Living Room: Making RC programmable

David albert circle David Albert

For the last three months, Jonathan Dahan, an RC alum from our Summer 2, 2014 batch, has been back at RC building Living Room, a system to make RC physically programmable. Living Room is installed in Lovelace (a room at RC) and is made up of a projector, some cameras, and a database. It can recognize physical objects and can project onto the wall in response to what it sees. Living Room is inspired by Realtalk (a computing system being built at Dynamicland, a genuinely different and exciting community center in Oakland), Natural Language Datalog, and Linda.

We’re supporting Jonathan’s work because we think Living Room will make RC a richer experience for Recursers and alumni: a physically programmable RC will make it easier to see what projects other Recursers are working on, and will make it more likely that projects persist from one batch to the next. We want to give Recursers more control and ownership of RC’s physical infrastructure, and supporting Jonathan’s work is a great way to do that.

Katherine Ye (S’13) started a research blog where she, Jonathan, and other Recursers working on the project are keeping their notes. We’re planning on having the system running by Never Graduate Week, our annual alumni week, in May.

How it works

The system consists of a central Datalog-style database that stores facts about the world, and independent processes that can query the database and add facts of their own. There’s a projector that draws pictures in the room, and cameras that can see what’s going on. Everything drawn on the projector is computed each frame from the facts in the database. The database is accessible over the network, so processes can run anywhere.

The project is in the early stages, but it runs. It’s also surprisingly performant. In January, Jonathan and Alex Warth (m1’18) were able to project video from a webcam in real time by having one process put each frame into the database, and another read the frames out and draw them.

How to get involved

If you’re a member of the RC community, stop by any Thursday or Friday before May 18th to pair with Jonathan.

If you’re not yet a part of the RC community, you can still follow the development on GitHub, follow the research blog, and join in the State of the Room video chats weekly at 12:30 pm EDT on Fridays. All the code is open source so you can play, learn, and make your own.

If you’re interested in joining a friendly, welcoming community of people working on becoming better programmers, consider applying to RC. You can join us for a six- or 12-week retreat, or try one of our new one-week mini retreats.

Join RC and help grow a new kind of business and community

James j porter circle James J. Porter

We’re hiring a Career Facilitator to help run our recruiting business. This involves helping people find fulfilling jobs, establishing and nurturing recruiting relationships with partner companies, and helping strengthen and grow all aspects of our business. The Recurse Center is an educational community and a recruiting agency, and while the primary focus of this role is on the latter, we’re hiring someone to think about and collaborate on improving both.

Read on to learn more about RC, what this role involves, the good and bad parts of working here, and our hiring process.

About the Recurse Center

RC is a radically self-directed educational retreat integrated with a recruiting agency. Experienced and new programmers come to RC from around the world to spend one, six, or twelve weeks in New York focused on getting better at programming. The primary educational value of RC is peer-to peer. We don’t have teachers or a curriculum, and Recursers work on whatever they’re most interested in, teaching and learning from each other. Afterwards, alumni remain highly involved in our community, both offline and online.

Our revenue comes from recruiting fees paid by our partner companies when they hire alumni we refer to them. This allows us to keep RC free for everyone, and to fund need-based living expense grants for people from groups traditionally underrepresented in programming. There is no expectation or requirement that people who attend the retreat want or take a new job.

About this role

We started RC in 2011, and for the first several years, we mistakenly organized our company into two divisions: education and recruiting. There were good reasons why we thought this was the right way to operate, but by late 2016, experience had changed our minds.

We now think of RC as an integrated whole. Rather than some of us working on recruiting and some on education, with the two groups mostly keeping to themselves, we now all regularly collaborate to improve all aspects of RC, and we all take a holistic view of the company when choosing what we work on and how we do it.

