Forem Creators and Builders 🌱

🏮Forem Creator Spotlight 💡and AMA: @rayan

Each month we'll be sharing a little bit more about a Forem community, the creator and/or team behind it, and give y'all the opportunity to ask some of your burning questions. forem.dev is a place for you to find other Creators who are going through the experience of building a Forem community alongside you. We encourage you to reach out, make connection, find support, and nourish each other.

This month, we're continuing to shine a light on the Development Hackers community with this great chat with @rayan!

Why did you start coding for good?

I knew I wanted to code for good when I learned about the work of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. In summary, it’s 1976 and this guy realizes that banks in Bangladesh don’t give loans to poor people because they think they will default. But a very small loan could make a disproportionate difference for a poor person, so he decides to lend $27 to some women in a village. It works and he makes a profit. From that he grew his operation, created a bank for poor people and then inspired the microfinance movement which has given loans to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

So one person lending $27 as an MVP is able to have such a huge impact. I thought “I also have $27, plus I can kind of code…” At that point, it felt like nothing was out of reach.

Muhammad Yunus in 2009

I spent the following two years leading a startup that was building e-learning solutions for the same communities that were benefiting from microfinance. After access to financial capital, it seemed like the next best thing was giving people access to human capital like new skills. It was wild because I was just an ok coder from France - yet I ended up testing prototypes in India for months.

I had no idea what I was doing but everyone was helping me! When you’re coding for good, it’s much easier to attract partners and team members. In the end it didn’t work out how we wanted, but I’m still proud for having really tried. There’s not many things in life where even if everything goes bad you’re still feeling good about it.

How can people support efforts to help Ukraine through Development Hackers?

You may have noticed that there’s some big problems in Ukraine. People everywhere have been trying to contribute, and it turns out that some programmers (and even non-coders!) are building creative solutions to help. We’re fully committed to supporting them however we can with Development Hackers and I would love it if our community managed to bring them volunteers, for example. Today I was on the phone with a person who had just come out of a hackathon with a solution to help Ukrainian students arriving in France, showcasing resources for each city. We’re going to feature his work on Development Hackers because he needs technical help to automate some things and it could be interesting to replicate his work for other countries.

I encourage everyone to check out what people are working on to help with this crisis, support them however you can, and get inspired. There are even some projects that are worth replicating! The impact people can have by leveraging technology is amazing!

What has been your past experience of online communities?

I’ve always been in various online communities and I made some real life friends from them 😊 I think online communities are the best way to stay on top of your game. I learned so much about startups from Hacker News and Indie Hackers.

It’s also amazing what you can do when you’re in a big community. Just last week I participated in reddit’s r/place project (a collaborative canvas where each user can place one pixel every five minutes). I think there were millions of participants and I stayed up all weekend placing pixels and organising with thousands of others in a Discord to create specific artworks. Somehow, placing one pixel every five minutes felt like an adventure. That’s the power of communities.

The final version of r/place

With Development Hackers it’s my first time having responsibilities in a community. It’s definitely different because my main job is to facilitate discussions between members. I’m spending most of my time getting things all neat for our members and bringing more people in.

Any final words of wisdom for us?

People I meet often ask me how I start coding for good. Each one of us has their own reasons for doing something good, so their focus was mostly on how they should get started.

I think the whole lean startup movement really helped everyone (me included) understand how to start coding an MVP for a project. But when it’s for social impact, a lot of people still feel blocked. Maybe this is because the stakes feel higher – you don’t want to disappoint someone you’re sincerely trying to help with a shitty solution. For instance, In my e-learning startup I was trying NOT to have more than the bare minimum in funding. It sounds a bit stupid now but I was afraid of getting funding and messing up the project when it could have gone to another social impact project that needed it more than us.

You code for good the same way you code for something else. You just get started. Put together an MVP and share with your users for feedback, no matter how shaky it seems.

Be warned: your users will be much nicer than you expect!

