Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Summary of Feb 2014 Lab Meeting

We held a lab meeting last week. 48 people attended in two sessions (to accommodate different time zones); the main points are summarized below.

  • Community
    • We asked participants how many other people in the meeting they knew. The median answer was somewhere around 2, which is a sign that our social graph isn't as densely connected as it could be (or in non-hipster terms, we mostly don't know each other very well).
    • We're going to address this by running a two-day work sprint in July or August. People will be invited to come to the Mozilla office near them, or to congregate in other spaces, and we'll connect those meetups via telepresence.
  • Communications
    • Several people have said that they find it hard to keep track of upcoming bootcamps—in particular, that they sometimes hear about a bootcamp they could have volunteered at only after it's over.
    • We will start including a list of all upcoming bootcamps in the weekly summaries of Software Carpentry activity on the Mozilla Science Lab blog and on our own blog as well.
    • We also recommend using #swcSITE as a Twitter hashtag during bootcamps (e.g., #swcUBC).
  • Operations
    • We'll try to be more consistent using (and updating) the operations guide.
    • And Greg will start covering it in instructor training.
  • Lesson Content
  • Building Lessons
    • We are trying to streamline the tools and processes used to compile our lessons: see this issue on GitHub for details, and to join the conversation.
    • One reason to work on this is that we want to partner with other people interested in teaching computing skills to researchers: there will be a blog post about this soon.
  • Teaching
  • Code Review
  • PyCon 2014
    • We still have lots of spaces in our bootcamp on April 14-15 in Montreal—please help get the word out to your friends and colleagues.
    • We will be taking Software Carpentry folks out for dinner during the conference: stay tuned for details.
    • And we'll be at SciPy in Austin in July: again, please stay tuned for details.
  • Instructor Training
    • The online round starting late April 2014 is full, but there are still spaces for the one starting in June 2014: please mail us if you'd like to take part.
    • There are still spaces for the live version April 28-30 in Toronto.
  • Miscellaneous Tasks
  • Q&A
    • How are donations going?
      • A few people have reported that finding money is a struggle bureaucratically, but that's true for instructor travel costs as well. (We still have to handle each case individually: every university, funding agency, and country has its own rules...)
      • We're working with our Mozilla colleagues to make the process clearer and appreciate your patience and input. If you have suggestions, please contact us directly.
    • Does Software Carpentry take donations from individuals?
      • The Mozilla Foundation certainly does; we're working on ways to tag the money for specific purposes (but again, there are legal constraints because of our non-profit status).
    • Students often want (some of) the code before hand, what is our policy on that?
      • Absolutely: this is why we have nicely formatted HTML pages for the V5 content now.
    • What about certification for learners?
      • We get asked for this from time to time, especially by European graduate students who want to count the hours toward degree requirements.
      • We want something more meaningful than a certificate of attendance, but don't know how to assess learning.
      • The DiRAC driver's license is going well, but is time-consuming.
    • Can Software Carpentry help me find a software related job?
      • Greg would be very happy to help anyone who's given time to Software Carpentry in any way he can: please just ask.

Dialogue & Discussion

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