The primary things you should expect to do in this role include:

  • Helping Recursers with all aspects of their job searches. This includes meeting with them to learn more about their goals and backgrounds, editing their resumes and professional communications, referring and introducing them to our partner companies, helping them move through interviews and negotiate offers, and giving them feedback and moral support.
  • Supporting Recursers with their careers more generally. You’ll help them figure out their goals, make their jobs work better for them, negotiate for promotions and raises, and resolve conflicts at work.
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with our partner companies. This involves learning about their hiring needs, finding Recursers for their open roles, organizing in-person hiring events, searching for and on-boarding new companies, and soliciting and processing feedback about how RC could better meet their needs.
  • Improving our processes and strategy for doing all of the above. We don’t expect you to do this on your own or on day one (we expect anyone we hire to take some time to get up to speed). We have an existing team and process that works reasonably well, but we are always trying to improve.
  • Working on projects that improve all aspects of RC. Examples might be helping plan our annual alumni reunion week, guiding improvements to our internal software for recruiting work, or helping Recursers run events they’re excited about.

We expect your role to change over time as we learn more about how we can most effectively meet our goals, and that you’ll play a large role in figuring out what changes to make and implementing them.

Pros and cons

Every job has downsides, and this one is no exception. People usually learn about these things after they join a company, but we think it’s important to highlight them in advance:

  • Some of the work can be emotionally draining.
  • Some of the work is unglamorous (we’re a six-person company, so we all have to do some amount of mopping up, figuratively and occasionally literally).
  • You’ll sometimes need to be able to attend events, take calls or respond to emails in the evenings or during weekends. We try to avoid this, but we prioritize being responsive to our alumni, and so if an alum wants our help deciding between two offers on a Sunday evening, we’ll happily take the call.
  • The pay is probably less than you could get at many tech companies.

Thankfully, we think this job has many more good things going for it:

  • Meaningful work, with a huge effect on people’s lives. To brag briefly: We’ve lost track of the number of people who have told us we changed their lives, or that RC was one of the best things they’ve ever done.
  • A friendly and intellectual atmosphere, and a tight-knit and supportive team of coworkers.
  • A warm and welcoming office (we’re currently in SoHo but we will be moving to a new location in lower Manhattan or Brooklyn this fall).
  • A great health insurance plan, plus dental and vision insurance.
  • 15 days of vacation (we effectively have unlimited vacation, but we have a number to make sure people actually take it), a 10-day winter holiday (Dec 23 to Jan 1), and seven additional holidays. We also have five days for personal development, which you can use for anything that supports your personal and professional goals and growth.
  • 3 months of paid parental leave, which you can take within a year of having or adopting a child. In addition, you can do an optional one month of working from home after your three months of leave.
  • Complete organizational transparency: If we give you an offer, we will share all employee and founder salaries, how much cash we have, projected revenue, and the many risks we face. We will answer any questions you have about our company and prospects honestly and directly.
  • Speaking of transparency, the salary for this role is $100,000.

Finally, working at RC involves a fair amount of uncertainty and change — we’re a small business and we routinely try new things to help us meet our goals. This is either a pro or a con depending on what you value.

Who we’re looking for

  • You’re empathetic and have a high “EQ” (emotional intelligence).
  • You’re intellectually curious.
  • You’re a good writer and communicator over email, on the phone, and in person.
  • You collaborate effectively with others.
  • You’re confident enough to make decisions and get things done on your own and humble enough to accept feedback gracefully when it’s given.
  • You’re driven to make organizations you’re a part of successful.
  • You’re not overly introverted and don’t get drained by interacting with people.
  • You share our core beliefs about education and our business. Dissent and skepticism are great, but if we don’t all agree on enough of the big things we’ll never get anything done.

Lastly, there are some things you might think are required for this role but aren’t. You don’t need to have a specific degree (or any degree at all), prior experience with recruiting or programming, or an existing connection with RC to be a strong candidate. What we’ve described in this post is what we’ll be evaluating all candidates on; we don’t have any hidden requirements.