I remember when I tested my first e-learning app prototype in a slum near Jaipur, India. It was a chatbot and I realised that most of the people I tested it with were not able to read. I can tell you I felt extremely silly, but these early users were happy and smiling. They were smiling because I was there for them, to solve their problems. It didn’t matter that I had missed the solution – what mattered was that I was trying to do something good for them.

I hope that Development Hackers will make it even easier for you to get started coding for good. In our community, you will find podcasts to get inspired by success stories, hackathons to start coding, software deals to reduce all possible expenses, and most of all, other people just like you and ready to support you in your journey!

This was just a small part of Rayan's amazing story - I encourage you to pay a visit to Development Hackers when you get a chance!

What questions do you have for Rayan? Drop them below!

Click for Development Hackers

Top comments (18)

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ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle) Author

Thank you so much for spending time to share your story with me, @rayan!

I would love to know

  • what is your favorite Code for Good project, either by you or anyone else?
  • if you could hack a solution to one problem in the world today, what would it be?
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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

I'm glad you liked it Ella :) thanks

  • One of my favorite code for good projects is an old one that's had it's time and a huge positive impact. It's FrontlineSMS, a free, open-source messaging platform that's been used to monitor elections and the work of many NGOs in the field :)
    Check it out here frontlinesms.com/, it was built by Ken Banks, twitter.com/kiwanja

  • I think climate change adaptation is becoming a big thing and I'd like to think of ways of leveraging technology to help. For example, we're seeing wildfires everywhere and we know they're getting worse. But for some reason everybody's acting as if it's not going to happen again and we're all scrambling around when it inevitably comes. Turns out that people have worked out predictive models to figure out how wildfires come and evolve, but they lack a lot of the input data to use it for specific situations. Maybe an interesting solution here would be to hack away at community data input solutions, and those could be replicated in lots of places around the globe. You'd give it to a local municipality and they would ask their citizens to input climate change related data for rewards. This is still just a thought, I just find it fascinating that nobody's working on tech for climate change adaptation even though there's already demand and funding for it !

Bonus points because it matters a lot :)

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Wow! Loved reading your answers above and am really inspired by your mission at Development Hackers.

I got a couple questions for ya:

  1. If there was one feature (skys the limit!) that you could add to Forem to improve Development Hackers what would it be?

  2. What do you like most about coding?

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

Thanks Michael :)

  1. I'm still not using all the features haha! But I think the next big thing for me is automating things for my internal processes through an API. I use automation tools like make.com a lot for projects because they're quick and easy to work with. I would love to easily connect my Forem to other tools through such a solution.
  2. What I like most about coding is how easy it is to learn from eachother and build on top of other people's work. I'm a big fan of open-source, no-code and low-code tools for these exact reasons. I find myself mostly working on snippets of code whenever I launch a project, because I'm reusing existing work all the time!
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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Glad to hear that the Forem features are serving ya well. 🙂

I really wanna hear how it goes on the automation front. I just checked out make.com and as a non-developer, the no-code side of the platform was super attractive... glad to hear that you're a fan of this kind of stuff.

I watched a quick video on make.com and honestly I'm pretty inspired. I wanna think of something interesting that I could automate so that I can try out the platform.

I'm thinking maybe it'd be cool to have a system for vetting folks who want to be trusted users or tag mods in the community. You could create a form for folks who want to be mods to fill out and perhaps when you sign off on their application, it would give them trusted user/tag moderator status and trigger a variety of emails to be sent to them or set up an interview with them through Calendly... haha, getting side-tracked, but there are some seriously cool possibilities here!

Anyway, I hope to hear more about what you come up with. If I follow through with creating something myself, I'll be sure to share.

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

Yes good idea. These tools do make everything simple and easy to evolve. The first step could be to have a forem instance send some data to a webhook on make.com (for example) and then you do the rest from there.
At a later stage it would be great to have a Forem integration so that there are triggers and actions related to a forem instance.
For example the automation is triggered when someone makes a post in tag X, and the action that follows is awarding a certain badge and sending a specific email.
If you want to check out other automation platforms, there is zapier.com which is simpler and n8n.io which is opensource. My personal preference goes to make.com (formerly called integromat) because it strikes a great balance of ease of use and flexibility + the free tier was 1000 automations/month ;)

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lee profile image
Lee

That's a great read. What programming languages did you start with? What do you use mostly today and why?

