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Making Programming Magic Together

Inside OKC’s collaborative tech community



Ryan Hoegg, Amanda Harlin, Jesse Harlin.

 

To begin, there is a blank screen. At the end, there is fully functional computer software code and huge databases that help companies and organizations deliver their services every day.

In between, there is “magic.” That’s how JavaScript code developer Amanda Harlin describes what she gets to do every workday.

“You get to be a magician – an actual magician – helping whoever needs it,” she says.

To a client who needs her code skills the most, it must seem that way. One month hardly anyone knows who that client is, the next, they are connecting with people everywhere to sell, influence or show the world who they are and what they are about.

Amanda’s husband, Jesse Harlin – also a JavaScript developer – finds surprises that can seem somewhat magical.

“The reason I got into this was because I was trying to make generative music,” Jesse says. Generative music is produced by computer systems and is evolutionary by its programming. “I liked the idea of making a piece of music that I knew I would like because of constraints, but it would surprise me.”

Those of us who are not skilled at programming might think of all programs as static and only changing when more code is applied or changed.

But coding software to generate unexpected results produces an outcome that may even surprise the author of the code, as Jesse pointed out. “I liked the idea of a video game that had generative content because I could play a level having been the person that made the game. I would be surprised at what it gave back to me, and it would be enjoyable.” Magic.

 

But Amanda knows that this kind of magic isn’t just an illusion. It’s real and makes a difference in people’s lives. “The most exciting thing is that you can make something that matters. There are problems that you can solve right now,” she says. “You can make an app to help first responders after a tornado. You can make maternity prenatal apps that help [mothers-to-be] talk to their doctor better. There are so many things that you can do to help communities through open-source software.”

Her comments show a growing sense of civic-mindedness among programmers that is prominent on the Oklahoma City tech scene.

When she’s not working for a paying client, she is busy with groups such as Nerdy Girls-OKC and Nerdy Girls-Tulsa that promote confidence among girls and young women who are interested in computers and the code that makes them run.

This strong civic sense is something that is not unique to Amanda.

 

Today, the local tech community has a core group of code specialists who have a clear sense of the civic value of their skills. The Code for OKC project is an example of a nationwide trend of code-writing and big-data skills being used for the public good.

How does a citizen look into the Oklahoma City budget and figure much of anything out unless they have experience evaluating city budgets? In reality, they don’t. And Code for OKC volunteers believe that the budget of their city represents all of the city’s citizens, so it should be understandable to them. That’s why the group is developing code to apply to the budget database of Oklahoma City that will eventually let citizens easily pick and choose what kind of online information they want to see, and in what form.

Outside of the Code for OKC group, one person is especially excited about the possibilities: Doug Dowler, budget director for Oklahoma City. Rather than being on the defensive, he is all for the volunteer group’s efforts.

“My perspective is that it means more transparency and openness in local government, and giving citizens easier access to our information,” he says. “With our budget book, we try to put a lot of things in there that meet best practices for all of the information and transparency. Well, it ends up being 700 pages long before you get all of that done.”

Since his department works to develop a budget with integrity, he wants it to be understandable.

Lucas Watson talks with a Techlahoma Meet Up group of coders at The 404.


“So I really appreciate what they’re doing to make the budget information more accessible,” he continues. “And they have more of those tools from the technology perspective that help make it easier to digest and understand.”

 

But where does all of this collaboration come from among coders and big-data gurus? The short answer: It’s a part of the culture of the profession to collaborate rather than compete.

Jesse and Amanda Harlin started a foundation called Techlahoma to give people who develop code an organizational mechanism to gather and learn from each other. Its biggest event, and main fundraiser, is the annual Thunder Plains conference in Oklahoma City. This year’s packed opening and closing sessions challenged the popular image of the lone coder.

The reality of the profession in general and Oklahoma City’s tech community in particular is all about humans communicating with one another to develop code that anyone can understand five years hence. User groups seek to learn from each other on their own time, to increase the understanding of the code that they write. There is no pay for this, but a big pay-off of growth.

 

James Gray, a code developer for the Ruby code language, has been writing, blogging, podcasting and speaking about computer code for a number of years. He agreed that there is a tendency toward isolation because the profession draws introverts. But he went on to point out that, “the further you get in programming – the better and better you get – programming has very little to do about computers and a lot about people. Programming is very much a communication-oriented, people-centric thing. Teaching computers to do something, that’s the easy part. Getting people to understand what’s going on, that’s the hard part.”

Allen Smith and Mark Smith are independent consultants who help companies manage massive quantities of data. Their days are filled with helping large, fast-paced corporations, such as Sonic, make growing data streams yield quality results faster. So what do they do for fun? This summer they joined a user group to test out new data programs with baseball statistics as they attended OKC Dodgers games.

Allen says, “It was fun! We had a great time learning new ways of looking at data and watching baseball all at the same time.”

This is what programmers do. What would be work for the rest of us is both play and work for those who are immersed in this life. And the results benefit us all.