What to expect from our interview process

  • The first step is to email us with your resume or publicly accessible LinkedIn profile. Please also include short answers to the following three questions:
    • What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned recently? (This can be about anything and certainly does not need to be about programming, education, or recruiting.)
    • What are your career goals for the next few years? (For example, how are you looking to grow, and what type of work would you like to be doing three years from now?)
    • What’s your biggest concern about RC or this job?
  • None of these are trick questions. Instead, like every part of our process, they’re meant to help us assess how you meet the requirements listed above. Please don’t write more than a few sentences for each answer. Please do use thoughtful, conversational English and proof-read what you write.
  • We’ll respond with a quick acknowledgement that we got your email.
  • If we decide to move forward, we’ll follow up to schedule a call. This call has two purposes: We’d like to learn a bit more about you and what you’ve done, and we also want to answer whatever questions you have about RC and the role. This call can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending in large part on how many questions you have for us.
  • If that goes well we’ll invite you to an on-site, which will be a day-long series of interviews with RC faculty and community members. We will try to make these interviews as much like the actual work of this job as possible.

After each stage we’ll let you know whether or not we’d like to continue as quickly as possible (our goal is within two business days). If you’re advancing to the next stage, we may also give you feedback about what we thought you did well and what you could improve on for the next round.

A few extra things to know

  • Most of the company gets in around 10am and leaves around 6:30pm, but some of us come in early and/or stay later.
  • We’re personally and institutionally committed to combating sexism and racism.
  • If you’re considering applying, you should spend some time reading our about page, blog, and User’s Manual to get a sense of our company and your potential coworkers.
  • This is a full-time role, and you need to be able to work on-site at our office in NYC.
  • We are happy to sponsor visas when possible. We cannot sponsor H-1Bs, since the soonest someone could start work on a new H-1B is October 2019, which is unfeasible for us (we can probably transfer existing H-1Bs).

Localhost #9: Samantha Goldstein on crafting a connected home

Rachel vincent circle Rachel Vincent

RSVPs for our next Localhost talk are now open! Localhost is a series of monthly, NYC-based, free, public technical talks from members of the Recurse Center community.

Our speaker is Samantha Goldstein, an RC alum who will be giving a talk about building custom hardware projects using microcontrollers and RFIDs on April 24th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Etsy.

You can RSVP, read the abstract, and find more details about the venue and schedule on the talk’s RSVP page.

Format

Localhost talks are 30-minutes long, and are followed by a dedicated Q&A session. There will be a two-minute break after the talk for folks who wish to leave. There are a few reasons we run talks this way:

  • We’ve found that having questions during talks can often derail the speaker.
  • Having a break in between a talk and Q&A keeps the talk time–boxed and allows folks to leave if they wish.
  • Having a set time for questions leads to more equal audience participation and better discussions.

Unlike most RC events, Localhost talks are open to the public. We set aside a fixed number of seats for folks who aren’t members of our community at every talk. It’s been great meeting so many new folks at our Localhost talks!

We know that attending a batch of RC requires a large time commitment, and hope that Localhost talks are a way for people to get a taste of what the RC community is like (and maybe even apply for a batch afterwards!). If you RSVP, please read about our social rules before the event.

Future talks

Our next Localhost talk is scheduled for May 15th.

We’ll open RSVPs and post details for future talks on our Localhost page and here on our blog. Follow us here and on Twitter for updates on when RSVPs open.

All guests of Recurse Center events are required to abide by our code of conduct.

Localhost #8: Andrew Kelley on Zig, a new programming language

Rachel vincent circle Rachel Vincent

RSVPs for our next Localhost talk are now open! Localhost is a series of monthly, NYC-based, free, public technical talks from members of the Recurse Center community.

Our speaker is Andrew Kelley, an RC alum who will be giving a talk about Zig, his pragmatic, optimal, safe, and readable new programming language, on March 20th from 7:00 pm–9:00 pm.

You can RSVP, read the abstract, and find more details about the venue and schedule on the talk’s RSVP page.

Format

Localhost talks are 30-minutes long, and are followed by a dedicated Q&A session. There will be a two-minute break after the talk for folks who wish to leave. There are a few reasons we run talks this way:

  • We’ve found that having questions during talks can often derail the speaker.
  • Having a break in between a talk and Q&A keeps the talk time–boxed and allows folks to leave if they wish.
  • Having a set time for questions leads to more equal audience participation and better discussions.

