Blog: Codidact

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

How sad -- the 800-pound gorilla is afraid of the little guy

Gosh, Stack Overflow thinks our little open-source project is a threat to them. I'm flattered! Also saddened.

For several years, Stack Exchange has allowed some of its sites to control some (local) ads. Communities can nominate ads that they think will be of interest to their own members, and if enough community members agree, those ads run. Mi Yodeya has ads to promote Sefaria, its own publications, and some other resources. Science sites have ads for professional and research organizations and publications. Several sites have ads that promote other related SE sites. Stack Overflow has ads for open-source projects looking for contributors.

The general philosophy is (or was) that the people building a site are the right ones to decide what to promote on that site -- they know their audience better than the company does. (Which, if you've seen some of the other ads the company runs across the network, is self-evident.1)

This week the company announced a change in qualifications for these community ads: Read more…

Building Codidact Communities

ArtOfCode, the team lead for Codidact, recently wrote Building Codidact: Not Just Tech. It begins:

I’ve been working on Codidact for the last 18 months or so. We’ve built up from nothing, planned what we wanted to do, put systems up, started work, changed course, re-started work, switched systems, and welcomed and lost a whole load of team members along the way. We’ve served just under 5 million requests and 50GB of data in the last month — which is not vast scale, but it’s certainly much bigger scale than anything else anyone on our team has worked with. We’ve all learned a lot along the way: our team is still small, and we’ve all got other commitments; while everyone has things they’re good at, we’ve all had to learn bits of other areas to be able to support each other as well.

Art wrote about evolution of the platform and team, and of the things that happen to grand plans when they make contact with reality. In this post I’m going to focus on the community side — people and sites and features and evolving needs and what I’ve learned along the way.

I’m Monica Cellio, Community Lead at Codidact. Read more…

On the ritual foods of the Purim seder

Shameless self-promotion:

As we know,[1] the evening meal for Purim starts with Wacky Mac, a dish that features four pasta shapes: wheels, shells, spirals, and tubes. What is less widely known is how we are to eat this ritual item. Like the Pesach seder a month later, the meal has specific requirements and specific meanings! And like at the Pesach seder, your child should ask you to explain why this night is different from all other nights and what the laws and customs are and what they mean. It is only because of the other celebratory aspects of this holiday that in most families the child is too inebriated to ask (and the parents too inebriated to answer). So prepare yourself now, so you can both fulfill the commandment and explain it to your child.

First, we must examine the symbolism. [...]

See the full article at Judaism Codidact.

Pass the wine! :-)

P.S. For the programmers, we have this question on type systems and the use of void -- more answers welcome!

The season of Purim Torah

Purim Torah uses the style of traditional torah but is, err, different. Some years ago Mi Yodeya began a tradition of accepting Purim Torah questions, which of course have to be answered in the same style, for a couple weeks a year. Last summer, active (or formerly-active) community members from there founded Judaism Codidact, which we hope will keep growing. It's off to a good start.

We've just opened a place for Purim Torah on the Codidact community. Because Codidact has the concept of categories, we can segregate it so it's hard to confuse with the serious Q&A. And because Codidact supports other types of posts besides questions and answers, we've set it up to support articles too, so that Purim-flavored d'var torah or talmudic analysis has a place.

The category is new so there are only a couple posts so far. I asked a question that arose out of yesterday's torah portion, which has gotten a good answer (that prompts more questions), and I just adapted my best-received past Purim Torah answer into an article on the ritual Purim meal and its symbolism. I'm looking forward to seeing what else shows up.

Perhaps some of you have questions or essays in this spirit to share?

These links will only work during the few weeks surrounding Purim each year, but I included the post in this blog for the explanation.

GitHub graph

My GitHub history got a lot less sparse in 2020, and especially in the last few months of the year. It's great to be a productive member of my first open-source team!

activity graph


Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here. Read more…

Odds and ends

I haven't been posting regularly. Oops.

I've been baking bread about once a week. This past week I finally scored some rye flour (that was not exorbitantly priced), so I made a rye sourdough for the first time. I think I prefer less molasses than this recipe called for, so I'll adjust that next time or try a different recipe. The bread is tasty, aside from the molasses overwhelming the caraway. Most "rye bread" recipes I've seen use rye for only one third of the flour, which sent me searching for "all rye" rye bread, which apparently works and tastes good but might not rise as much? I'll probably try it at some point, especially since I had to buy four (small) bags of rye flour to get it.

Dani and I play board games every Shabbat now, and occasionally we have two other friends (who are also careful, and I guess this is a "pod"?) over to play. We play Pandemic in every session because, well, pandemic. Yesterday we pulled out Kings and Things, a game we all had vague memories of, and by the end had concluded that while it's appealing it's also kind of tedious and maybe sort of a shorter Titan, a game I like in principle but dislike actually playing. Ok, now we've refreshed our memories...

A friend has a game called McMulti, which is an economic game (oil/gas theme)... in German. There are lots of places where text matters, so when we've played we've used cheat sheets since none of us read German. We recently became aware of an English-language derivative, called Crude, and got it recently. They've changed some of the mechanics and made one really annoying change to how the board is laid out, but other changes are positive and the game's a little faster. I like it, but am tempted to figure out how to print my own board. The game is really strongly designed for four players, but there are rules for a two-player version, which Dani and I have played once, which seen to work ok.

Codidact, the project that consumes most of my spare time, is in the process of incorporating as a non-profit. We've got our lawyer on our Discord server and having conversations about incorporation documents via Google Docs comments. It looks like we will be able to clear an important hurdle soon. Neat!

On the project front, I'm not writing code -- I keep feeling like I should learn Ruby and the dev environment so I can help, then concluding that I probably won't be helping because I'd be taking time and attention from the developers who are actually being productive. But I've taken over bug-wrangling -- some analysis and testing, clarifying vague reports, and, especially, triaging. I was surprised to find that GitHub counts filing issues as contributions. I think that's new?

We just had our first birthday, counting from when the project founder set up a Discord server to talk about maybe building an alternative to Somewhere Else. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us, both technical and community development, but I'm pleased with where we are.

I've been reading a lot of fiction, a mix of short stories, novellas, and novels, many through the BookFunnel network (and also StoryBundle). I'm "meeting" a lot of authors I didn't previously know. I should really write a separate post about that.

Community philosophy: centralized structure or self-determination?

A few days ago I wrote about moderator selection in online communities, and somebody asked in a comment which is a better approach, Stack Exchange's centralized control or Reddit's anarchy, where the founder of a subreddit is in charge and communities can have whatever rules they want about content and moderator selection. I responded:

I hope we're drawing on the best of both and avoiding the worst of both. On our network we have a community-proposal mechanism, which is much lighter-weight than Stack Exchange's. (Stack Exchange now makes it very difficult to create a community, which fits with both their business model and the fact that they've got 170 of them already.) On Codidact, we'll create a community if -- hand-waving ahead -- there's "enough" interest. "Enough" is a fuzzy mix of number of people, people's specific interests (e.g. if nobody's prepared to answer questions that'd be a problem), and level of enthusiasm. The Judaism community had several enthusiastic people within hours of being proposed; we launched that in a few days. A proposal for role-playing games feels like it ought to have support but people aren't participating much in the discussion so we don't know if we should create it or wait. And, of course, we're new to this and learning as we go. Read more…

Goodbye 5780

The year 5780 began for me, personally, on a terrible note caused by evildoers at Stack Exchange Inc. I won't say more about that here (I wrote plenty at the time). As above so below -- the door to their teshuvah remains open should they choose to correct their transgressions, but I, unlike the Holy One, do not hold out infinite hope for sinners to mend their ways. There are more important things in life to focus on.

5780 was the (sob) first year of the global pandemic crisis. On top of the sickness, the deaths, the changes in daily life that come with any pandemic, we in the US saw reckless endangerment, needless deaths, and political profiteering to levels even those of us already worried about the authoritarian trends of the toddler-in-chief did not imagine. He knew. And he let it run rampant anyway. Because he thought, somehow, that it would hurt his political opponents and not his own supporters. Because that oath he swore on taking the office, those words about serving the people (all of them, not just red states) and upholding the constitution and suchlike, was just fluff to him, not a commitment. Having thrown the people under the bus, he's now in full sabotage-the-election mode, betting that he can get away with it as he's gotten away with so much more. At worst, he figures, someone will manage to sue him years from now and he'll pay someone off. I fear for our country.

I fear for our country in other ways too. The white-supremacist-in-chief emboldened bigots ranging from crowds chanting against Jews to attacks on houses of worship to vigilantes fatally "protecting" the public from unarmed demonstrators to police who kill and recklessly endanger black and brown people who are already restrained and thus not threats. (Whites, on the other hand, generally get the benefit of the doubt.) And it would be easy to say that the bigot-in-chief is responsible for all this and we have only to remove him from office, but that's obviously not true -- the roots run much deeper. Our society has work to do.

And that work involves nuance, discussion, hearing and trying to understand others' perspectives, working together with people who are different, acknowledging the humanity of every person. Too many on the far right and the far left believe that they are keepers of the One Truth and that anybody who doesn't commit 100% to their view of truth is an enemy to be disparaged, cancelled, or killed. People are complicated, and attempts to paint monochrome pictures, while enticing to crusaders seeking us-vs-them litmus tests, are failures if the goal is to solve problems rather than to triumph. Too few people are willing to consider positions that exceed the length of a catchy slogan, but that's where the work has to get done.

But for all the trouble that 5780 brought, both personally and on a larger scale, it also brought some moments of personal light. Read more…

New Codidact communities

I am delighted by how well things are going on the Judaism community on Codidact. We have a lot of active people and interesting questions. I have my people back. And in time we'll broaden our activities; there are discussions of an on-site blog (for torah commentary) and a dictionary or wiki of Jewish and halachic terms and concepts. We've also integrated with Sefaria, the big online collection of sources, which is cool and produces bidirectional links.

Paging Dr. Whom and other linguists: Languages & Linguistics is a new site and currently has questions about Hebrew, Arabic, a comparison between Arabic and Chinese, English, and (language-agnostic) linguistic concepts.

People have been asking us for a programming site for a while. Friday we launched Software Development, which has a slow start so far presumably because of the weekend. We wouldn't normally launch on a Friday, but this was the best timing for the SRE-type who would be keeping an eye on things for the first few days. Its scope is broad; we're planning for spin-offs from the start but we're starting with one big tent rather than creating specialized communities that struggle more to achieve critical mass.

Now we have to get the word out. I have a draft of the next newsletter for our mailing list, so that should go out soon.

(Our other communities: Writing, Outdoors, Photography & Video, Scientific Speculation, Cooking, Electrical Engineering, and the "town hall", Meta.)