NEW EXERCISM COMMUNITY STORY
Today we are catching up with Bobbi Towers, the self-proclaimed “Child of Exercism”, who began their journey of contributing to open-source software right here with us
When the pandemic fell upon us and we began work on v3, the track needed a maintainer so they stepped up to develop the tooling and write the initial exercises, despite never having worked on a software project of that scale before.
Our spirited discussion revolved around a common theme of personal growth in the face of life’s many challenges such as mental health issues, social isolation, and physical disabilities. After a 2015 accident which resulted in losing the use of a hand, they began to explore alternative input devices to find something more accessible and hopefully become more productive.
Finding the existing commercial solutions to be either lacking or prohibitively expensive, they turned to 3D printing to design and manufacture their own one-handed keyboard
They joined the community in 2018 as a student on the Clojure track and went on to become a mentor
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It seems that I somehow got out of formally answering the questions “what is the hill I would die on”, and a piece of advice I would give to the community. And maybe that’s a good thing because I had some more time to think about what I would have said so perhaps I will answer them here!
Hill to “die” on
One way to approach the question is to think about what kinds of arguments you get into on Twitter! Because you know… it is an outrage machine, consciously designed to get us fired up. I believe that the kinds of things that tend to grind our gears might reveal important things about our personalities.
So there was this thread with some developers who were riffing on the common “wisdom” that you do not need to know mathematics in order to be a programmer. And well… let’s just say that this was the closest I ever came to being “canceled” for being so opinionated…
Sure, if all you want to do is work for a company building boring apps or something… right, you probably don’t need much maths for that. But who is driven to learn to code for that? I want to make games! I overwhelmingly find that getting the computer to do pretty much anything interesting inevitably involves understanding calculations.
My past self might have been rather annoyed if future me had come just to tell me that, but I still totally would if I had the chance. Then maybe I wouldn’t be struggling to learn basic calculus at age 40. And as long as I was there, I’d also say, “Psst… you’re autistic. And you’re a girl.”
Piece of advice
I mentioned in the episode that recording video is a form of time-travel but didn’t explain further, but I highly recommend giving it a try. Even just record your screen while you work a couple of times and watch what happens. You’ll discover that it’s the ultimate form of documentation! If you make a habit of this it is will become your secret superpower because it is immensely valuable to be able to revisit your process after some time passes - I owe so many deep insights to this.
You’ll soon find that you can fearlessly switch tasks more often because you can re-establish continuity by editing sessions after the fact. This helps maintain inspiration and avoid burnout. Is it tedious to do this? No, actually it defeats one of our worst tendencies which is to neglect to sufficiently review our own work. Too often we push ahead with our studies out of a desire to cover more ground, and deceive ourselves into thinking we will remember it better than we do. The simple process of hearing it back another time makes it sink in so much better. And you never know… you might just capture something that could greatly benefit others too!