Unlike most RC events, Localhost talks are open to the public. We’re setting aside a fixed number of seats for folks who aren’t members of our community at every talk. It’s been great meeting so many new folks at our Localhost talks!

We know that attending a batch of RC requires a large time commitment, and hope that Localhost talks are a way for people to get a taste of what the RC community is like (and maybe even apply for a batch afterwards!). If you RSVP, please read about our social rules before the event.

Future talks

Our next two Localhost talks are scheduled for:

  • April 24th
  • May 15th

We’ll open RSVPs and post details for future talks on our Localhost page and here on our blog. Follow us here and on Twitter for updates on when RSVPs open!

All guests of Recurse Center events are required to abide by our code of conduct.

Localhost #7: Julia Evans on building a Ruby profiler

Rachel vincent circle Rachel Vincent

RSVPs for our next Localhost talk are now open! Localhost is a series of monthly, NYC-based, free, public technical talks from members of the Recurse Center community.

Our speaker is Julia Evans, an RC alum who will be giving a talk about building a Ruby profiler on February 27th from 7:00 pm–9:00 pm at eBay.

You can RSVP, read the abstract, and find more details about the venue and schedule on the talk’s RSVP page.

Format

Localhost talks are 30-minutes long, and are followed by a dedicated Q&A session. There will be a two-minute break after the talk for folks who wish to leave. There are a few reasons we run talks this way:

  • We’ve found that having questions during talks can often derail the speaker.
  • Having a break in between a talk and Q&A keeps the talk time–boxed and allows folks to leave if they wish.
  • Having a set time for questions leads to more equal audience participation and better discussions.

Unlike most RC events, Localhost talks are open to the public. We’re setting aside a fixed number of seats for folks who aren’t members of our community at every talk. It’s been great meeting so many new folks at our Localhost talks!

We know that attending a batch of RC requires a large time commitment, and hope that Localhost talks are a way for people to get a taste of what the RC community is like (and maybe even apply for a batch afterwards!). If you RSVP, please read about our social rules before the event.

Future talks

Our next two Localhost talks are scheduled for:

  • March 20th
  • April 24th

We’ll open RSVPs and post details for future talks on our Localhost page and here on our blog. Follow us here and on Twitter for updates on when RSVPs open!

All guests of Recurse Center events are required to abide by our code of conduct.

A new way to join the RC community

This winter we held two experimental one-week mini retreats, and we’re pleased to announce that they were a success. Starting April 2nd, we will be hosting a one-week mini retreat every six weeks for the rest of 2018. You can apply for the mini retreats starting in April and May on our apply page.

Our goals

Expanding the RC community

We believe that the community is the most important part of RC, because the primary educational value of RC comes from what Recursers learn from each other. Our main goal in offering mini retreats is to expand the RC community to make it larger and more diverse. Specifically, we think that there are some amazing people who can’t or won’t come to RC for six or 12 weeks, but who nevertheless would benefit from and contribute to the RC community. The January mini retreat allowed us to welcome 16 new Recursers into our community, and we look forward to expanding the community further through future mini retreats.

Helping our alums grow as programmers

Working at RC gave me a much stronger focus on becoming a better programmer. If I was at home, I wouldn’t have felt nearly the same level of inspiration and purpose in my work. - Harry Truong, Mini 1, 2018 & F2, ’15

Another goal of mini retreats is to provide a meaningful opportunity for RC alums to continue to grow as programmers long after their first RC retreat. Some Recursers are able to attend a second or even a third full retreat, but for many it is impossible to commit to another six or 12 weeks at RC. Mini retreats give more alums the opportunity to leverage two of our most important resources: space and community.

