many downsides when people protest for a long time, I want to pay attention to something else – people in Sofia (The capital of Bulgaria) are slowly awakening from the 20 year slumber, after the fall of the communist regime, and the consequences after this government falls down will be huge and in my opinion – very positive.

    A sea of people at the protests

    A sea of people at the protests

    Everyday, people are getting more and more creative with their banners. Everyday, more people who were never before interested in the political scene, start to pay attention and to participate (For example – you can see a lot of the Bulgarian developers and entrepreneurs taking part in the protest).
    Here are few very bright examples:

    Creativity Unlocked

    We are creative people but we do not express ourselves very often.
    Because of the protest, people started thinking – “How can we make our statement more fun, more sarcastic and with a deeper meaning ? Everyone can make a banner saying “Resign!”. I want to make something better!”

    Pavel Kolev, a smart and young software engineer, became viral with his dog, carrying a different and witty banner everyday. His post got more than 750 likes and shares in just few days!

    In order to stay creative, people can check the following tumblr page : fostavka.tumblr.com to get fresh ideas for their posters.

    And of course, the most creative ones are viral in the social networks (Twitter and Facebook)
    Read more

  • Call of the Guru materials

    Earlier this week (28.05) there was a very interesting event, called “Call of the Guru”, that happened in the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics.

    Call of the Guru

    Call of the Guru


    The idea was to gather freshmen together and talk about various topics, that are very interesting for the new students:

    • Working during the Bachelor degree education and the consequences of not going of the University.
    • Motivation for studying. Where to find it ?
    • What career path you should take ? Working for big companies, internships, working for startups.
    • Starting your own company while you are at the university

    Big thanks to Maya and Mira (Two awesome ladies, that were the main part of the team, that won 2nd place at the first HackFMI) for organizing this great event. When I was a freshmen, no one cared about me and my knowledge and how i see the big picture of the university.

    Now the things have changed and there are going to be more events like that, which actually bring value.

    Miro from SofiaValley.com wrote a great article (In Bulgarian) recapping the entire event. You should read it !

    My part and some materials

    Call of the Guru

    Call of the Guru


    My part in the event was to talk about “Working for startups – What to know and what to avoid.” and as I promised, here are some interesting materials that I would recommend every student to read and know about.
    Read more

  • A Jobs Platform For My Blog

    I am going to do an interesting experiment.

    One really cool guy, Lyubomir Petrov, approached me with a question whether I’d like to link a sub domain, like jobs.radorado.me to his distributed jobs platform to give it a test.
    I really liked the idea that I will have a local jobs platform without all the noise and administrate it myself.

    So here’s the deal – jobs.radorado.me is now live and I am going to give it a try.

    Jobs platform in a Blog ?

    Yes, I know it sounds weird but the idea is a good one.
    I am often asked to hunt people for positions in startups, so why not include my virtual profile in the hunt too ?

    Since this is an experiment, I am going to put my own set of rules (You can check them in the section after).
    Still, most of the companies and startups in Bulgaria are not using services like Careers 2.0 or SomewhereHQ (I think Eventyard are the pioneers there) so this job platform may come in handy.

    Careers 2.0

    Careers 2.0 – A Search for Sofia, Bulgaria


    There are few more resources for looking for companies or talents for the startup ecosystem here, but the overall picture is bad-looking.
    I wonder when the big guys from jobs.bg and jobtiger.bg will notice the big startup bubble and the huge demand for talents to work in the newly funded and founded startups here. I bet, not soon.

    So How do I post an offer ?

    This is simple – you go to jobs.radorado.me and use the button to add a new offer.

    But keep in mind the following rules that I will apply to all jobs offers, before approving them:

    • Offers must be for programming jobs – something software or hardware related. No bartenders, please.
    • Each job offer will have a limited time to live on jobs.radorado.me – 1 month. Every offer that is month old will be deleted.
    • Be creative and tell a story. Everyone can create a boring job offer, so try to be different.
    • I hold the final decision. All jobs must be approved by me, so if I don’t like something, i will notify the owner / creator and remove it.
    • Finally, if you want more attention to your job offer, you can contact me for more details. Subscribing to my blog will help a lot there 😉
  • End of an Era.

