Banshee Bandits Wrap Up

Posted on by Shelby & Lillian

Categories: blog and student posts

It’s the end of the line…time to wrap up!

What We’ve Learned

How to Read a Giant Website’s Repo

Public Lab has a large and complex website. For pretty much the entire first week of this project, we couldn’t even begin coding because we just had no idea where to start. It was really overwhelming at first, but after a week of Ruby tutorials and help from our mentors and coaches we were finally able to start working. It was a steep learning curve, but we now feel confident in our ability to navigate a large repo to find what we need.

Github: Push, Pull, Merge

After finding where to start our work, another hurdle awaited us: GitHub. It’s an indispensible tool for developers, but for beginners it’s the looming threat of pushing something to the wrong branch and ruining the entire project. But we followed Public Lab’s contribution instructions and, with some more help from our mentor Jeff and other Public Lab team members, managed to submit our very first pull request (and we didn’t even ruin the entire project). We’re really glad that we had the opportunity to learn how GitHub is used in a professional setting, so that when we (hopefully) get real jobs we have some experience and won’t feel as intimidated as we did when starting this project.

Reading Ruby Partials– Breaking Apart Elements that are not just HTML

On a technical level, one of the major things that we learned was how to integrate HTML into a website that is mostly written in Ruby, i.e. ruby partials. Partials are really cool because it allows you to break down your HTML code into very specific snippets that can then be called by the overarching code. It also allows you to break down the code into manageable chunks, so that you don’t have a massive file with 300 lines of code and can actually find what you’re looking for.

Working Remotely is Difficult

There were many periods during the project when our respective schedules forced us to be in separate locations. Additionally, often times we had to work with our coaches remotely. As a result, we learned so many different ways to video call!

Experiences We’ve Gained

We witnessed a “virtual community” versus an “actual community”

Public Lab is a community where you can learn to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, Public Lab seeks to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms. Online, Public Lab hosts a variety of Wikis and research notes for people to collaborate– exchanging and updating environmental data in an open-source environment. In person, Public Lab hosts a variety of community events organized by administrators whose office is in a factory-turned-office building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One of Public Lab’s central missions is collaboration– through social media, through the website, through events. It was incredibly interesting to witness that as online contributors who lived just down the street from PL’s headquarters in New York City.

We learned how difficult it is to balance a part-time job, an open-source internship, and classes

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” A lesson the two of us learned oh-so-well during the past couple of months. It was often difficult to dedicate time to solely learning “how to code.” In the future, we hope to plan our time more sensibly in order to benefit as much as possible from the learning experiences open source projects can offer.

The Catch 22: Open Source’s “Technical Gap”

Open source is meant for collaboration. The problem: it is often difficult for “newbies” to comfortably navigate the demands of an open source project (ie. Github, how to read a project’s repository, etc.). Both of us gained a better understanding of the “technical gap,” and how it can limit diversity initiatives in tech.