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi • Edited on

Thanks Lee ! I started with the basics: HTML, CSS, JS and a bit of Python. But if I'm honest I've always been more of a Product guy and I'm barely average coding in all of this, I didn't even learn JS frameworks. What's always gotten me ahead was reusing the work of others and tweaking it to my needs. I'm a big fan of open-source, low-code and no-code tools (as long as you can access the code), it's gotten me to places where I can launch extremely quickly and test products on users.
Once user needs are validated and you need to custom code the solution in another way, well it's never been my side of the job !
For example when I need to set up a landing page or quickly build a CMS I almost always use webflow.com + some quick JS scripts.

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lee profile image
Lee

Nice, I like that. I remember Jack Dorsey saying something similar, has a hacker type mentality - use cool tools to get it going, if it works and is valuable let someone else who is a way better Dev get to work on it.

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

Exactly !
And it's never been easier to hack away at problems by leveraging cool tech. In a way, it's also that philosophy I'd like to transplant into the social impact sector.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Really tremendous read

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

Thanks a lot Ben, I really appreciate the showcase and all the work everybody's been putting into Forem

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ildi profile image
Ildi

Another awesome spotlight + ama 💚

A few questions from me:

  1. Apart from HN and IH (love these communities as well btw!) what are some websites you can’t live without?

  2. Any dev YouTube channels you are particularly fond of?

  3. What do you think of Forem badges? Are you using them on Development Hackers? Would love to get your opinion or ideas on ways to reward/incentivize community members.

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rayan profile image
Rayan Nait Mazi

Thanks Ildi !

  1. Product Hunt to try new tools for work and Reddit (but more for personal things) ;)
  2. I'm a big fan of Fireship: youtube.com/c/Fireship Lots of intro videos to many different techs, languages and frameworks. The production quality is impressive.
  3. I think badges are great ways to gamify community engagement and I just started experimenting a bit with them. I need to think about what to reward and how to automate it. For example, I'd like to give badges to people that retweet our twitter posts, and one way to do this would be using spfns.xyz/ They use bots to check if you are being retweeted, liked etc and award "XP" for it. I'd like to link that XP to badges on our forem in order to reward users. If someone wants to organise a chat on the subject of rewards and incentives for communities I would be very interested in participating. I have a lot to learn here and I think crypto communities have showed us how far we can go.
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ildi profile image
Ildi

I also love PH although I find myself visiting the website a lot less compared to a few years before. Reddit has also played an important role when I was looking to have a question answered. But ironically I still use Google to search for things on Reddit 😂

Just subscribed to the Fireship YT channel. Looking forward to checking out their content. Thanks for sharing!

For example, I'd like to give badges to people that retweet our twitter posts, and one way to do this would be using spfns.xyz/

Rewarding people for actions/achievements inside and outside a Forem community is a great idea! I'd also be interested in organizing a Zoom or Discord call on the subject of rewards and incentives for communities. It might be fun to do it as a monthly meetup where anyone can share ideas and talk about what is/isnt working for them. I am tagging @ellativity and @michaeltharrington to see what they think would be the best way to go about this. I am more than happy to take the lead in organizing this.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington • Edited on

Oh wow! I love this idea. 😀

We should meet up and discuss how to go about this for sure.

I'll be in touch!

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lee profile image
Lee

Count me in!

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ellativity profile image
Ella (she/her/elle) Author

Always love your enthusiasm @ildi!

I really hope that everyone using Forem will feel empowered to organize skill shares or meetups - it's open-source software so we can't expect that we're gonna be the only people hosting these conversations. Please feel free to share news and invites here on forem.dev (we can talk about setting up the forem.dev/workshop page to host your sign ups as well if you want!)