What went well

Productivity and focus

The constraint of one week gave me the focus I needed to iterate quickly and make progress quickly without getting sucked down rabbit holes… The environment and the people were wonderful catalysts that kept me going through the week. - Divya Sasidharan, Mini 1, 2018

When planning the first mini retreat, we wondered whether a week was enough time to do significant work. We were blown away by both the quality and quantity of work that mini retreat participants were able to produce. Check out two of the amazing projects that Recursers worked on and blogged about during the Mini 1, 2018 retreat:

Bonnie eisenman 150
Bonnie Eisenman, Mini 1, 2018, New York – spent the week learning Clojure to generate jigsaw puzzles, which she then laser cut
Geoffrey litt 150
Geoffrey Litt, Mini 1, 2018, Boston – wrote a Lisp interpreter in Ruby, including adding support for tail call optimization

On-boarding mini retreat participants

I could get unblocked super quickly because the barrier to asking for help was very low and there were tons of knowledgeable people around me. I ended up learning a bunch of other cool stuff I had no intention of learning at the onset of the week by having good conversations where I felt safe saying ‘I don’t know what that is.’ - Thais Laney, Mini 1, 2018

Another problem we had to solve was how to effectively on-board new Recursers into the retreat and still leave them enough time to get programming work done during the week.

Before the retreat, we gave mini retreat attendees early access to our internal communication tools, including Zulip. We also hosted online Q&A sessions with RC faculty and alums, and had an optional welcome dinner the Sunday before the batch started. This allowed participants to meet each other and socialize before the week began, so they could focus on the retreat during the week.

In our exit survey and interviews, mini retreat participants expressed that they were able to hit the ground running, and found the RC community to be as welcoming and supportive as the participants of longer retreats.

Diversity of experience

The people and community are incredible. Everyone is extremely friendly and excited about knowledge in general. I felt like I could push myself and chat about it and if things failed no one cared and if things went well people were excited. I also got to see what problems others are working on and have a ton of new ideas to try when I get home :) - Nicolas Bertagnolli, Mini 1, 2018

The RC community gets better as it gets bigger and more diverse. Though it was a small sample size, mini retreat attendees on the whole were more likely to have significant work experience, be older, and be parents than attendees of our full and half retreats. This makes sense — it’s more difficult to take months off if you have major life commitments!

What we’ll improve

Many mini retreat participants shared that they would have benefitted from more familiarity with RC’s internal tools, more information on how to pair program, and more time after being admitted to RC to settle travel and other logistics before the retreat started. For future mini retreats we plan to open applications earlier, and we’re looking into creating resources that will help new Recursers prepare for their time here before they arrive. We’ll be evaluating how the next few mini retreats go, and will continue to make improvements to them.

Open questions

One unknown that remains is whether the mini retreat participants will stay engaged in the RC community, and become active alums in the long term. Adding new people to RC only has a sustained positive effect on our community if they continue to collaborate with other RCers, attend events, participate in technical conversations on Zulip, etc. We aren’t ready to commit to hosting mini retreats indefinitely, because we don’t yet know whether mini retreat alums will embrace RC as a lifelong learning community in the same way alums of our regular retreats have. In the fall of 2018, we’ll decide whether to continue hosting mini retreats in 2019.

We still believe that you will get more out of your RC experience if you can spend six or 12 weeks immersing yourself in code at one of our longer retreats. RC is designed to be a place where people can become dramatically better programmers, but that kind of growth can’t happen in just one week. When asked what they would change about the mini retreat experience, many participants said that they wished they could have stayed longer, and are hoping to some day come back to RC to attend a longer retreat.

If you’re interested in RC but can’t make six or 12 weeks in NYC fit into your schedule, attending a one-week mini retreat is a great opportunity to join our vibrant and diverse programming community. Apply today!

A new resource for Recursers: The Heap Community Cluster

James j porter circle James J. Porter

We’re happy to share that RC now has a cluster of four powerful servers. These machines are freely available to anyone in the RC community to use for their projects, exploration, and research, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Heap.

Our goal is for RC to be the best place to become a better programmer, and having this cluster helps us achieve this by enabling Recursers to do things that would be challenging or impossible with just a laptop.

