Snackety Snack At RailsConf

May 18th 11:14
by why

Here’s what Brian DeLacey (the H-ety H Chargé d’affaires) has to say about RailsConf:

For our BoF session on Saturday evening at 8:30, Hackety Hack and User Groups: Learning Ruby and Rails, we’ve been told we “may welcome non-ticket holding sneak-ins.” We gladly extend the invitation to any Rubyists in the Portland area.

Sure, the Web is starting to pay more attention to our helpful little tool, but how can we start to really get it into the hands of youngsters? Perhaps some dead-simple beginner’s classes could be injected into monthly meetups? Maybe some Hackety Hack afterschool clubs? Such is the topic tomorrow.



said on May 18th 14:35

Wow, Brian! I didn’t know you were French! Way to go on the promotion.


said on May 19th 01:55

Man… this is a tough choice… go to RejectConf at FreeGeek at 8PM or go to this BOF session at 8:30 at the convention center?


said on May 19th 22:46

Hello from inside the BOF! There are delightful red Hackety Hack cups, and a plethora of Ring Pops.


said on May 20th 01:24

Just attended the BOF. Several Observations/Ideas:

1) HacketyHack is a tremendous idea to get programming back into education! Congratulation to _why and all others involved!

2) To encourage Test Driven Development mindset/habits:
–Ruby Quiz for Kids with automated evaluation against a large set of test & corner cases.
–Score heavily on complete/correct solutions. (TDD will excell)
–Reward thoroughness & excellence by posting high scores on HacketyHack or local sites

3) For adaptation and implementation in schools
–Establish a standardized curriculum
–Establish a standardized criteria for success
–Provide an automated scoring system.
Note: Most educators will work to stay a few days ahead of their class. They will not have the perspective or know enough to establish a curriculum in advance.

4) Everything in 3) above applies doubly for HomeSchooled kids. Self-paced learning for HomeSchooled kids is a big opportunity for HacketyHack.


said on May 20th 13:46

;) I’ve got somethin planned for world domination that’s starting with the youguns!

Robby Russell

said on May 20th 17:12

"To encourage Test Driven Development mindset/habits: "

We actually discussed BDD.. not so much TDD. Having a RSpec-like describe/it approach would likely be a more natural way to educate kids about specifying the behavior of the code that the problem they’re about to solve.

Brian DeLacey

said on May 20th 20:58

I just wanted to say thanks to all the people who attended–with roots from Europe to Alaska and lots of places beyond and between. There was some great HH community energy, conversation, and creative thinking. Indeed, it was a fabulous group of people with a ton of practical and actionable ideas. I’ll summarize and share notes from the meeting and I sure look forward to similar gatherings in the future.


said on May 21st 13:36

Can we just concentrate on letting kids have fun before we kill off the energy with the BDD/TDD jargon please? We’re trying to get them hooked, not make them what grownup programmers should be.

Please let kids be kids and have fun exploring. Don’t start with the jargon culture with them just yet. Just a thought.

Joey Accordion Guy

said on May 22nd 14:16

Getting Hackety Hack in to

Joey "Accordion Guy" deVilla

said on May 22nd 14:19

(Sorry ’bout that mangled last comment. Hooray for clumsy post-RailsConf fingers!)

Getting Hackety Hack into kids’ hands will probably require getting onto kid media. Perhaps…

–A Hackety Hack MySpace page?
–Hackety Hack-related animated videos on YouTube?

…basically, Hackety Hack-related material on sites and places where kids hang out.


said on May 22nd 17:04

Any other notes on the proceedings kicking around?

Brian DeLacey

said on May 23rd 00:16

Here are some of the highlights from the Birds of a Feather Session on Hackety Hack at RailsConf. The RailsConf HH BoF slides are available.

Intro to session

About 60 people attended, from all corners of the USA–sweeping from Alaska through Europe. There were a couple of teachers in the room – and each seemed very interested in the prospects of HH. A few of the BoF attendees had tried HH with their kids. Some others were new to Ruby programming and going to give it a try for their own benefit.

