The Recurse Center: The Second Half

May 21, 2015

I finished the second half of the Winter 2, 2015 batch at the Recurse Center (formerly Hacker School) at the end of March. I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience since then.


… good UI shows
functionality only
when it’s needed.


I finished most of this project in the first half of my batch. The user interface (UI) had all of the functionality, but good UI shows functionality only when it’s needed. I managed to make the UI less cluttered and more intuitive during the second half and I’m much happier with its current incarnation.


The main project for the second half of my batch was a web audio synthesizer. Creating a browser based synthesizer would allow me to kill three birds with one stone: learn the web audio API, learn more about how synthesizers work, and improve my knowledge of music theory. There’s still much more functionality I’d like to implement with this, but you can check out what I’ve done so far here.


Some of my most memorable experiences actually happened outside of the Recurse Center (RC) space.

I participated in the Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) hackathon for building tools for education. I worked with fellow RCer, Erty Seidohl, on a tool for visualizing what happens to your JavaScript code when you run it. We only got as far as variable assignment and the beginning of handling loops, but it was a really fascinating deep dive into JavaScript internals.

… it was interesting to
hear the perspective of
someone who has been
teaching those concepts
for longer than I’ve
been alive

Gerald Jay Sussman of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP) fame gave a talk at the CUNY Graduate Center on Should We Fear Intelligent Machines?. I’m only starting to grasp some of the concepts in SICP, so it was interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has been teaching those concepts for longer than I’ve been alive.

I attended !!Con last weekend. It was mainly on my radar because of the RC community’s involvement in organizing it. It was seriously the best tech conference I’ve been to and I met a ton of really awesome people. The talks from last year are already on their YouTube channel, but this year’s talks are definitely worth checking out once they become available.

Course Correction

The Recurse Center name change was a course correction since it’s not a school and no courses are offered. My experience there was also a course correction because it helped me rethink my capabilities. There were plenty of fellow RCers with less programming experience learning topics that I didn’t tackle until I had become a much more experienced programmer. I have a better idea now of how I can move beyond my limitations instead of just letting my comfort zone dictate my abilities.


Fellow RCers I’ve talked to have had difficulty describing what the Recurse Center is because it’s a unique experience for all its participants. It’s a bit like the elephant in the story of the blind men and the elephant. Even though I’ve already finished my batch, I’m still trying to figure out the shape of the elephant for myself.