At the GDG Sri Lanka February Meetup


Friday the 13th. Usually people cower in fear and head home as soon as they can (or don’t step out of the house at all) lest they face the claws of Freddy Kreuger or any of the other sinister entities who seem to be there on that day. But not on this particular day. On this day, I’m at WSO2, watching a bunch of people hand out Android stickers.

This is the GDG Sri Lanka February Meetup. There’s rock music playing courtesy of TNL, a stage has been set up along with a set of drums and a few guitars. Pasindu De Silva, former GSA (Google Student Ambassador) walks on stage to officially start the event. He gives a brief about what GDG is and gets familiar with the audience and then introduces the first speaker of the evening: Nadeesha Cabral,  who takes us through the basics of Javascript.

One of the best examples of Javascript is V8 engine that powers Google Chrome.

He goes on to explain the finer details of the nature of Javascript, using the V8 engine as an example – such as Javascript’s single-threaded nature, and the fact that multi-core processors make no sense in this context.

The session is paused momentarily as Pasindu returns onto the stage to announce a guest speaker, who  turns out to be a representative from Google New York, speaking about Google Speech Technology. He talks at length about how language mapping works, using models to process audio, frame state, phoneme, word, sentence and meaning.

His work deals with the development of lexicons (which is basically what the pronunciation of a word is). Spellings and pronunciation seem easy he says, but they’re actually not, especially with international languages. Different languages handle data in different ways.

Nadeesha returns to explain more about JavaScript and talks about Callstacks. There’s more coding on screen. As a recap (ha!), there’s gifts to be won in the form of GDG Caps. A few questions are asked, and the correct answer wins said caps. The crowd goes wild.  Also, as a token of gratitude, Nadeesha is given a Google Cardboard. Insert jealousy here.

Pasindu returns to the stage, this time as a speaker. His topic for the day.. er.. Evening? PHP Internals.  We won’t go into detail about what he talked about (that’s what a search engine is  for) save to say that he went into detail about several of the most popular PHP implementations. He also shows a demonstration of Singlish PHP (a combination of PHP written in English using Sinhala phonetics). Chuckles from the crowd as they attempt to read the code.

Next up is a panel discussion with several members from Google: Keshan Sanjaya Sodimana, who founded GDG in 2009, Linne Ha from the US, Supheakmungkol Sarin from Cambodia, Saroj Dhakal from Nepal, and Khan Anwarus Salam from Bangladesh. The panel topics vary from Linne Ha’s NEMO (New Emerging Markets Operation) project to Saroj Dhakal and Khan Anwarus Salam projects related to Google+ and map maker, to Google Pass.

Saroj Dhakal, who fixes Google products for Nepal, talks about his life where he learnt about testing and quality assurance. Khan Anwarus starts off by jokingly stating that he’s not a terrorist and goes on to explain his role as the Country Engineering consultant for Bangladesh. Keshan talks about how he founded GDG in 2009, the challenges and obstacles he had to face and the future plans he has both for GDG and his own personal life.

Linne Ha, coming next, talks about her work as product manager on FIFA 2004 World Cup and talks about her life at Google. She’s s in charge of making sure that Google Products works properly in countries. One key problem about the Sinhala language, she says, is that there’s not enough data in Sinhala to be helpful to people in Sri Lanka.

“Do what you have been doing” says Supheakmungkol Sarin from Cambodia, talking about how they can learn from Sri Lanka, especially in areas such as Google Maps and Google Translate.

With that, the Panel discussion comes to a close and Pasindu thanks all the members and the audience for attending and agreeing to be a part of the experience. Having said that, the event comes to a close with refreshments courtesy of the WSO2 kitchenette.


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