✿ code toolkit ✿ python ✿

spring 2022

Asking for tech help

Asking for help will be an important part of this class. You will be encountering syntax errors and bugs that you will have trouble fixing and will need to ask for assistance from me, your classmates, and perhaps members of the Processing community or other programmers.

And asking for help will continue to be an important part of your work as a computer programmer beyond this class. If you continue learning about software development, you will be learning new tools, platforms, frameworks, and systems — and that process always entails communicating with the people who made those technologies, or with folks who have more expertise working with them. Sometimes this communication happens through reading docs and manuals, other times it happens through online fora, and sometimes it happens in person, through classes, clubs, and meet-ups.

In all these cases, depending on the character of the community that you'll be engaging, your questions may be met by a range of responses from helpful assistance to scorn, as when replies include admonishments to RTFM! This type of hostility is a form of gatekeeping whereby certain groups defend the power that they derive from access to certain knowledges and discourses by attempting to exclude newcomers, hailing them as outsiders.

I recommend that you seek out communities to learn with that are kind and helpful. There are many! Of course, sometimes you can't do that, and at some point or another, everyone asks a question that provokes derision. It happens to me all the time. If possible, you may simply steel yourself for this hostility, but keep in mind that doing so often requires privilege not accessible to everyone everywhere. Remember, you have as much right as anyone to be in the room.

All of that said, an important skill to hone in becoming a computer programmer is the art of asking tech questions effectively. You can do this by performing facility with the discourse of the community that you are engaging, and circumscribing your question as narrowly as possible, so that it is a self-contained inquiry that a person interested in answering could address without knowing any broader context. This may feel antithetical to other more situated forms of assistance and care that you may be used to in which context matters quite a bit.

How to ask for help in this class

Before you ask for help:

If you're still stuck that's OK! Reach out to me and I'll try to help.

To work together on fixing your bugs this semester, I would like to use a tool called Gist made by a platform called GitHub.

To use this, you will first need to create an account on github.com.

  1. Visit the site and click "Sign up".
  2. Choose a username and password, and enter your email address.
  3. Then GitHub will ask you some questions about who you are and what you intend to use the site for. Answer these however you wish.
  4. GitHub will then send you a message to verify your email address. Make sure you open this and click "Verify" as it will allow you to get email notifications when I reply to your requests for help.
  5. When GitHub asks you "What do you want to do first?" you can click "Skip", or offer them some more info if you'd like.

Creating a Gist

  1. Open a new browser window and go to gist.github.com
  2. Go back to your Processing PDE window and in the menu click:
    Sketch > Show Sketch Folder. Then drag your sketch files into your new Gist in your browser window, taking care not to drag the files into the textbox of the Gist.
  3. Choose the green button "Create Public Gist"
  4. Now add a comment, as precise as possible. If you have an error message, copy it from the Processing console and paste it into the Gist comment. If you can point me to a specific line number, even better. And don't forget to tag me in the comment so I'll be notified! My GitHub username is doodybrains so make sure to at least write @doodybrains somewhere in your comment so that I get notified!
  5. Once you submit the comment you can wait for me to reply.

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