Nitrous.IO Stories - Patrick McConlogue, the Programmer who is Teaching a Homeless Man How to Code

Leo and his Chromebook

Who are you, and what do you do?

​I am an engineer for Noodle.org, working on JavaScript development both back-end and front-end.​

When did you first meet Leo?

​I walked past Leo for 5 months on my way to work and clearly I should have stopped earlier. Every time I walked by him it bothered me, like he just doesn't fit. It bothered me, but I ignored it. Sometimes we would make eye contact but I would look away.​ Then one day, I walked by him and he was--with old boat chains around his neck--trying to work out. It was half tragic and half inspiring---it was epic drive.

This time I snapped and couldn't ignore my gut, there had to be something I could do. When I got to work I didn't even think and typed out the Medium post describing my plan, not as a public announcement just as a statement of record. I had no idea if he was interested in programming, I just knew programming was a power tool to get you to where you want to go; it's the fastest of many.

Is there a curriculum you follow, and do you have any ideas on doing this on a larger scale?

​I do not follow a curriculum, I am teaching using a graph database to collect topics and help each to build on each-other. It turns out he is extremely fast, we hardly ever have to re-visit a plan. There are many plans to make this larger, Nitrous.IO is a part of all of them. That's not a plug for Nitrous.IO, it's just the truth. Currently it makes advanced web development possible with nothing but a browser. Like the Raspberry Pi this is boundary breaking, not in technology necessarily but in a knockout combination.

How do you use Nitrous.IO to connect with Leo when you aren't with him?

​Sometimes I do login to his box, once it was to repair a broken package. We use GitHub, StackOverflow, and Nitrous.IO to do basically everything.​

What aspects of Nitrous.IO do you love the most?

Okay, now I am plugging you guys but it is true. What the Raspberry Pi does for programming, Nitrous.IO does for servers. Using Nitrous.IO we can abstract the concept of "a server" to a quick-loading folder armed with the language of my choice. A stable prototyping machine can easily be killed or duplicated which means that things like virtual environments become moot. ​

What features on Nitrous.IO would you be most excited to see?

​I would push this one step further and provide an educational tour. As you progress through the course you collect more points and unlock more power setups. The fact that the IDE, console, and directory are all in the same place means it is the perfect storm for educators around the world to easily walk students through things that used to be more advanced.

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