Our initial cluster has publicly routable IP addresses, 48 cores, 64GB of RAM, 2 GPUs, and 2TB of solid state disk space.

Heap Community Cluster

Building this cluster makes RC better by giving Recursers free access to powerful computers, something we haven’t been able to do before. The resources RC has always provided — things like supportive peers and space for focused work — make it a great place to become a better programmer, but there are some kinds of projects that become much easier with access to more powerful computers than just your laptop. This cluster will make it easier for Recursers to learn and work with distributed systems, benchmarking, fuzzing, machine learning, deployment and operations, and lots more.

And like most of RC, this system will be driven by our community. Already, half a dozen Recursers have helped determine how the system should be set up, configured, and implemented. Thanks to their work, it already has automatic cross-cluster network file access and the drivers and software needed for GPU programming.

If you’re already part of the RC community, you can choose a username, add your SSH key, and start using the cluster now.

And if you’re not yet a Recurser, we encourage you to learn more about RC, and consider applying if we sound like a good fit.

We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Heap since they became an RC recruiting partner in 2015, and dozens of Recursers have praised their thoughtfully designed interview process. We’d like to thank them for sponsoring the cluster, and we’re looking forward to seeing what Recursers build and explore with this new resource.

Message of the day

Localhost #6: Raph Levien on Xi

Rachel vincent circle Rachel Vincent

RSVPs for our sixth Localhost talk are now open! Localhost is a series of monthly, NYC-based, free public technical talks from members of the Recurse Center community.

Our speaker is Raph Levien, an RC alum who will be giving a talk about the Xi text editor on January 23rd from 7:00 pm–9:00 pm. Location TBA.

You can RSVP, read the abstract, and find more details about the venue and schedule on the talk’s RSVP page.

Format

Localhost talks are 30-minutes long, and are followed by a dedicated Q&A session. There will be a two-minute break after the talk for folks who wish to leave. There are a few reasons we run talks this way:

  • We’ve found that having questions during talks can often derail the speaker.
  • Having a break in between a talk and Q&A keeps the talk time–boxed and allows folks to leave if they wish.
  • Having a set time for questions leads to more equal audience participation and better discussions.

Unlike most RC events, Localhost talks are open to the public. We’re setting aside a fixed number of seats for folks who aren’t members of our community at every talk. It’s been great meeting so many new folks at our Localhost talks!

We know that attending a batch of RC requires a large time commitment, and hope that Localhost talks are a way for people to get a taste of what the RC community is like (and maybe even apply for a batch afterwards!). If you RSVP, please read about our social rules before the event.

Future talks

Our next few 2018 Localhost talks are scheduled for:

  • February 27th
  • March 20th
  • April 24th

We’ll open RSVPs and post details for future talks on our Localhost page and here on our blog. Follow us here and on Twitter for updates on when RSVPs open!

All guests of Recurse Center events are required to abide by our code of conduct.

A few great things Recursers did in 2017

Rachel vincent circle Rachel Vincent

In 2017 the RC community grew to include more than 1,100 programmers from all over the world.

We asked our community to share things they were proud of having done last year, and received an impressive range of responses. Recursers launched companies, wrote books, gave talks, organized communities and conferences, published research papers, created tools that bettered people’s lives, wrote build tools and microkernels, made games, did some top-notch trolling, and were on the cover of The New York Times.

There were too many accomplishments for us to list in a reasonably-sized blog post, so here’s a selection:

Research

Timnit gebru 150
Timnit Gebru, Summer ‘12 — published a research paper about using machine learning to estimate demographic makeup and shifts in the United States. Her work was covered in The Economist and the New York Times.

More research by Recursers:

Art & hardware

Katherine ye 150
Katherine Ye, Summer ‘13 — released Hyperbible, a project for National Novel Generation Month that randomly generates new translations of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

More art and hardware by Recursers:

Tools

Saul pwanson 150
Saul Pwanson, Spring 2, ‘17 — released Visidata, an open source multitool for data exploration and manipulation.

