First, I want to say thank you to everyone I’ve talked to over the past few months about my project, as every conversation I’ve had has improved the things I’m making and how I think about them. I also want to post an update of where my project is now and where I plan to go with it in the near future.
As some of you have seen, the first iteration of my tool to help data people learn Python was a “Choose Your Own Adventure” zine that allows the reader to try different types of resources to learn Python for a data analysis project. I created this zine because I struggled to learn Python for data analysis, and I wanted to figure out what made it so difficult for me. I brought this zine with me to Do Good Data in Chicago this past April and discovered that many others have experienced similar struggles.
The second iteration of the tool was a poster I presented at PyCon in Portland in May/June featuring a giant flowchart that aims to help people find a path from where they are now to what they want to learn. When creating the poster, I set out to answer a question that someone asked at the Do Good Data conference session Building Your Analytical Toolkit Beyond Excel. The question was, “How do I identify which tool to learn, and how do I determine how much of it I need to know?” I wanted to create a tool that would help data people decide if Python was useful to them, be able to see how it would be useful, and then help them to visualize the landscape of what it might look like to learn Python for the data thing they wanted to do. When I started learning Python, I had no idea what I had to know before I got to the good stuff I wanted to learn and no way to estimate how long it might take me. I got a lot of positive feedback on my poster at PyCon that indicated I had been at least somewhat successful with this goal.
I also talked about both the zine and the poster to my gracious and helpful local Python user group, PyMNtos.
Both iterations of the tool have prompted terrific conversations and comments from many people who experienced similar struggles themselves, or struggle to help others learn both professionally and for fun. The documents are in a repo on my GitHub if you wish to share them. The focus on community at PyCon really seemed to drive home the importance of a tool like this to help bring in people (each with interesting and unique ideas) who may not otherwise have access to Python, which is now fueling me forward!
Three things have happened since PyCon to point me towards what I want to do next.
I discovered that an obvious question from a beginner after looking at the tool I developed is, “How do I start?” Very literally, two people recently asked me this and I kind of fumbled. I realized that while I could direct people to some resources I like, I didn’t have a good and concise answer. Having attended and organized workshops that install and teach Python, I also know what a pain getting through installation can be (Elana Hashman’s PyCon talk on Teaching Python: The Hard Parts had me nodding so hard I thought I might actually be headbanging).
I’ve happened upon an opportunity to present to non-programmers about Python and what it might do for them.
I had been thinking about what kind of role I want co-organizing in our local PyLadies chapter and I have decided that I want to be a Python Evangelist- I want to go out and tell people about what Python can help them do, help them see the landscape of what the process of learning might look like, and then give them the tools to get started with that bigger picture in mind.
I have decided that the next step for me is to put my poster content into a repo on my GitHub as a Pages website and continue to build out the sections. I have also planned to add two new pieces of content: one focused on helping beginners install and run Python, and one that is more of a presentation for a data-savvy non-programming audience about why you might want to learn Python to work with data and what it can do for you. All of this will be easily shared and forked so that others can take it and build on it!
I am inspired and motivated by all the great conversations I’ve had along the way while working on this thing, and I appreciate the time and thought of each person willing to talk with me about it. If you want to talk (more), email or tweet me!