Kind and patient places for new adult programmers?
November 7, 2015 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I am a budding programmer. The trouble seems to be that I am well into my adult years and, for some reason, this seems to be an issue for some...

Let me be clear that I don't encounter hostility, just incredulity.

"You didn't learn about hexadecimal when you were nine years old?"

No, no I didn't.

"Remember the little turtle you pushed around in Logo class?"

No, we didn't do that.

"Of course that's only one byte!"

Oh, okay. Sorry.

Admittedly I'm a little sensitive. Still, the Internet is full of places for kids, for women, etc. in which patience and kindness is the order of the day. The rest seems very masculine with bravado, intolerance for people who "aren't getting it," or strict rules which push out the beginners who may ask questions that sound similar to others but in which the similarity is lost of the beginner. I'm also very tired of one-upsmanship in the form of, "yeah I did it that way... When I was 12."

I'm really looking for a community to join.

My current interest are in Python and some 6502 assembly but I hope to branch out into other things. Fwiw, I am working on projects, not idly reading books.

Cheers! And thanks.
posted by tcv to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
This is hard. I bet you've run into the notoriously anal StackOverflow moderation. The reason it has to be that way is that otherwise, it would be completely overrun by lazy students who want people to do their homework for them. It actually is the least bad option for managing a site like that, even if it sucks to have assholes downvote you or give snide, unhelpful answers.

Another problem is that historically, people have thought being polite and caring about feelings shouldn't matter when everyone is "logical" and "rational", so the culture around certain open source projects can get pretty abusive.

You might enjoy this article.

Often programming languages and frameworks will have an IRC chat, e.g. Python. In my experience they tend to be friendlier towards new programmers, and more tolerant of open-ended questions or issues that result from fundamental misunderstandings. Similarly there are sometimes mailing lists. Usually there is one for users of the language or framework, and one for the developers --- do make sure you're asking questions on the one for users.

If you live in a major city, there might be informal meetup groups for new programmers. Look on in your area for things like this, and also see if there are any "hackerspaces" around local universities. People tend not to indulge their masculine bravado in person.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:12 AM on November 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

I've had good experiences with Code for America Brigades. The one in my area meets weekly and is very welcoming to newcomers.
posted by farma at 7:25 AM on November 7, 2015

Yeah, there's a stunning lack of emotional intelligence in the programming crowd, especially online.

For Python, the Raspberry Pi board is generally supportive of new programmers. They have a general Python section which is useful, welcoming (moderated, too), and busy. They sometimes get bogged down in hardware-support code, but that should be relatively easy to avoid.
posted by scruss at 7:50 AM on November 7, 2015

Computer Anonymous is worth looking up, particularly if one of their meet-ups is close to where you live. I joined a few of their meetings when I lived in Seattle, and found it a friendly, welcoming way to find people to speak with who were not invested in playing ego-games around technology. There is also a Computer Anonymous IRC channel, ##computer on Freenode.
posted by metaquarry at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2015 is a cool little community. They have a slack channel too, Lots of newbies as well as more experience folks. Memail me if you join up and have questions.
posted by natteringnabob at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite] has a django tutorial that I like (regardless of the fact that I don't identity as a woman), but if you want to use python in a non-web manner, there's

Good luck!
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:57 AM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Python tutor mailing list is a pretty good resource, and IME the experts who answer questions there don't engage in the kind of one-upsmanship and belittling you're talking about.
posted by asterix at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2015

i don't have an answer, but wanted to say that you should hang on in there, because there's a point, hopefully not too far off, after which you know enough to ask the right questions. and once you can get there, google is wonderful - you don't need to deal with people any more, you can just search for answers to questions people have asked previously.

(when i am really stuck and need to ask for help with python, i use the comp.lang.python group, on google groups. but i don't like the attitude there at all, so don't particularly recommend it).
posted by andrewcooke at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2015

If you are willing to come to New York for a few months, Recurse Center is exactly what you need. They have explicit rules against the sort of behavior you just described. From the RC manual, which is worth a read:

No feigning surprise

The first rule means you shouldn't act surprised when people say they don't know something. This applies to both technical things ("What?! I can't believe you don't know what the stack is!") and non-technical things ("You don't know who RMS is?!"). Feigning surprise has absolutely no social or educational benefit: When people feign surprise, it's usually to make them feel better about themselves and others feel worse. And even when that's not the intention, it's almost always the effect. As you've probably already guessed, this rule is tightly coupled to our belief in the importance of people feeling comfortable saying "I don't know" and "I don't understand."

posted by the_blizz at 2:09 PM on November 7, 2015 [13 favorites]

Oh I just remembered CodeNewbie! Their Twitter chats are a great place to connect on this topic and about learning to code in general. Looks like they have a Slack now too.
posted by farma at 4:01 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe start with a class, if you haven't? MIT has their intro cs and programming class online (in python) and run it for free on edX as well. It sounds like this might be a relatively quick way to fill in some gaps. Or perhaps having an actual physical textbook for reference? Sometimes it's easier to have a vetted information source to hand.

Is there an in person meetup that would work? People are generally kinder in person. Pyladies has regular meetups near me and a lot of them are open to non-ladies.
posted by momus_window at 5:02 PM on November 7, 2015

I like the 6502, enjoy programming it in assembler, and will happily discuss it for hours. Will also happily help you shave off the last few bytes you need in order to make your code fit in your ROM, or the last few cycles you need to make your comms link not drop data. Memail or email me any time.
posted by flabdablet at 8:11 PM on November 7, 2015

No feigning surprise

That is an absolutely brilliant rule. I am going to endeavor to follow it in my life.
posted by mister pointy at 1:35 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone for responding. I am a member of CodeBuddies now and find it a very welcoming place. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

I also joined CodeNewbie.

I am sad there is no Computer Anonymous group here and that I can't partake in Recurse Center's very awesome space.

This is all really just perfect because I had given up that there were such places online.
posted by tcv at 7:37 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me ID an ale   |   Half a Sunday in Toronto Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.