More tools by Recursers:

  • JB Rubinovitz, Fall 2, ‘17 — worked on Bail Bloc, a program that redirects users’ spare processing power towards mining Monero, which is then donated to the Bronx Freedom Fund.
  • Keiran King, Fall 1, ‘17 — released Phil, a crossword puzzle generator.
  • Nick Sweeting, Summer 1, ‘14 — released Bookmark Archiver, a self-hosted way-back machine similar to the Internet Archive that turns bookmarks or browsing history into an offline, browsable HTML archive.
  • Nicole Orchard, Spring 2, ‘17 — created a site listing all the public works of art in New York City.
  • Parker Higgins, Summer 2, ‘17 — released gotham-grabber, a set of scripts that allows journalists to create PDF backups of their articles.
  • Stuart Sandine, Winter 1, ‘14 — shipped Pointed, a client-side developer tool for spinning up mock servers to build, test, and debug against.

Product

Omar rizwan 150
Omar Rizwan, Winter ‘13 — released Screenotate, a screenshot-taking tool for macOS and Windows that does automatic OCR to make screenshots searchable.

More product and project releases from Recursers:

  • Diego Berrocal, Fall 2, ‘15 — released the Marko Language Server, a Language Server Protocol (LSP) implementation for the Marko UI templating language.
  • Dustin Getz, Summer ‘12 — released Hyperfiddle, a visual programming tool.
  • Marijn Haverbeke, 2015 resident — released ProseMirror 1.0, a document schema agnostic WYSIWYG-editor library.
  • Mindy Preston, Winter ‘14 — was the release manager for MirageOS 3.0, which incorporated a new hypervisor backend and was a net loss in lines of source code.
  • Peter Lyons, Winter 1, ‘17 — released Hexagonal Lambda, an example serverless application for AWS Lambda and API Gateway including 100% code coverage unit tests, system tests, automated build tooling, deployment tooling and documentation.
  • Tara Vancil, Fall 2, ‘16 — built Beaker Browser, an experimental peer-to-peer web browser.

Talks

Aditya mukerjee 150
Aditya Mukerjee, Spring 1, ‘15 — spoke at conferences in four different cities about making programming more accessible to people who don’t speak English by translating programming languages themselves to other (human) languages.

More talks from Recursers:

Writing

Dan luu 150
Dan Luu, Winter ‘13measured latency across 40 years of computers.

More writing from Recursers:

We can’t wait to see what Recursers do in 2018!

Becoming a Recurser means joining a community of people dedicated to learning and becoming better programmers, which can be a major accelerator of growth and productivity during a retreat and beyond. If you’d like to attend a retreat and join the RC community, you should apply to an upcoming batch!

RC Pop-up: Two weeks of collaboration and focused work on generative art

Sonali sridhar circle Sonali Sridhar

Earlier this month, 12 Recurse Center alums met in Berlin to work on generative art in a two-week sprint, which we called an “RC Pop-up.”

What’s a Pop-up?

One of our goals is to support our alums in becoming better programmers wherever in the world they are. At its core, RC brings together people for intensive periods of personal and professional growth. During a batch, we provide a supportive and collaborative environment, space and time to focus, access to wonderful peers, and the freedom to explore what you’re interested in. While we host lots of social and technical events for alums in New York City, most of the 1,100 members of the RC community live elsewhere.

Many Recursers unsurprisingly report that their learning slows after their batches. Though alums are always welcome to re-apply to do another batch of RC, most don’t have the time or resources to do so. Our goal is to provide more opportunities for continued growth and support for our alums all over the world.

With that in mind, we came up with an experiment we thought would help us do that: a two-week RC Pop-up in a place other than New York City, where alums could recreate the intensity of a full RC retreat. We wanted the Pop-up to give folks a chance to get feedback and push each other to accomplish more than they would have alone.

We were inspired by Depth Jams, events in which people doing similar creative work commit to brief, intense, periods of working together and giving each other advice and critical feedback away from everyday distractions. We have lots of alums interested in graphics and computer art who live in and around Berlin, and given the vibrant community of artists and programmers who live there, we decided it was a good place to start. The School of Machines, Making, and Make Believe hosted us for the two weeks.

