BlackBeltFactory: If you are a teacher at heart and love technology, this is your place…
While studying Java for fun and to take the Java certification from the Sun Microsystems back in 2004, I used to hang out in different tutorial websites with reviews for the exams. I was still living in Brazil, where I grew up, when I first started studying Java at the University and seeing passionate about the “Write Once, Run Anywhere” premise… When I found JavaBlackBelt in 2006, I joined it to try perfecting my Java skills and keep up-to-date with the language. Given the transformation of how Social Networking took the Internet, everything changed since then, as they changed their branding and name to BlackBeltFactory, as well as have added social interaction capabilities and a market place for developers, technologists and the ones who love to teach and learn.
My previous experience was just related to my own learning experience: practice/learn the fundamentals of the Java Programming Language. It was essentially a website where users could go and take exams in different subjects related not only with Java, but also with relating technologies such as XML, Web Services, Hibernate, etc. However, I must confess that it is hard to keep up with the exams when you have your day-to-day job, school obligations, etc. I had conquered the Java Blue Belt and I was facing a lot of changes starting with moving from New York to California for the dream of the Silicon Valley and then having the opportunity to engage on another 2 years of my dreamed MS and work with what I love: Java and Computer Science. The academic world can take all of your time with research papers to read (ACM was my browser’s start page) and exams/finals. On the other hand, the only place where I could focus on practicing Java was my research projects: http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~msales/ (my thesis and conferences). So, I never became a JavaBlackBelt per say and I was cleaning my mailbox when the name BlackBeltFactory was showing up on older and older emails. Yes, JavaBlackBelt had evolved and “taken the Social Networking train”. There are a list of changes listed on their website here.
The very first basic change BlackBeltFactory did was to take advantage of their infrastructure and start thinking on a more “language/vendor-agnostic” approach: why not offering training in other languages? I saw C# another programming language listed on their website and I must say that the BlackBeltFactory was a cool place to hang out and take exams prepared and reviewed by peers in the community. It is definitely a place to challenge your skills set on a given track. You can only take exams when you provide contributions: review questions, add comments, etc. This approach requires the user to be active in the learning community.
In my opinion, BlackBeltFactory’s natural progression could not have been different: take advantage of the Social Networking capabilities that we are currently live to provide the user’s better learning experience. Teaching is one of my passions and I must say that BlackBeltFactory did a great job in adding features like “Become a coach”. After you have passed the exam to be a coach, it seems that you can either create a free or a paid training to someone. Similarly, users interested about learning can ask others about services of teaching a specific topic. This marketplace is healthy and very interesting to me in the sense that I don’t need to drive anywhere to teach someone something I’m passionate about. As far as I could see, BlackBeltFactory offers the process for both participants to engage on a program. Hummm… Now I don’t need to think about going for PhD and teach! 😀
Another great feature is the translation capability. Although the previous version of the website branded as JavaBlackBelt was awesome for English Speaking users, the platform could not capture users of other nationalities and without knowledge of English. As a Brazilian, I can say that it is difficult, in general, to the ones who are starting with our field of technology/science to properly “bootstrap” their career because of the restricted access to content in Portuguese. That’s why I made sure I had Portuguese as one of the first translated versions of CollabNet Subversion Edge as I’m working in the project. BlackBeltFactory just gave me yet another reason to stick around and contribute to their community as I have a passion for learning and sharing knowledge.
All in all, I think I have to squeeze more of my time to play around in the BlackBeltFactory! For the love of teaching, I have already joined 2 Brazilian groups for the translations and I will make time to review exams and try to get my Java BlackBelt 😀 I could not get even the yellow in Kung Fu when I was 15, but I think I might have potential for Java. I have liked my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, which are nice as a linking resource.