Dispatch from Pythonia

We had two great classes last week.

Rahul returned as promised on Thursday (thank you, Rahul!) to talk us through some more code examples and to share his recommendations for resources on Python and programming. As in previous posts, much of the information about Thursday’s session can be found in our notes (PDF, 167 KB), which contain links to the IPython Notebook files Rahul shared with us.

His recommendations:

Rahul also recommended becoming familiar with the command line, which he says will make us all much more expert users of our systems.  Using only the computer’s graphical interface instead of the command line, he says, is like watching movies instead of reading books.

.   .   .

Saturday’s class was a hack day, our first of the semester, and we spent most of the class in groups, discussing our project aims and taking our first steps towards figuring out where and how we will obtain our data.  Chris assured us that we have a wide variety of options when it comes to tools for writing and sharing our code, a fact that must be a relief to those in the class who have struggled mightily with their IPython Notebook installations.  Two tools he especially recommends: ScraperWiki and GitHub.

We were also visited Saturday by Seth Woodworth, a local programmer and open data advocate.  Seth gave us a tutorial on using GitHub and talked a bit about some of his recent projects, including GITenberg, an effort to bring Project Gutenberg texts under version control and make them more available to programmers, and LCC, a Python module that maps LC classification numbers to their topics.  He’s interested to learn what other projects would be useful to libraries and says he’s worried there’s not enough communication between librarians and developers about the very interesting things that are and could be going on in libraries.  He encouraged us to get involved with Open Knowledge Foundation through its Boston group.

.   .   .

If I hadn’t been learning Python at DST4L on Thursday, I would have been at THATCamp Libraries, an all-day unconference held at Simmons College, where a few other DST4L participants and I are working towards our MLIS degrees.  Reading over a Storify of the tweets from the event, I was excited to see that a session on the obstacles to learning code had inspired conversations about exactly the kind of need our class aims to address:

  • “Takeaways: it went too fast! Context is critical in learning code. Create a collaborative Pythonia. Have a project goal. #THATCamp” –@darlingbec
  • “Pythonia is other coders working on similar projs says @ThatAndromeda difficult for librarians to find given they’re usually solo #THATCamp” –@darlingbec
  •  “‘Where’s my foreign language lab? How can I travel to Pythonia?’ learning code session” at #thatcamp  –@ThatAndromeda
  • “How can I travel to Pythonia to immerse myself in python for 3 intensive months?” #THATCamp –@darlingbec

I love this concept, Pythonia.  And here we are in this class, librarians and future librarians, learning code collaboratively, in the context of our field, with project goals to motivate us and direct our efforts. . . I think we might just be in Pythonia now.


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