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Online Collaboration Cafe

In autumn 2019, The Turing Way community will host fortnightly online "Collaboration Cafes". If they're successful they will continue into 2020.

The goals of these events are to:

  1. Build personal connections between members of the community.
  2. Support contributors as they edit, review, design and write content for the book.
  3. Celebrate the progress of The Turing Way and collaboratively build consensus on next steps and future directions.

This document outlines how to participate and run a Collaboration Cafe event.

What is a "Collaboration Cafe"?


The name "Collaboration Cafe" is inspired by Kirstie's "Shut up and write" group during her thesis writing days in Berkeley, California. She also learned (her limited) web development skills and how to use git for version control at a Women Who Code meetup in Cambridge which ran in a very similar style.

Kirstie would meet with fellow procrastinators in local coffee shops and they would use the pomodoro technique to keep themselves focused on getting their tasks done. They were each other's accountabilibuddies 😸 👬 👭 🤗

The fact that the meetings were at a cafe were really important. All the members could say hello at the start, and set some personal goals. Then they would turn off social media, email, internet (whatever worked) and focus on their personal task for a set period of time (20 or 25 minutes). After that time period was up, they could have a brief chat, grab a slice of cake, another cup of coffee, or treat themselves to some social notifications. Then, after 5 minutes, they would get back to work on a second focused work session.

The tasks weren't always undertaken in total silence. Sometimes the breaks were used to ask for help (particularly in the learning to code sessions) and the next focused session could be used for some brief pair programming or detailed explanation. Other times, the room would be quiet and collaboration would happen in an online chat channel.

At the end of three sessions all the group members would have a slightly longer break, and often go back to their regular work tasks. It was amazing how much work could be done with some external motivation and the knowledge that a friendly neighbour would know if you got distracted from your personal goals.

The goal of an online Collaboration Cafe is to bring that feeling of friendship, support, and shared motivation to the distributed Turing Way community.

Background reading:

Bringing the collaboration online in real time

The Turing Way community is distributed around the world, are all from diverse backgrounds, working many different jobs, and contribute for a great variety of reasons.

They are also (for the most part) unpaid to contribute to this open source project.

Our book dash 📚💨💨 events in May 2019 were wonderfully successful. Our participants shared ideas, helped each other out, got huge amounts of writing, editing and reviewing done, and had lots of fun. But in person events are expensive to run, and they only work for people who can take a full day (and the evening before) off from their responsibilities to attend.

The online Collaboration Cafes seek to create the sense of energy and inspiration of in person interactions, without the time and travel commitments.

We'll meet every two weeks in an online Zoom room and make use of the breakout rooms feature to allow small groups to use the 2 hours as best fits them.

If you don't know what to work on, don't worry! The Turing Way development team will be able to give you lots of suggestions of places you can make a difference. We'll also always have a virtual room available to support anyone wanting to learn more about collaborating on GitHub and helping you to make your first pull request.

Background reading:

Attending an online Collaboration Cafe

You don't have to attend all of the calls! We're happy to see you whenever you have time and want to join us.

This section explains a little more about how we'll connect and collaborate in real time, timings during the Collaboration Cafe, when the events will take place, some suggested good first contributions and an explanation of the breakout rooms.

Connecting and collaborating in real time

We will use Kirstie's Zoom meeting room for the meetings:

You can let the team know that you'll join a call via the HackMD notes page:

This page will be updated after each call, so you only need to remember that one link. All the previous notes will be archived in the Turing Way GitHub repository.

We will coordinate tasks during the conversation by adding comments to the HackMD notes page, using the Zoom chat box, or in the Turing Way Gitter channel.

The welcome, introductions, breaks and the open discussion will all happen in the main room. Pomodoro sessions can happen either in the main zoom room in silence, or in breakout rooms (see below) for any groups who want to discuss their collaborations or answer questions.

We will record the welcome and introductions, and the open discussion so that others can learn from the conversations we have during the Collaboration Cafes. The videos will be uploaded to the Turing Way YouTube channel:

You do not have to speak or have your video on during the recordings. We won't record the pomodoro parts of the Collaboration Cafe, nor conversations in the breakout rooms.

Dates and start times

The Turing Way online collaboration cafes will happen on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

  • The session in the first week of the month will be held at 3pm (UK time).
  • The session in the third week of the month will be held at 7pm (UK time).

Times in a few different time zones are shown in the table below.

Date Video Local Time Brisbane Shanghai Kolkata Paris London New York Vancouver
4 September 2019 I0z7OEbBzes AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-09-04 15:00 midnight 10pm 7:30pm 4pm 3pm 10am 7am
18 September 2019 XUw5kpypeo8 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-09-18 19:00 4am 2am 11:30pm 8pm 7pm 2pm 11am
19 September 2019 04vAi8TcBiA AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-09-19 19:00 4am 2am 11:30pm 8pm 7pm 2pm 11am
2 October 2019 HIIJvDZ8pzw AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-10-02 15:00 midnight 10pm 7:30pm 4pm 3pm 10am 7am
16 October 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-10-16 19:00 4am 2am 11:30pm 8pm 7pm 2pm 11am
30 October 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-10-30 08:00 6pm 4pm 1:30pm 9am 8am 4am 1am
6 November 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-11-06 15:00 1am 11pm 8:30pm 4pm 3pm 10am 7am
20 November 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-11-20 19:00 5am 3am 00:30am 8pm 7pm 2pm 11am
4 December 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-12-04 15:00 1am 11pm 8:30pm 4pm 3pm 10am 7am
18 December 2019 AreWeMeetingYet? 2019-12-18 19:00 5am 3am 00:30am 8pm 7pm 2pm 11am

We don't currently have a regular time that is accessible for collaborators in Australia or New Zealand. Please get in touch if you'd like to join one and we're happy to add an early (UK) session! (Such as the one suggested by Paula for October 2019! )

Timings during the Collaboration Cafe

We'll run the following schedule during each Collaboration Cafe event.

