The Dovetail #11: Updates from The Carpentries Workbench

Minor Delays

This is the eleventh 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:

If you have used the workbench and would like to provide feedback, please tell us about your experience.

Beta Phase Updates

Since we last met, a few bumps in the road have appeared. They are nothing insurmountable, but dates have been shifted a bit. Nevertheless, we will move on with the beta phase as best we can until April 2023 when we will convert our entire infrastructure to use The Carpentries Workbench.

In short: no lessons are entering the second stage of the beta phase yet.

Goal of The Beta Phase

In our alpha phase testing of The Workbench, we wanted to do a basic test to make sure that folks with varying levels of experience with The Carpentries, R, and our lesson infrastructure could perform a fixed set of tasks that could confirm to us that the infrastructure was usable. What this test did not give us was an understanding of how it would perform in a dynamic environment of a lesson.

The goal of the beta phase was to test the new infrastructure with real live lessons and people who would be directly affected by the change of the lesson infrastructure; that is, lesson Maintainers, Instructors, and Learners.

In order for a lesson to enter the beta phase, all of the Maintainers had to consent to the process.

Because the entire structure of the lessons would change, it was important that I have evidence that Maintainers are able to perform the following tasks for their lessons:

  1. clone the lesson to their local machine and preview it
  2. make a change to the lesson and confirm that it shows up on the website
  3. review and merge a pull request

Ideally, these actions would be completed in the pre-beta stage of the beta phase so that Maintainers can have a handle on what working with a Workbench lesson feels like before there is no turning back.

It Is Okay To Ask for More Time

The Carpentries is a community of volunteers and time is a precious commodity. If a Maintainer has more urgent obligations, it is perfectly fine and understandable for them to take a step back from their maintenance duties without notice.

The three criteria I listed above are important for working in the pre-beta stage of the beta phase, but it is not required. The only requirement to move out of the pre-beta stage is that all of the open pull requests are resolved (merged or closed).

It is because of this requirement that the Data Cleaning with OpenRefine for Ecologists lesson Maintainers decided to remove their lesson from the beta phase. They were undergoing a substantial rewrite of the lesson and would not be able to review and merge these changes in enough time.

I had also checked in with the lesson Maintainers from the other lessons that had entered the beta phase and some were responsive, some non-responsive. In light of the responses, the following transitions have been put on hold or delayed:

Lessons Currently In the Beta Phase

R for Social Scientists and Introduction to Geospatial Raster and Vector Data with R have both entered into the Workbench Beta Phase. The table below shows the status of lessons that are currently in the beta phase:

Lesson Stage1 Workbench URL Next Transition Date
Data Analysis and Visualisation in R for Ecologists pre-beta TBA
R for Social Scientists pre-beta 2022-12-06
Introduction to Geospatial Raster and Vector Data with R pre-beta 2022-11-28

Updates to The Carpentries Workbench

Since 2022-11-02,

  • {sandpaper} version 0.10.6 -> 0.10.7
    • Workflows have been updated to no longer throw warnings of deprecated GitHub commands
    • Automated pull requests will now go to a single branch for each type of pull request, updating as needed. This prevents the situation where there are multiple pull requests open from @carpentries-bot, with the last one superseding the previous ones.
  • {pegboard} 0.3.2
    • no updates :)
  • {varnish} 0.2.8 -> 0.2.9
    • matomo analytics have been temporarily disabled.

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'))

Tips and Tricks for Using The Workbench

Make sure you stay hydrated and take time for self-reflection.

  1. The Workbench Beta Phase is divided into three distinct stages, read more at

Dialogue & Discussion

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