Interview with Linda Peng (Founder of Open Source Coding Community Codebuddies)

This weekend I had the opportunity to interview Linda Peng. Linda Peng is founder of an amazing open source community called CodeBuddies. She founded CodeBuddies while she was learning to code herself, and is part of the community that helps with the journey of anyone learning to code, experts and beginners alike. I contacted her on the Codebuddies Slack group and she was kind enough to answer my questions regarding the Codebuddies, open source and herself too. Thank you Linda! 😄. You can say hello to Linda on her twitter account @lpnotes. Linda is a multi talented girl who codes, she is a great violinist too and you can check her videos playing violin on her YouTube channel. They are awesome.

You can visit the CodeBuddies Github Repository here

Below are the interview questions I asked her and the answers she replied back with

Tell us about yourself, Codebuddies, the purpose behind it, and it’s beginnings

Hello, I’m Linda! I work as a front-end developer at I’d never taken a computer science class, and I started CodeBuddies because I was frustrated by how hard it was to improve at coding by yourself – even with all the MOOCs and free resources out there – if you did not have access to tech meetups or mentors close to where you lived. When I was first starting out, I personally benefited a lot from going to meetups and hackathons in NYC and learning from watching other people work. But then I discovered that scheduling a time with a study partner to walk through a coding tutorial together by screensharing via Google Hangouts was highly efficient, didn’t require a commute, and also helped me stay focused a lot better than if I was at a loud, social meetup. And thus the idea of peer-to-peer study motivation via virtual Google Hangouts was born.

CodeBuddies started out in the summer of 2014 as a bunch of Google group mailing lists, but has since expanded to include a Hangouts platform, a growing Slack community where an amazing group of volunteers consistently help each other out with code and advice and links to helpful resources, a Facebook group cross-run by The Odin Project volunteers, and a crowdsourced newsletter.

When you started the project, was it just between you and your peers? Did you intend to grow it to a big level? How were you able to launch it?

When I started the project in summer 2014, my goal was just to test out whether the idea of virtual hangouts could work as a learning enhancement. So I asked friends to study with me, or met strangers and pitched them the idea by linking them to a landing page about the idea and gave them access to a google group mailing list where they could propose their own study sessions/groups.

That summer, I had a lot of support from a creative community in NYC called Orbital, founded by the awesome Gary Chou, who had launched an experimental bootcamp to help people launch their side projects. We met once a week for 12 weeks, and the experience forced me to launch things before I thought they were ready, and to continue iterating. If I hadn’t participated in the class and hadn’t had the support network of launching an idea with a group of peers, CodeBuddies would probably still be an idea stuck in my head. But because I was encouraged to test ideas early, I created the Google groups community – which led to the creation of the hangouts platform, and then to the creation of the Slack community.

In a few ways, the side project bootcamp experience is what I want CodeBuddies to be: a community of people with their own goals, who motivate each other via consistent check-ins. That’s a major reason I started the CodeBuddies anonymous crowdsourced newsletter – it was a channel for people to share links to what they were working on, and hopefully be motivated to continue to work on it with the helpful presence of an audience.

My overall goal for the project, still, is to create spaces that help people connect and help each other be more productive / learn faster.

Since it’s a big open source project now. How do you solve the bugs and overall manage and maintain the project’s repo?

I track all the open features and bugs using Github issues, and label the specific issues that people could work on with the help wanted label.

Code is just one of the part, how do you maintain a positive community of people around this open source project who are willing to contribute and help with Codebuddies?

The code learning community is incredible: people are incredibly kind to one another, generally, and are willing to pay it forward – because at one point, they were stuck too, and it was a lot easier to get un-stuck with the help of a mentor. There’s also too much to learn, so not everyone has expertise on every single technical topic out there. I’ve seen mentees become mentors very quickly, and vice versa.

My philosophy is just try to help as much as I can, in the name of paying it forward (because people definitely helped me when I was more clueless than I was now – not that I’m not still clueless about a lot of things). And I think that positivity carries forward.

CodeBuddies also isn’t an organization in the traditional sense – it doesn’t make any money, it’s not a non-profit or for-profit, it’s more or less all open-sourced and community-built, and I respect the time of the people who are willing to contribute.

What do you find interesting about Open Source and what does it mean to you? How has open source changed the way you see the world?

The Internet would be a lot different without open source. No open sourced libraries, no Python or django or Ruby on Rails or Meteor. The tech industry is not boring because of open source.

Making CodeBuddies open-sourced is probably the best thing I could have done for it. The project is better and more exciting because of the collective wisdom of all of its contributors.

How can people participate in contributing to the codebuddies?

Contribute by asking questions or helping out on the CodeBuddies Slack channel, submitting a shout-out or link to a project to the newsletter, testing out, saying hello in the #codebuddies-meta channel on the Slack, or adding your name to indicate your interest in collaborating on Hangouts 2.0

Hangouts 2.0 is under development. What do you want it to accomplish? Since it’s a very nice example of the evolution of a community oriented open source project. Can you tell us something about it?

The mission of Hangouts 2.0 is to make it easier (than it currently is) for people to find silent study partners, pair programming partners, or project collaborators at any moment of the day. Right now Slack has been useful for chatting, but it’s still hard to tell who is working on what at any given moment, or might be working on the same thing.

What message and advice do you want to give to Pakistani women and also women in general worldwide who want to come in the STEM field and also contribute in the open source world (since women have less than 2.0% of Open Source contributions)?

I don’t understand all the reasons more Pakistani women aren’t in the STEM field, but I would encourage them to not be intimidated by STEM and to try it if they have the opportunity!

In my opinion, knowing how to make code to improve the processes in your life – or knowing how to make websites that has the potential to engage people around the world on the Internet – is like a superpower.

The key is to persevere!

Will you join FOSSASIA summit 2016 from March 18th to 20th in Singapore? It’s the largest open source summit of Asia. You can learn more here.

Very cool! Not sure I can make it since I’m pretty far away, but sounds like a fun summit.

Thank you Linda! For such an awesome interview. Interview with Linda has been a really eye opening experience since Codebuddies is a fine example of how we can create a change and facilitate others in solving problems using the power of open source. I have taken the help of code buddies in the past and will continue to do so and also contribute to this amazing platform of ours. Please visit Codebuddies by clicking here. Here’s a picture of Linda with her violin! Linda Peng with her violin: Picture courtesy of Linda Peng

This interview was done as part of a Task in Google CodeIn with FOSSASIA organization. FOSSASIA is playing a major role in supporting and promoting open source in Asian region. You can check out the FOSSASIA github organization here