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
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
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
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:
Take a good look at your code. Review the syntax rules discussed
in week 1 and week 2.
Auto-format your code: from the PDE menu, click Edit >
Auto-format (on Mac that's ⌘-T). Sometimes just cleaning things
up helps solve some problems. While asking help about
works-in-progress is necessary and encouraged, it is always
helpful at least to Auto-Format to aid the person you're asking
in reading your code.
If you're still stuck that's OK! Reach out to me and I'll try to
To work together on fixing your bugs this semester, I would like to
use a tool
made by a platform
To use this, you will first need to create an account
Visit the site and click "Sign
Choose a username and password, and enter your email address.
Then GitHub will ask you some questions about who you are and
what you intend to use the site for. Answer these however you
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.
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
Open a new browser window and go
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.
Choose the green button "Create Public Gist"
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!
Once you submit the comment you can wait for me to reply.
the History of Computing, IEEE Annals of the History of
Mikko Rajanen, Netta Iivari, and Arto Lanamäki,
Social Exclusion, and False Acceptance: Gatekeeping Tactics and
Usability Work in Free-Libre Open Source Software
Miriam Posner, "We
can teach women to code, but that just creates another
problem", The Guardian, 2017
And you can learn about the jargon and tech discourse that you
can use to communicate with communities by
reading FOLDOC (the Free On-Line
Dictionary of Computing and
here, large file)