HackMcGill holds coding tutorials for the McGill community fairly often, where someone talks for a ~short period of time on the basics of web dev, Android dev and Python code golf. We call these Hack101s.

While these are awesome, we face the classic problem of engaging and retaining users — people often drop out because of midterms/assignments, because they missed the previous tutorial, or simply because they don’t want to see someone typing stuff into a Soda Dark themed screen after an entire day’s worth of classes spent doing exactly that. Plus, there are people across the board who want to learn how to code —coming up with a tutorial that is interesting enough to people of all levels of programming proficiency is a hard problem.

So we decided to become lazy. (No, not that kind of lazy).

Instead of teaching people how to code, why not let them teach themselves? Most of programming comes down to trying something out, breaking stuff, looking up stuff on Google, repeating. Plus, people learn at different speeds, and are interested in learning different things — why then this straitjacket of one-size-fits-all tutorials?

Hence, Learn to Code.

Every week, one night, we invite people over to learn whatever they want. They’re free to follow whichever online resources to learn whatever language/framework they find most interesting — we offer several strong suggestions for either. They’re encouraged to team up and work together, for more funs. What we (crucially) provide is a bunch of mentors who hang around the entire time, walk around, make witty remarks, and help out. At the start of each session, we write out what each mentor specializes in on a massive blackboard, so you know who to hail down if you have trouble getting set up with Python, or Haskell.

This way, you get to learn from the infinitely cavernous knowledge-depths of the internet, with the ready help of a somewhat-more-limited-but-infinitely-nicer human for when the internet fails on you, or you want some advice on which language to start with, or you’re wondering why [] + [] gives empty string in JavaScript. Best of all worlds.

We’re like a real-world Stack Overflow, basically.

It’s been working great so far. We’re getting far stabler turnouts than usual — more people coming out and learning together from across majors and degree-levels and having interesting conversations, with us and each other…

… Which is really the whole point of this. A tutorial-style event doesn’t spark too much mingling, which defeats the real, insidious purpose of HackMcGill’s existence: to create a friendly, inclusive hacker culture on campus*. We want people to make friends in this community, get interested in building cool shit, and live long and prosper.

* We also hold a massive 700+ student hackathon every February, which you should totally sponsor if you have money.

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