    I was really looking forward to write this article for a long time.

    Sometimes, closing projects and reflecting on them is even better than starting a lot of new ones. It’s about Start It Smart and Game Craft and my part there.

    Start It Smart

    I will begin with Start It Smart. As many of you may not now, each year, a new president is elected to run the club.
    One year ago, this time around, I was elected to be the new president and Polly Atanasova was elected to be the new Vice-President of Start It Smart.
    Now, our mandate is over.
    I am really happy to announce that the new pair of President / Vice-President for the next year is Petar Sharkov and Mila Grigorova – two people who are proven entrepreneurs and have the big vision for where the club should go.
    Petar Sharkov is running MindMapping.bg – a training company that teaches creativity by using the mindmap method.
    Mila Grigorova is running a seasonal business and right now is trying to do some crazy stuff with Stoyan Angelov (From Infozone.bg)

    Reflecting on the past year, I have few thoughts to share:

    • If you are student, the best way to learn and practice new things, that will be useful to you in the long run, is to join such an organization. You have Start It Smart, you have AIESEC and many others. Join one and take and give as much as you can from it.
    • If you join such an organization, you will be working for free. Put yourself a time limit – a year for example – for how long you are going to do this. Working for free for too long may cause you big damage.
    • Learn to value your time – this is your greatest asset. Time is equal for everyone and managing it better is going to make you better. (There’s a great presentation on Time Management hacks that you should see.)
    • Learn to delegate. In order to have more time, you have to delegate more. Working with people can be difficult at first, but becomes essential at some point.
    • Reading books is not equal to having the experience. If you are going to do something by the book, better check how it turned out for other people. Books are the greatest source of wisdom, but they can be misleading too. Think with your head.
    • Delivering on time is more important than having great skills. There’s a plague (Credits to Zori for this concept) in the Bulgarian Startup Ecosystem (From which I suffer too) – overpromising. If you promise something, you better deliver it or people will start questioning your credibility. If you tend to overpromise things, better be ready to overdeliver them.

    GameCraft

    On the other hand, managed to close (For my part. Game Craft is still alive and kicking.) my first startup that i co-founded with Vitaliy Filipov.
    This week we finalized the papers and I transferred my equity to him so he will have more resources to dispatch and run the company.

    The story here is that i stopped taking part in Game Craft in order to become the new president of Start It Smart (An year ago)
    At first I thought I can manage both things – 50% focus on being a president and 50% focus on running the company. It turned out that this is the worst hypothesis ever.
    Being a startup co-founder is very demanding. If you are not there, things are not going well.
    On the other hand, being a newly elected president for an organization, that is trying very hard to establish itself in the ecosystem is demanding too. In the end, I was paying more attention to Start It Smart and the decision for me was to leave Game Craft.
    I reflected a lot of things but maybe the most important one is this – Focus will get you to the top. Lose focus from your company for too much time and it will crash and burn.
    All of the people I know, Start It Smart included, that are trying to focus on more than one thing have little to no success with their companies.

    I know this sounds trivial, but it’s not trivial at all, when you have to do it. Being an entrepreneur means that you have a lot of ideas and live in a very social environment, but this can be very misleading.
    There’s an entire industry, focused on hyping entrepreneurship and taking money from them (It’s a good market research homework – check how many entrepreneurial events are happening in Europe for one year).

    There’s an article, by Georgi Kadrev from Imagga (My favourite Bulgarian Startup) called “The Importance of Focus” which I recommend you to read.

    What’s next

    Although this article may sound a little grim to you – it’s not. I am actually happy, because thanks to these projects, I learned and growth a lot. I can’t imagine any other experience for my student’s life.
    Next, even bigger things are coming.
    HackFMI was a blast!
    A change really happened in our education after this event, so expect more in that direction really soon.

    Until then, think with your head and check the following HackFMI coverage: