For my capstone I took a look at the experience of programming and found a few areas that could be improved. I started with a close reading of programming blogs and forums to get a feel for how programmers talk about programming, conducted a series of interviews to refine a few of the themes I noticed in the blogs, and curated four collections of programming-related artifacts to help me further explore the space. What I found is that many programmers think about programming as a creative, enjoyable activity, but the majority of online programming communities represent it as primarily a professional, objective activity.

There is an unsatisfied need for programmers to be able to share their enjoyable programming experiences. Communities supporting this kind of sharing already exist for other creative disciplines, such as photography, writing, and crafting. Online communities for programmers, however, often strictly limit the discourse to a professional and objective focus, preventing community members from expressing their pride in a subjective, emotive way.

Hackistry helps programmers share their projects in a way that more closely aligns with what they are most proud of: the code that makes up those projects. Rather than simply allowing them to share the final product, Hackistry enables them to share their clever scripts, elegant refactorings, and clean algorithms. A design like Hackistry would have a significant impact on the way programming is perceived, both by practitioners and by outsiders. If such a site could shift the predispositions many people have about programming—categorizing it as mainly a productive, objective, or boring acitivty—to that of a more enjoyable, hobby-like activity, then it could encourage people to become programmers who otherwise would have never even tried it. It could also recast the act of programming in the minds of those who do it as a living, positively affecting their perceptions of the activity to a point where it becomes more naturally thought of as an intrinsically motivating activity.

I will work on this more later, but for now, here are my final documents for my final capstone of my Masters program in HCI/d. For higher quality versions of these documents, please contact me.

hackistry: sharing the hacker experience