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Andromeda Yelton's picture

Meeting at Annual: discussion summary


A big thanks to those of you who were able to come to our meeting at Annual!  To those who were not, we definitely still want you to be involved and we've got lots of fun projects you can join.  I'll do a summary in this post of our discussion, and separate posts about resources we discussed and ways you can get involved with this group going forward.

We acknowledged that most of us have found it hard to keep up with the weekly Code Year lessons and talked about why it's hard.  Do you have any helpful tips for addressing any of these challenges?

  • problems you can't figure out how to solve on your own
  • feeling stupid/not confident
  • new way of thinking -- don't have tools for dealing with this independently
  • math phobia
  • without a project to apply the lessons to, it's not as interesting -- making stuff work is more fun
  • feeling guilty because learning code isn't really your job -- hard to devote time to it -- need examples of ways to apply it in real life to justify the investment of time 
  • sometimes there are bugs in the lessons and you think it's your fault when it's not (helpful tip: sometimes the lessons work better in Firefox than in Chrome)

Things that help:

  • having an answer key helps some people, feels like cheating to others
  • handholding/having someone to talk to (see resources post)
  • find a time every week to devote to learning code, no exceptions (...unless you're the sort of person who would rather binge on code for hours when you happen to be interested)
  • reading someone else's code and adapting it -- you don't have to know how to write it from scratch; you can do really useful things with existing code


Lightning talks:

  • Eric Phetteplace: bookmarklets in JavaScript
    • instead of http://, begin with JavaScript:
    • example -- Javascript:alert('Hello World!'); in your URL bar pops up a Hello World alert
    • any link you can store in your browser can now be a javascript program that interacts with the page you're on
    • examples: instapaper, Kickass (lets you play asteroids on any web site)
    • Eric is building one that lets you blow up your web site, Space Invaders style. Gratifying!
    • What else do you want to do? Harvest microdata? Prepend your proxy server prefix to all links on a page?  Evaluate page credibility according to some information literacy metric?
    • How do you write one? there are lots of templates.  He has bookmarklets point to code he hosts elsewhere so he can update it
    • tricky things: you don't know what page the user will be on and the bookmarklet has to work with all of them. can't make assumptions about context.  can't install bookmarklets on mobile browsers because there's no click-and-drag.  cross-browser compatibility can be hard. internet connectivity required for bookmarklets hosted elsewhere.
    • possibly helpful: test to see if jquery is available, load if it's not, use the options it gives you
  • Carli
    • lots of useful resources for learning code -- see resources post

Then we talked about various things we might want to do, and people volunteered to take point on those.  That doesn't mean they'll be doing them all alone -- please, get involved in any that interest you!  We'll all need lots of help to make these things work.  I'll put these in another post.