About 20 of the attendees were involved with a user group of some sort and a half-dozen or so were affiliated with O’Reilly’s excellent User Group Program.

Most of the attendees appeared to be using Macs (TextMate’s stronghold on Rails editing!) Clearly, they were eager for a native build. Some of them were using VMWare or Parallels and running HH happily. There was also significant interest in Linux as well.

A majority of people in the room had used online “Try Ruby”. One attendee commented how amazed they were when HH suddenly hit the scene, mist-like appearing out of nowhere!

Eric Mill shared a number of insights on the technical underpinnings of HH. Eric also gave a pretty amazing demonstration of Hackety Hack after the session. His Boston-based HH demonstration on video is another example of his real-time hackery at work. Impressive stuff and surely worth a watch.

Andrea O. K. Wright discussed Squeak, an open sourced, powerful implementation of SmallTalk. Andrea walked through a demonstration of a simple-to-create object-oriented easy-to-animate drag-and-drop paint program. She showed a neat demonstration of the way that these animatable objects can be created in just a few minutes. (Andrea’s comments resonated nicely with the Avi Bryant’s keynote on SmallTalk and Ruby.)

How did you get started in programming?

We explored how people got started in programming. Many interesting pathways led to RailsConf. A number of attendees recalled a favorite high school teacher. Memorable programming assignments included challenging “outwit the teacher” assignments. The hugely imporant impact of teachers was evident from these long held memories.

Others talked about their programmable calculators, early Apples, and spritely machines from Texas Instruments. A couple of people almost simultaneously talked about the same “crazy” cyber-punk magazine that came with a bundled version of Basic. Neither recalled the name of the publication – so I don’t think it was a MAD Magazine of the digital age–but it seems like it might have deserved a Pulitzer prize for blending narrative and code.

Perhaps the future awaits a serialization of cartoon foxes bundled with Hackety Hack on thumb drives? If the cartoon foxes are busy, perhaps a long-awaited return of Bigelow will lead us forward?

For a few, Logo was an early inspiration – just making a little turtle dance can be a ton of fun they said. A few who told stories of friends who self-identified their programming talent late in life through standardized testing. There seemed also to be some related activities – like Lego Mindstorms – which offered inspiration equally to young girls and boys.


A number of great ideas arose from the group’s brainstorming. Here are the ones I caught:

  • Get kids to enjoy act of programming
  • A lesson server would be great – a way of distributing lessons to a classroom
  • Pool lesson development efforts and share across schools
  • Is there a central server for posting programs and lessons?
  • Create your own for youngin’s computer science guidelines (they don’t exist now)
  • Establish feature / lesson spectrum across groups: 8 – 12, 12 – 14, 14 and up …
  • Make a personal commitment – and create a mentoring opportunity – with a local school
  • Series of spec driven program projects, which are goal-directed and game-like
  • Create a RubyQuiz for kids;
  • Have kids pair up – one writes a test, and challenges the other to break it
  • Have a central server for posting programs and teaching lessons
  • Is there a home called

Tech Questions/Requests

  • What about Linux and Mac? (_why’s ahead of the game on that one)
  • How to create “libraries” for HH? Allowing one-line programs while “hiding” other code?
  • How to create customized tutorials? How to modify/create tutorials? ls or create their own lessons/tutorials

A sub-group of teachers is interested in developing a curriculum with lesson plans – let’s hope that activity self-organizes!



said on May 23rd 02:04

Ohh, that does it. You’ve laid it all out!

One of my favorite ideas up there is the one about making your own lessons. And beyond that: sharing those on the HH site. All futuristic-like.

I will mention. If you open up the static/tutor.txt, you’ll see that the interactive tutor uses a sort of wiki text. I’ve still got some features to add, but I think I’m going to stick with that, although it will move into a locale folder (English, French, Russian and the like.)

Translations are coming together here.

Comments are closed for this entry.