Ascend Project

Mentorship and barrier-removing accelerator program designed to explicitly invite, include, and support adult learners in making a first technical contribution to Open Source software.

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    Learning in Community

    17 Oct 2014 »

    Learning Technology in Community

    When I first starting learning to code, I took an auto-didactic approach. I studied WordPress, HTML 5, CSS, Javascript and PHP using an combination of resources, including Treehouse, Codecademy, Coursera and reading several O’Reilly books.

    During the process of learning alone, I learned that being self-directed can also be self-limiting. When I get stuck, if I can’t Google my way out of the hole, I am out of luck. And when I can’t figure out why something isn’t working, I have no opportunity to get a different perspective on my approach to the vode. Or even to catch a missing semi-colon or comma.

    At about that time, I connected with a friend who was looking for someone to learn PHP with her. We decided to team up in the hope that we could both support and facilitate each other’s learning processes.

    I learned that I preferred learning with a study buddy because: 1. It kept me accountable. No matter what excuses I came up with, I had someone relying on me to show up. 2. My co-learner was able to provide a different perspective on the material. Our backgrounds were different enough that we were both able to bring something to the partnership. 3. We were able to teach each other when one of us understood something that the other did not. This helped solidify the information for the person doing the teaching.

    The biggest challenge that we both found when working with a study buddy was the difficulty of coordinating two busy people’s schedules.

    When I first learned about Ascend I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the group would include people of a variety of ages, learning styles, educational, professional and tech backgrounds, each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the table.

    In practice I learned that indeed, learning in community offset many of thethe limitations I found when I was learning alone. And, the dedicated window of time obviated the logistical issues I had encountered when trying to squeeze in my learning around two busy people’s schedules.

    One of the first things we did when we started Ascend was a strength-testing exercise. My own results underscored why Ascend was a good match for me.

    1. One of my strengths is that I am “intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. [I am] good at figuring out how people who are different can work together productively”.

    2. I also “find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal”.

    Ascend’s peer to peer learning approach brought not only some great opportunities, but also some challenges.

    There were a few times when I felt like we were the blind leading the blind when I was working on something with a fellow Ascender and neither of us knew what we were doing. But, we were able to work together to figure it out, even if that meant bringing ssomeone else into the conversation. Despite its challenges, I found this much more satisfying than doing it on my own.

    At the end of the 6 weeks, our Ascend Learning Community cohort became much tighter than I would have initially anticipated. We really have become a community. I hope the connections we have built will continue to both support and challenge me as time goes on and we all return to the routine of daily life.


    Yaks and their Kin

    08 Oct 2014 »

    Week Five - Yaks and Their Kin

    I am relieved that by the time I got around to writing this I had finished my yak shaving,. However, there was a while there when I really wondered if I was caught in a new level of hell. I spent most of Friday, Monday and Wednesday just getting my virtual environment set up. In theory the process was easy and well laid out. Emphasis on the “in theory” in that sentence.

    At first, everything went quickly and smoothly and it looked like I would be well on my way in under an hour. That is, until an error message reared its ugly head. I tried a couple of possible work-arounds and by then the day was over. Monday morning I came in ready to resolve whatever was causing the bug to rear its ugly head. After some futzing, I decided the best approach would be to clear out the mess I had created and start fresh. Once again, everything looked good at the beginning. But, sadly for me, the error message would not go away.

    I chatted with my mentor on irc and he offered all sorts of good potential solutions. Sadly, none of them worked. Then he tried to see if he could recreate the error on his machine and low and behold, he could! It was a great relief to learn that the error message had not been my fault! After a short happy dance, I cleared out the directories and tried instead to create my virtual environment using vagrant.

    Once again, the process was fairly easy and straightforward. At least until it wasn’t. But fortunately, that was no more then a gentle hiccup and was easily rectified. Then came the happy dance because the virtual environment finally worked! And, if I weren;t so damn tired right now, the sheer sense of joy I felt would have an easier time coming through.

    I am tired for many reason, but the greatest reason is that I have spent most of today moving javascript files into new directories and redirecting the html pages that reference them. Very straightforward work, but kind of mind-numbing. In an ideal world, I would be able to use this work as a break from more brainful work. But, this is not an ideal universe, so I put on my music and plugged away. But now my eyes and tired and I want a nap. However, instead of a nap, I decided to finish this blog post before going back to my list of files to move.


    Patch Applied!

    02 Oct 2014 »

    Firefox Build with patch


    Bug Squishing in the Wild

    29 Sep 2014 »

    In which Eva starts exploring ways to squish a bug

    The last few days (minus the ones I took off for Rosh Hashanah) have been devoted to identifying and researching bugs that we want to patch. Unsurprisingly, I gravitated towards the add-ons, since one of my goals for Ascend was to get a better sense of how browser extensions and add-ons work. Unfortunately, I don’t think my skills are at the point where I can really work deep in the guts of browser integration. But, I do think I can spend a little time enhancing an already-functioning add on. And, if I am lucky, spending some time in the body of the code will help me get a better understanding of how all of the pieces fit together.

