Changing Stuff and Seeing What Happens

by Miguel Elizalde

On October 21, 2017, at the MIT Media Lab, Processing Community Dayconvened for the first time, bringing together longtime and new contributors, fellowship and Google Summer of Code alumni, guest speakers, and the Processing Foundation Board. This series of articles reflects the experiences of three participants who were there.


First times are always special, and this Processing Community Day (PCD) was a perfect example of that. It took 16 years for everyone in the community to meet for the first time. Processing was the first software I explored in 2008 and since I now teach Processing to introduce basic concepts of software literacy to my students, I felt compelled to attend, as an artist and also as an educator. I will review the first PCD following the same logic that I used learning Processing: changing one element at a time.

The attendees of the first PCD were primarily from the east coast, between Boston and New York City. I expect that the 2018 conference would be an event for west coast Processing users, shifting the location to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

At the MIT MediaLab.

In terms of target audience, this first iteration was more open than a Contributors Conference and more intimate than a public event such as an art fair. The contributors to Processing Foundation’s projects, like the p5.js contributors conference, may have found the PCD more interesting to participate in than those who just started learning Processing. A possible alternative is to give some space to local communities who are working with Processing at an introductory level, to share their experiences with the attendees.

The first part of the morning were presentations by the different board members and the projects they are supporting: Android, Python, p5.js, etc.

View of the stage before the Coding Train session.

The workshops were a mix of different topics and goals. Dan Shiffman performed one of his tutorials live on stage. His role expanding the base of Processing supporters is remarkable.

As an immigrant with a direct experience of teaching Processing in a rural community in the Midwest, I felt compelled to attend the workshop about Online Communities and Inclusive Open Creation by Sydette Harry and Johanna Hedva. Most of the presentation was a personal testimony to the challenges of building a supportive online community. It was an inspirational dialogue where the references to the specific issues of online communities around software were more implicit rather than explicit. PCD may consider opening this workshop and others like it to local groups.

In conclusion, the first PCD worked as a showcase of what the Processing Foundation has to offer to its members and supporters. Most of the changes I suggest are related to the degree of involvement of the potential audience. Considering the size and quality of the Processing Community, the possibilities are endless. Let’s change small elements and see what happens.