Forum OpenACS Development: Entry questions for bootcamp

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
If you were to run a bootcamp, what kind of entry questions would you ask?

I thought about general questions like "How do I copy a file in Unix" or "How can I search and replace a string with Emacs" up to "How do I checkout the sourcecode of OpenACS Head".

As Azri is about to run a bootcamp with our help in India, I am keen on filtering the applicants a little bit beforehand by requiring them to fill out a survey with questions, which should allow us to get a grip on their basic abilities to follow a two week bootcamp, covering the basics of OpenACS development.

Posted by Roberto Mello on

I would make my life easier and borrow some questions some LPI's prep 101 exams (assuming copyright allows).

I would leave all editor-specific questions out, as they are irrelevant. I would just ask if the candidate knows how to use a good unix text editor. I do all my OpenACS development in vim.


Posted by Rocael Hernández Rizzardini on
I agree with Roberto, the editor is irrelevant for bootcamp purpouses, unless you want to teach them how to use it.
Anyway, encourage them to use emacs afterwards is worth to do.
Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Although Emacs knowledge is not relevent to OpenACS development per-se, it can be relevent for the sort of questions Malte is asking. There are two possible uses for such a survey:
  1. Finding out what specific relevent skills candidates know and don't know, so as to tailor the curriculum to the students.

  2. Screen the candidates to get an idea of who's smart enough (or whatever other requirements you have) to accept into your program.
Those are two very different uses, but note that Emacs and/or general text editor questions could still be useful for both, though for different reasons.

In the second case above, asking, "Do you use Emacs? How do you do XYZ in Emacs?" is potentially very useful, as there is probably a quite high correlation between people who use Emacs, and especially people who use it productively (know how to do search and replace, regexp, use the kill ring not the mouse, etc.), and the type of students you want to have.

For people like Roberto, you can make your "is he smart?" survey more powerful by adding a second question, "If you don't use Emacs, what text editor(s) do you typically use? How do you accomplish XYZ in your editor of choice?", which should also tell you something useful.

Note that none of these are yes/no answers, and they aren't going to be entirely reliable, they could just help you get a feel for who you want to invest training time in.

Look at it this way: Some people will click 10 different widgets in Word, over and over again, dozens of times every day, and never ask themselves, "Is there a better way to do this?" They know what they know and they're happy with it, don't confuse them with improvements. This person is unlikely to be a good candidate - where by candidate, I presume to mean someone who is able to become a good OpenACS programmer. Not that it's impossible - there probably are good programmers like that, somewhere, but IMNSHO it's unlikely to see those two traits come together in one person.

For the first part of the survey, well, it could still be very nice to have a "tips and tricks for programmers" sidebar to your class, where the learned wizened instructors share some favorite tips timesavers with the newbies. :) Sometimes little things can make a big difference. E.g., when I first started using Emacs, I did a whole three week aD bootcamp without realizing that the Emacs kill ring (copy/paste buffer) could hold more than one string at a time! Five seconds to learn how to use it, weeks before I realized (by looking in a manual) that it was there to use.

Posted by Peter Marklund on
I would probably do the pre-bootcamp filtering mainly by education and programming experience.

I think there are numerous examples of people at aD who started out with hardly any knowledge of specifics such as Emacs or CVS or even web development in general and still went on to become productive OpenACS developers.

Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Peter, yes of course. I just happen to have an affinity for good litmus test questions. The ones I gave above probalby aren't all that good, but if Avri's Indian bootcamps become very succesfull you'll probably come up with better ones. :)

Whatever bootcamp screening process went on behind the scenes at aD, as far as I ever knew it was all informal, and never written down or discussed anywhere in public.

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Hello guys, thanks a lot for your help. The survey with the questions has been online now for some time and the interested people are really good. If anyone is interested, you can find the survey at Bear in mind that this survey is not only used for entry questions to the bootcamp, but also for hiring new people.