    The add-on developer has made himself very available as a mentor, which I was able to see in the discussion of some of his other bugs. I have also been lurking in #calendar in irc and he has been logged in every time. The room itself is very quiet, but it does speak to his availability.

    The code base was a little more challenging to find and took some sleuthing in the developer’s blog. And the documentation was even harder to find. What is there is pretty basic and is directed at the user of the add on. One of the developer’s bugs did include a request for help with documentation, so he does recognize that there is the need.


    Bugs I am considering

    24 Sep 2014 »

    To all the bugs I’ve loved before

    I stumbled upon a series of bugs that are kind of intriguing me. All of them are in the Thunderbird add-on Lightning. Specifically, they are:

    *361983 *373562 *621540

    I think the reason they intrigued me is because I find add-ons kind of challenging and interesting since 1Password uses them and I am still trying to figure out how they work (and by how I mean technically not functionally, which I already know).

    I have already started by trying to figure out who the add-on developer is. I have gone to his blog and Mozillians page and checked him out on Twitter. My next step will be forking the code and seeing if I can make any sense of it.


    Second Week

    18 Sep 2014 »

    Second Week: The Ups and Downs

    The problem with writing these posts on Fridays is that the weeks are so jam packed, I can never remember what Monday was like by the time Friday rolls around.

    The first sign that this week was a much more jam packed one is the minimal amount of crocheting I got done. Since I am here to learn and not to crochet, that is a good thing. This week we spent some more time with git, the command line, testing (both manual and automated) and reporting bugs.

    You can see an example of a automatic test bug report, you can see one here.

    In other news, I also wrote a tutorial on creating multiple profiles for Firefox here


    Firefox Profile Tutorial

    18 Sep 2014 »

    Firefox profiles: What, Why and How

    This tutorial will explain what a Firefox profile is, why one might want one and how to set one (or several) up.

    What is a profile and why do I need one?

    A profile allow Firefox to save your customized settings and data, such as, bookmarks, passwords and user preferences. You can set up as many profiles as you like, each with its own set of customized settings. You can create, remove, switch and rename your profiles using the Profile Manager.

    Profile Manager

    To open the Profile Manager your first want to be sure that all instances of Firefox are closed.

    Once you have done that, please do the following: 1. Open the Terminal (either click Command+Spacebar to open Spotlight and type in Terminal or using the Finder, go to Applications/Utilities/Terminal) 2. Type or paste the following text into Terminal: /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin -p 3. Press enter.

    Creating a Profile

    Once you click Enter in the step above, Firefox will open a box that looks like this: http://note.io/1wxxoNG. *Click “Create Profile” and you will see the following message pop up: http://note.io/1wxxBQR *Click continue and you will see this: http://note.io/1wxyeKa Feel free to name the profile anything you like.

    Renaming a Profile

    If you want to rename one of your profiles, just click on the Rename Profile button and your will see this: http://note.io/1wxz5um

    Deleting a Profile

    If you want to delete a profile, click the Delete Profile button and you will see the following warning: http://note.io/1wxzhdc

    Other Options

    You will see two additional check box options on this screen: http://note.io/1wxAD7P

    *Work Offline - This will load the profile you select and starts an instance of Firefox without actually connecting to the internet. You will only be able to view cached webpages that you have visited previously. C

    *Use the selected profile without asking on startup - This is a good option if you only have one profile, but not if you have multiple profiles set up.

    If you do select this option and want to access another profile, you will need to reopen the Profile Manager, following the above instructions.

    Completed this tutorial? Then claim your badge here

    You can read more about Firefox profiles


    First Week

    15 Sep 2014 »

    Titles are the Hardest Part

    There were a couple of concerns I had coming into my first week as a member of the Ascend project. The first was that I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed up for and the second was that I would be working a 7-day workweek, with 5 of the days being 9-5. As someone who relies on an almost daily nap to make it through the day, that was enough to induce some real anxiety.

    However, it turns out that my fears were somewhat unfounded. Even though I have been pretty wiped at the end of every day, the bike ride home has been giving me a bit of a second wind. That alone suprised me because the ride home is pretty much entirely uphill, but I guess that little bit of exercise is enough of a wakeup that I do not arrive home in need of a nap.

    The other tool I added into my toolbox this weekend was that I started using my SAD light. I probably should have started using it sooner, but I have a tendency to put it off every year. You would think that 20+ years of annual usage would convince me that it does make a difference. Especially since I feel the difference after only a day or two of usage.

    To make a short story long (as my best friend likes to say), I seem to have my energy-management under control.

    My other concern remains. We do come in to a daily agenda, but I not sure where all of this is leading. I understand that this is a pilot program and the organizer/co-teacher is playing along with us, but I do wish we had a better idea of the plan for the week, even if we don’t know the plan for the full 6 weeks. But, we are only on the first day of the second week, so who knows where we go from here.