 

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Calendar

December 2019

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

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The Holiday Pop-Up Shops are coming back to Midtown! With shops rotating weekly, you can find a gift for everyone on your list. Join us to discover 35+ local shops, enjoy treats from Katiebug's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Midtown
399 N.W. 10th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Contact Name: Cleo Rajon

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

Sleigh Bells Market returns to the OKC Farmers Market building, and this year we are taking over BOTH FLOORS - more vendors, more shopping, more fun! The Farmers Market bar will again come up...

Cost: Free

Where:
OKC Farmers Market Venue
311 S Klein Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
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Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405-810-6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
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In Shakespeare’s great drama of loss and reconciliation, a long-deposed ruler uses magical arts to bring within her power the enemies who robbed her of her throne and marooned her on a remote...

Cost: $15.00

Where:
Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Perform
7777 South May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
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Eat, drink and give thanks for good friends! Start a new Friendsgiving tradition with us! Let the Melting Pot be your host this Friendsgiving as you relax with your friends and you enjoy a...

Cost: 29.95

Where:
The Melting Pot
4 E Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Sponsor: The Melting Pot
Telephone: 405-235-1000
Contact Name: Donna Jackson
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Join fellow Villagers at an exercise class at the CUBE on Council Road! The CUBE at Council Road and VillagesOKC want to help you grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually. *Cost is $5...

Cost: $1

Where:
The Cube at Council Road
7903 NW 30th St.
Bethany , OK
View map »


Sponsor: Villages OKC
Telephone: 405-990-6637
Contact Name: Villages OKC
Website »

More information

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

The Holiday Pop-Up Shops are coming back to Midtown! With shops rotating weekly, you can find a gift for everyone on your list. Join us to discover 35+ local shops, enjoy treats from Katiebug's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Midtown
399 N.W. 10th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Contact Name: Cleo Rajon

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

Carma Branscum, VillagesOKC member, said, “VillagesOKC is all about keeping our brains strong and our minds sharp.  Pickleball is the perfect combination of  healthy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Yukon Community Center
2200 S. Holly Ave.
Yukon, OK  73099
View map »


Sponsor: VillagesOKC
Telephone: 405-990-6637
Contact Name: VillagesOKC
Website »

More information

The American Spirit Dance Company, under the direction of Jo Rowan, presents Home for the Holidays, which has become a yearly tradition for families across the state and beyond, as the vision of...

Cost: 29

Where:
Kirkpatrick Aud.
2501 N. Blackwelder Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73016
View map »


Sponsor: The Ann Lacy School of American Dance & Entertainment
Telephone: 405-208-4955
Contact Name: Danielle Shipley

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

The Holiday Pop-Up Shops are coming back to Midtown! With shops rotating weekly, you can find a gift for everyone on your list. Join us to discover 35+ local shops, enjoy treats from Katiebug's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Midtown
399 N.W. 10th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Contact Name: Cleo Rajon

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

The American Spirit Dance Company, under the direction of Jo Rowan, presents Home for the Holidays, which has become a yearly tradition for families across the state and beyond, as the vision of...

Cost: 29

Where:
Kirkpatrick Aud.
2501 N. Blackwelder Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73016
View map »


Sponsor: The Ann Lacy School of American Dance & Entertainment
Telephone: 405-208-4955
Contact Name: Danielle Shipley

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

October 4-December 29, 2019 Misunderstood! features poems and artworks ranging from 1894 to 2017. As these works demonstrate, Native artists and writers have grappled with the same...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
555 Elm Ave.
Norman, OK  73019
View map »


Sponsor: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Website »

More information

The Holiday Pop-Up Shops are coming back to Midtown! With shops rotating weekly, you can find a gift for everyone on your list. Join us to discover 35+ local shops, enjoy treats from Katiebug's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Midtown
399 N.W. 10th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Contact Name: Cleo Rajon

More information

Whether it’s a pair of deer in the woods of Oklahoma, or the delicate points of a snowflake in Wisconsin, Maud photographer Sarah Rodefeld is patient and steady as she aims her lens. ...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event. The magic returns to Bass Pro Shops and Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas village...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
200 Bass Pro Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Telephone: (405) 218-5200

More information

Santa’s Wonderland is the ultimate free family Christmas event returning to Cabela’s this holiday season. Oklahoma City-area families are invited to enjoy this enchanting Christmas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cabela's
1200 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: Cabela's
Telephone: (405) 546-3500
Website »

More information

We're poppin' champagne on the patio this Saturday and raffling off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet valued at $300! Come pre-party with us and DJ Catherine Ouellette from 6pm-10pm -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The American Spirit Dance Company, under the direction of Jo Rowan, presents Home for the Holidays, which has become a yearly tradition for families across the state and beyond, as the vision of...

Cost: 29

Where:
Kirkpatrick Aud.
2501 N. Blackwelder Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73016
View map »


Sponsor: The Ann Lacy School of American Dance & Entertainment
Telephone: 405-208-4955
Contact Name: Danielle Shipley

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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