You don't need to know in advance what you're going to do in those pomodoro 🍅 sessions! There will always be someone who can help you develop a goal, or allocate a task that you can do in a couple of rounds of 20 minutes.

Time Activity
Start 👋 Welcome, code of conduct review
5 mins Introductions and personal goal setting
15 mins 🍅 1st pomodoro session
35 mins ☕️ Break
40 mins 🍅 2nd pomodoro session
1hr 0 mins ☕️ Break
1hr 5 mins 🍅 3rd pomodoro session
1hr 25 mins ☕️ Break
1hr 30 mins Open discussion: celebrations, reflections and future directions
2hr 0 mins 👋 Close

Sign-up and icebreaker

If you're interested in joining the next Collaboration Cafe, please let the orgnisers know by adding your name to the Sign Up section of the HackMD notes page.

(Adding your name is really helpful for the organisers so they can prepare for the call. But don't worry if you don't sign up in advance. It's ok to join at any time for as long as you'd like.)

In addition to your names, we will encourage everyone to add a short response to an icebreaker question, that will help us all learn something personal about all the different people on the call.

Here are a few example questions (so you know what to expect):

  • what was your biggest achievement this week?
  • when was the last time you saw a rainbow?
  • what are you most excited about this year?
  • what is your favorite flavour in cake/ice-cream?

(Do you have another interesting question to ask others? Get in touch and let us know! We love creative suggestions!

Here's an example from the second Collaboration Cafe in September 2019:

Name + biggest achievement from this week + emoji that best explain your day

(Remember that this is a public document. You can use a pseudonym if you'd prefer.)

  • Kirstie Whitaker + got a structure written out for an article that had been super hard to get started on! + 🤦‍♀️ (because I got these times mixed up - whoops!)
  • Malvika Sharan + Coming back from holiday, ready for exciting work :D + 😬

As you can see, there's a reminder in the notes that they are in a public document. Its totally fine for you to add as much or as little information as you feel comfortable sharing.

Conversation starters

In the Conversation Starters section of the HackMD notes page, we encourage everyone to advertise their events or give an update from their community.

These don't have to be Turing Way "branded"! We want to know about all the cool things you're working on.

Good first contributions

We want the Collaboration Cafes to be a place that welcomes new and old members to The Turing Way community.

In brainstorming these events, we imagined that some people may want to add new material that they've created before to the book, others may want to finish a contribution that they've started, and still others might want to learn new skills including how to contribute to The Turing Way. These are all great reasons to join us!

We'll always have someone on the team available to help you brainstorm your first contribution, and answer any questions about how to incorporate your work.

Good first contributions might include:

  • Finding a typo in the book and/or repository and fixing it.
  • Looking for duplicated information in the book and opening an issue to discuss how it can be combined.
  • Finding an old issue or pull request and try to summarize the discussion so it is easy to decide on the next step.
  • Adding your personal experience of reproducible research in the always open google form:

Breakout rooms

Zoom allows groups of collaborators to chat in one "main room" all together, or to split up - within the same call - and talk with each other in smaller "breakout rooms".

During the online Collaboration Cafe sessions we'll use the breakout rooms to allow people to talk about multiple different topics in parallel during the pomodoro sessions.

You'll see in the HackMD a section that says:


If you have an idea for a topic you'd like to discuss in a breakout room, please add it below and put your name next to it. If you like one of the topics that is already suggested, please add your name next to that one. Team work makes the dream work. For more information about breakout rooms see the description on GitHub.

For each session you can propose a conversation to have in a breakout room or add your name to join a suggestion that is already on the list.

You don't have to add your name in advance (although you're welcome to) and you don't have to stay in the breakout room you've put your name next to.

Breakout room conversation topics might include:

  • GitHub new user or refresher questions (and answers)
  • Finding a good first issue
  • Reading and giving feedback on a chapter with the original author
  • Reading and giving feedback on a chapter with a new reader
  • Brainstorming where your topics could best fit into The Turing Way
  • Bug squashing - removing barriers (technical and otherwise)

The person chairing the call will put you into the specific breakout rooms for the pomodoro sessions and then bring you back into the main room for the 5 minute breaks and the broader conversation at the end of the Collaboration Cafe.

Help us make the cafes useful to you

All the ideas here are from a small group of people.

We want to make the Collaboration Cafes as useful as possible for as many people as possible.

Please let us know what you think of the idea and if there are any things we could do to make them more welcoming and helpful for you.

Thank you for being part of The Turing Way community 💖

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