Saturday, 29 March 2014

Speaking Eloquent Javascript - learn javascript (and programming) for free

Eloquent javascript seems a nice site for learning programming for free, by working your way through a free textbook.

I've only skimmed it myself - I've been working my way through Code School's Javascript path.

Another that's just come out is Speaking javascript (an O'Reilly book that's also online for free)

I've heard good things about both of these.

Have you tried either one? If so, tell me what you think, or if you have a better (free) source, let me know in the comments.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Link: Australia's top female programmers

Pollenizer has posted a list of what they call Australia's top female programmers.

I apparently made the grade... but it's a little scary to see my name amongst some of the most awesome women coders I've met over the years...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The failure of the ruby community - and what we can do about it

Sam Peters holds up a dark mirror in which our community reflects more poorly than I'd have hoped to see.

Her post on ruby meetups and the developer community is particularly worth a read for those of us happily ensconced inside that echo chamber.

Some representative quotes:

"[at ruby meetups] people who knew one another would connect, catch up, and spend the time excitedly discussing the latest news. To one another. Exclusively."
"Upon my attendance [at ROROSyd] I was immediately struck by the small, tight groups of people scattered across the venue – something that felt quite intimidating as a new learner"
"My more unorthodox theory implies that this community is merely an illusion"

The words "scathing indictment" spring to mind.

Clearly this is not the kind of community that we want.

As a mob, we can be pretty intimidating - and we need to work on better outreach and inclusiveness at our meetups.

I remember the earliest days of the rails community in Sydney. I remember when everybody was a beginner, and we came together to share our solutions to the hard problems we faced, to welcome newbies and help each other grow into skilled rubyists.

One particular observation of hers at rubyconf gives an example of what we can do better:

" I also experienced a bit of community on a personal level too – one particular lunch time, a pair of developers invited me to their table with no pretence or expectation. It resulted in a rather pleasant lunch, and opened my eyes a little. I felt a little more welcome."

In other words - it doesn't take much.

If there are people at your local meetup looking new and alone, go over and say hi. Ask them about their experience in ruby, invite them to sit at your table. Just start the conversation and include them.

I'm personally hoping to help break down that barrier-to-entry with Ruby Women - to provide at lest one extra avenue into the scene via a smaller, more beginner-friendly meetup and more open network of friend

The full article is well worth a read and some careful self-reflection. We should take note and work hard to build something better.

My Students

So, I've been teaching the General Assembly Immersive Web Development course for the past two months now.

It's going great and has been a really rewarding (if highly challenging) experience for me

They've recently finished their second (of three) projects, and the results are pretty amazing - especially considering that most of them had never touched a line of code, two months ago.

Here are links for some of their blogs to see how they've been coping over the past two months...

Sam Peters

Sam is a creative developer and her humour punctuates her work. Her blog showcases her particular mix of creativity and humour, with quite pointed insight into the development process and community

Her first project was: Forage, a website built to let gardeners swap their excess produce with others.

Alberto Forni

Alberto moved here all the way from Italy with his girlfriend in order to learn development. He's studying full-stack development, and his girlfriend is in the classroom next door studying User Interface Design. So I expect them to make a formidable development team when they're done.

His first project was: Alfred lets you keep track of expenses and wishlists - and share your wishlists with your friends.

Luke Schoen

Luke is always overflowing with ideas. No sooner do I describe some new topic and he thinks of five new applications for it in various combinations with other things he's learned.

His first project was TrendMyHunch, a site to share your ideas, pick your favourites and see if they're currently trending on google.

I have plenty more students, but they haven't shared their blog-urls with me yet... I'll come back and add them if/when they do :)

Here are the links to their recent, group-projects:

Expense Tracker

Split and track expenses with your friends or housemates

Autism Connect

A community for carers of the Autistic, allowing sharing of autism-related events, documents, links etc

Rick Rampage

A javascript, scrolling shooter game (the scores are stored in the rails backend)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Classic: Making Wrong Code Look Wrong by Joel Spolsky

The article Making Wrong Code Look Wrong by Joel Spolsky is a classic take on a programming concept that you should still, always keep in mind when writing your code:

You should try to write your code so that it's more difficult for things to go wrong...or at least more obvious when things do.

It was written Some Time Ago - so take his prescriptions with a pinch of salt and apply your intelligence and ingenuity.

It's the vibe of the thing that matters here :)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ruby Women - a new meetup group

TL;DR: come to the Ruby women Sydney meetup (if you're a woman in Sydney and into ruby and/or rails), and please spread the word

I've been kicking around this idea for a while now.

You see, once upon a time I was a regular at the Sydney Linux Users Group - a formidable group of uberhackers. I knew almost nobody there, and due to the high skill-level of the members found it overwhelmingly scary to even think about presenting.

I was simultaneously looking into issues that women face in the workplace, and came across a couple of different books that pointed out that women, in general, tend to be more self-critical and less self-confident than their male counterparts.

It helps to have a network of other women to support you... but where can you get one in the traditionally male-dominated arena of IT uber-geekery?

Well - shortly thereafter, a number of us women in linux geekery began organising a local version of Linux chix. We just got together about half an hour before the SLUG meetup - and chatted and gave mini talks on interesting and basic linuxy topics... (nothing special)... and then all walked en masse to the SLUG meetup.

It doesn't seem like much, but it made a huge difference.

It provided a safe, conducive environment to women-geeks to introduce them to the linux community, without diving right into the deep end. It also provided a network of other women to serve as colleagues and role-models.

A couple of short years later, Sydney hosted a Linuxconf(.au) that had a remarkably large percentage of women for conferences of the kind - along with a whole mini-conf on topics relating to women in IT.

Linux-geekery was now something that women participated in too - in large (if not yet equal) numbers, and I'm quite certain that the strong networks formed at linuxchix helped with this

then I went away to the UK for three years...

Coming back to Sydney again, now part of the ruby community... I went to my first and was overjoyed to hear of RailsGirls - a hackday-style initiative designed to help non-dev women get their first Rails site up and running.

...but it has come to the attention of many, that there's not much to keep interested women going after this. RailsGirls is currently working on RailsGirls-Next - to help Rails Girls participants continue working on their apps and slowly improve their skills... and alongside that - I've been working on something much more akin to the linuxchix concept:

Ruby women

It will be a group dedicated to women in the ruby/rails community - providing exactly the kind of supportive network and easy transition into the ruby/rails community that I think women still need.

Our first dinner meetup/discussion will be held on Wednesday 19th of March in Sydney

Please feel free to publicise the meetup far and wide, and to invite any and all women you may know.

To head off a couple of obvious responses:

What about a ruby men group?

Feel free to start one. There's nobody stopping you, and I'd certainly welcome that too.

I'd be really interested in hearing about the issues facing men in the IT industry too. I've heard especially about issues regarding fatherhood and balancing concerns of needing to appear dedicated to your job, as well spending time with your children... and also tales of unfair paternity laws (ie women are more likely to get time off for children than men are).

Can men come too?

Good question. We probably won't drive you away with pitchforks...

Personally, I'd be curious why you wanted to come. If you're there to pick up chicks - I'd be strongly against you coming. If you're there to support the needs of women in another group you run I'd happily welcome you...

but this won't be just *my* group, so others may have differing ideas about that.

Isn't it kind of exclusionary?

Yes. So is a group catering only to the interests of ruby programmers (as opposed to, say, python programmers)

Meetup is being DDOSed

I just checked - it appears to be under a DDOS attack right now.

Check the meetup blog for ongoing details