Vanessa Pyne, Moshpyt, FFmpeg

Pop-ups vs. retreats

The Pop-up was different than the retreats we run in several ways:

  • The Pop-up was two weeks long. We figured that this was a good amount of time for participants to get settled, collaborate, and do deep work on a project while not being prohibitive for people with jobs, families, or other life commitments.
  • It was themed. At a retreat, Recursers choose to work on or learn whatever they wish. Having a theme for the Pop-up gave alums with similar interests a chance to meet and work with each other.
  • We asked people to come with project ideas in mind. A project isn’t required to apply to RC, but given the time and theme constraint for the Pop-up, we thought it was important that people knew ahead of time what they would specifically work on.
  • It was only open to alums. This made it significantly easier and faster for us to organize, and ensured that all the participants already had a shared sense of community, trust, and values.
  • No RC faculty members were present in Berlin. We arranged the space, attendees, and framing of the Pop-up, but otherwise let the participants run it as they wished. Many of the alums who attended had never met each other in person, but successfully generated project ideas, set their own schedules, collaborated, did deep work to further their learning, and ran a show that was open to the public to share their work. We’re thankful to have such a rigorous, thoughtful, and self-directed group of people in our community.

We’re currently evaluating whether or not we’ll organize more Pop-ups in the future, and we are always looking for more ways to support our community’s continued growth.

In the interim, check out the list of participants and some of the work they produced below!

Jonathan Dahan, Glitch, Quil (Clojure)

Sher Minn Chong, Glyph poster series, p5.js

Participants and their work

Max bittker 150
Max Bittker, Summer 1 ’16, San Francisco — built a series of webcam sketches using WebGL, Clojure, SVG, and fragment shaders.
Sher minn chong 150
Sher Minn Chong, Winter 1 ’15, Singapore – worked on a series of web art sketches, primarily using p5.js (documented on her blog). She also sketched the Berlin Daily Comics.
Jonathan dahan 150
Jonathan Dahan, Summer 2 ’14, New York – focused on recreating a postage stamp using Quil in Clojure. He also set up a live feed of the pop-up and helped design the closing show.
Cory dominguez 150
Cory Dominguez, Spring 1 ’15, San Francisco – worked on animations of the U-Bahn Berlin metro tiles using p5.js.
Veit heller 150
Veit Heller, Summer 1 ’17, Berlin — prototyped a ring, wrote a number of blog posts and designed a triptych called Reprise part of a series in generative art explorations in p5.js.
Juan hernandez 150
Juan Hernandez, Fall 1 ’16, Barcelona – wrote a program in Rust that randomly adds glitches to make unique images reminiscent of NES (Nintendo Entertainment Systems) games.
Adrien lamarque 150
Adrien Lamarque, Summer 1 ’16, Toulouse – built a ray tracer and small fragment shader using Metal with Cocoa and macOS.
Mehul mandania 150
Mehul (Manny) Mandania, Fall 1 ’13, Berlin – worked on a generative art series using the Clojure/ClojureScript library, Quil.
Moritz neeb 150
Moritz Neeb, Spring 1 ’17, Berlin – attempted style transfer with neural networks.
Aline normoyle 150
Aline Lyn Normoyle, Fall 1 ’16, Philadelphia – built an interactive demo in Leap motion. Participants could use their hands to control an abstract piece of molten metal or see their hands visualized with pieces of candy.
Vanessa pyne 150
Vanessa Pyne, Fall 2 ’16, New York – collaborated with both Juan and Lyn on writing shaders. She also got a long time personal project called Moshpyt, a CLI to Datamosh, off the ground.
Alicja raszkowska 150
Alicja Raszkowska, Fall 1 ’16, Warsaw – worked on building animations using CSS.

Veit Heller, Reprise, p5.js

A special thank you to The School of MA and our alums for making our first Pop-up a success!

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