Section 4 Help Sessions

Help sessions of many kinds have been created within Carpentries member institutions. What is common is that such sessions be regularly scheduled and frequent, and provide a neutral space where people can come together to support each other with technical challenges.

Events of this type include Hacky Hour, PhTea, Code and Pizza, SkillShares, or Office Hours. These kinds of events can be slow to get started, with it sometimes taking weeks or months to develop a steady cohort of regulars. To get started, think about assembling an ‘anchoring’ group that can offer a range of useful skills. These might be sysadmins, bioinformaticians, a GIS librarian, a person with data management knowledge, HPC or other technical support staff, and graduate students from a range of disciplines. If this seems completely unattainable, start out with small. Hacky Hours have been started by two people and have then seen them grow. The key is to start, and not to get discouraged if people don’t flock in for advice at first. Word of mouth will help populate it as time goes by.

Mature community help sessions become as useful to the so-called experts as they are for the novice and intermediate researchers. Having them in an informal setting with the ability to order food/coffee/beer at your own expense is also popular. In other cases, a budget for pizza and/or snacks is requested to provide extra enticement.

4.1 Hacky Hour

Hacky Hours are informal, regularly scheduled meetups where researchers can bring research IT-related issues for discussion or help.

These might include issues with Python, R, HPC, statistics, MatLab or other software.

They are generally volunteer-run, and aim to build referral networks and communities of practice around research software and skills.