Coding Confessions: Celebrating the SSI #CollabW21 Hack Day runners-up!

On 1st April, Trainer on Research Data Management and Open Science, Eirini Zormpa, attended the 3-day Software Sustainability Institute’s Collaborations Workshop. During the Hack Day, the team Eirini was a part of won second place for their project ‘Coding Confessions. The additional team members were Colin Sauze (team lead), Patricia Herterich and Dave Horsfall. 

Colin Sauze (top left), Patricia Herterich (top right), Dave Horsfall (bottom left) and Eirini Zormpa (bottom right)

Why Coding Confessions?

Coding Confessions is an initiative to encourage transparency about coding errors (sins, if you must). Writing code is a huge part of doing research, but many researchers are self taught. Inevitably, this leads to mistakes. At the same time, the prevailing research culture can make it very difficult for people, especially early career researchers, to admit to mistakes. Anecdotally, embarrassment over messy code and fear of mistakes being found is often cited as a reason not to share code. Understandably, this fear is magnified in people who may already feel unwelcome or like they don’t belong in academia. By making admitting to coding errors mainstream, we hope to make academia a more forgiving, inclusive place. We also hope to lower the barriers to code sharing and stop the same mistakes from being repeated by others.

What is Coding Confessions?

At the moment, Coding Confessions is a website and blog that’s very much under construction. One way we offer to confess to coding errors is by writing a blog post which we publish on the website. We encourage senior academics, who perhaps want to set an example, to write such a post. We believe this is a great way to help change the research culture. We assume that most people who are afraid to share their coding errors are junior researchers that may have legitimate reasons to remain anonymous. For that, we have created a google form to facilitate anonymous submissions.

We also think Coding Confessions have great potential as events! These could be run as Lightning Talks, actual confessions (with a booth, why not), or just a noticeboard with short anonymous admissions.

Head to to confess your mistakes and normalise failure!

What’s next?

We built the website in about 5 hours so there’s still some finessing to be done. We’ll be working on the website next and thinking about ways to run Coding Confessions events.

If you want to get involved, you can do that by submitting issues on our GitHub repository. We also currently have only one submission (Read Eirini’s confession here!) and it’s getting lonely… So if there’s anything you want to get off your chest, you know what to do!

For more information about this project or how to get involved contact Eirini!

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