The Dovetail #6: Updates from The Carpentries Workbench

Hello Again

This is the sixth post in a series that we are calling “The Dovetail”, about the transition to The Carpentries Workbench. In this series, we aim to keep members of The Carpentries community abreast of the current news about the Workbench.

If you are interested in participating in discussions around The Carpentries Workbench, head over to our GitHub Discussions forum:

A lot has happened since the last time I provided an update (2022-07-20), just not that much on The Workbench side of things. I attended and presented at the RStudio conference 2022, took a short “staycation” to decompress (with a broken aircon, no less!), attended and presented at CarpentryCon 2022, and sat on hiring committees for our new Director of Technology. During this time, I was able to tackle some superficial aspects of the Workbench itself.

In this issue of The Dovetail, I wanted to reiterate the purpose of the Beta Phase of The Workbench (which is still on hold) because it bears repeating. We are going to be transitioning all of our lessons to use The Carpentries Workbench starting in 2023, and the Beta Phase is here to prepare the community for this day by doing the following:

  1. Creating awareness about The Workbench and how Workbench lessons differ from styles lessons.
  2. Providing a risk-free sandbox for Maintainers and Instructors to work with The Workbench version of lessons before full transition.

If we have succeeded in the above two points, we know that we can proceed with the transition of our lessons in 2023. However, The Workbench Beta Phase is designed to do more than simply make the community aware of the changes; we want to make sure The Workbench is thriving in the hands of the community. That is, we want to:

  1. Ensure that the tool actually meets the needs and wants of the community.
  2. Create champions of, and inspire future contributors to The Workbench.

When I piloted the Alpha Test of The Workbench, my goal was to make sure that it could be installed and work as expected for members of our community. The move into Beta testing means that I am confident that The Workbench is indeed stable enough to host our lessons (i.e. the official documentation for The Workbench has been continuously hosted for the last year and a half, since 2021-02-09), and I am ready for early adopters to try it out and really tell me how they feel about The Workbench.

This can only be really acheived with directed and specific feedback, which is why I’ve given the Beta Phase a fairly rigid structure in three stages. During each stage, I will be asking Maintainers and Instructors to try out different, specific, tasks and give feedback in GitHub Issues on The Workbench repository. For an extra level of detail, I am hoping that I can find some Maintainers or Instructors to provide Friction Logs, which will give me a step-by-step view into a specific process so that the exact causes of friction can be identified and smoothed out.

I really want to thank all of the current Beta Phase testers because you all have been so patient with me as we plan out this next big step for The Carpentries lesson infrastructure.


Workbench Beta Phase Still On Hold

Just in case you did not see The Dovetail issue number 5, the Beta phase has been put on hold so that the team could focus on time-sensitive events such as CarpentryCon and hiring for two positions.

Upcoming Workbench Events

RSECon2022 (September 2022)

Toby Hodges and I will be leading a short workshop at The Conference for Research Software Engineering entitled “Collaborative Lesson Development with The Carpentries Workbench” where we will go over the principles of lesson development and how to use The Workbench to employ those principles.

Updates to The Carpentries Workbench

Since 2022-07-20,

To update your local Workbench installation, open R and use the following code:

# Enable repository from carpentries
options(repos = c(
  ropensci = '',
  CRAN = ''))
# Download and install sandpaper in R
install.packages(c('tinkr', 'pegboard', 'sandpaper', 'varnish'))

Upcoming and Current Lessons in Workbench Beta

List of Lessons to enter Workbench Beta in 2022

Official Lessons

Tentative schedule for official lessons


Community Lessons


Tips and Tricks for Using The Workbench

During the beta phase, development on The Workbench can move rapidly. While you should be able to build your lesson successfully with any version of The Workbench, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of the packages. To keep up to date you can run the following code in R:

# Enable repository from carpentries
options(repos = c(
  ropensci = '',
  CRAN = ''))
# Download and install sandpaper in R
install.packages(c('tinkr', 'pegboard', 'sandpaper', 'varnish'))

Dialogue & Discussion

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