29 8 / 2014

Building a Tool for Other Builders - What Matters to Hopscotch and Why

by Liza

We’re building a tool that is used by other people in their own creative processes.

This means our company values live on through the things that are created with our tool. Our design impacts what people can create and express. That’s a big deal.

The importance of this idea might be more apparent if Hopscotch was in the business of building readymade houses.

Let’s say you’re building a house for your family. This house comes with pre-made parts that you assemble with the help of an assembly guide. Do the values of the folks building the parts and writing the assembly guide matter? What if they cared most about cost and speed of production? What if they prized durability? Or aesthetics? Would this house withstand the whims of nature or the trials of rambunctious families? Would it put on a smile on your face when you walked by it?

Hopscotch is building a language, and languages are the foundation of ideas. Just as it’s important to understand the values held by those responsible for the construction of your house, it’s good to understand the values behind a means with which you express yourself.

Team Hopscotch sat down recently on a dock along Greenwood Lake in Western New York. Over gooey s’mores, we talked about what’s important to us as people and to the company we’re building together. These are the values that inform how we make decisions, how we prioritize product development and how we build Hopscotch:

Kids First

  • Our end goal is to help kids understand and be inspired by the potential of technology. When push comes to shove, we build for kids above all other parties.

Encourage Agency

  • Each member of our team has the room, agency and support to do the best work of their life. Our tool fosters agency in those who use it.

Build Responsibly

  • We’re thoughtful and intentional about what we introduce into the world and we think about the long-term consequences of our work. Above all, we aim to foster positive, collaborative, responsible, citizens.

No Silver Bullets

  • Complex, ambitious problems require persistence, grit and continuous improvement to solve. We understand failure is part of the process. Our work is never done and we’re always improving.

Sharp, Smart Focus

  • We say “no” ten times more than we say “yes” and we work on those things we think will have the largest impact for the least effort. For larger, long-term projects we scale back to prove MVP before investing further.

Good people

  • We respect each others’ work, time and differences. We prize inclusiveness and equality. We’re humble and egoless.

Sustainability

  • We work on the most important things to keep our company alive. We share important new insights and ideas with the general public so our ideas can live on and be remixed by others.

Hopscotchers, parents, teachers and other fellow builders, what do you think of these values? What are your values?

07 8 / 2014

Build Responsibly: Why We Removed the “Popular” Tab From Our Community

by Asha

Hey Hopscotchers!

Last week we removed the “Popular” tab from our community page, and since you are all builders too, we’d like to share our thinking with you.

A “Popular” tab is common on user-generated-content platforms like Hopscotch. Initially, it seemed like an effective and simple way to showcase high quality projects. Members would like projects and the most liked projects would rise to the top.

But by designing a system that prized high “like” counts, what naturally followed were projects aimed at purely gaining “likes”.

Some examples:

  • "If you give me 500 likes, I will make Minecraft" (a false promise)
  • "If I don’t get to the top of popular, my parents will take my iPad away"
  • "If you don’t give me "likes", I’ll report your project"

Yikes!

These projects had minimal content and programming, and our system design choices occasionally brought out meanness.

Most importantly, competition reduced collaboration, one of the most effective and fun ways to learn.

As builders of something that other people will use, it’s important to think about the short and long-term impact of our work. What long-term lessons will our users take away from our tool? What behaviors are we encouraging? What behaviors are we discouraging?

Thinking through these questions, we decided to replace “Popular” with a tab called “Most Branched” (“branching” is when someone takes your code and adds to it).

We did this for two reasons:

  1. Branching is a generative action for the community. With branching, the end of one person’s project is the beginning for someone else, so this cycle of creation and play can continue to build on itself indefinitely. Liking, while a positive reinforcement for the author, doesn’t have the same rich and productive benefit for the community. Further, taken to extremes, competition for “likes” can be degenerative and negative for the community.

  2. Branching is actually a better indicator of quality than liking because it typically requires more effort on the part of the brancher. If you’re branching a project, it’s likely you want to look “under the hood” and learn from the code or you want to share your ideas and add to the project.

So what happened after we made the change?

For starters, “Most Branched” has surfaced an actual version of Minecraft :), but more generally, it has encouraged inventive, fun and more productive interactions among members.

Now we are seeing:

  • "Here’s a webpage template. Free for anyone to use"
  • "How to make a wave. Yours to copy"
  • A template to create a platform game

We at Hopscotch have been amazed and thrilled with the creativity and collaboration that is happening.

And importantly, we’ve learned the importance of thinking through the potential consequences of our decisions. Before we introduce new things we ask ourselves:

  • What behaviors are we encouraging?
  • Taken to an extreme, how will these changes impact our community?
  • Most importantly, what lessons will our users take away?

So as you’re Hopscotching or building anything that others will use, take time to think through the side-effects of your decisions, especially those decisions that seem small because they are easy to implement or seem like no-brainers because they have been done many times before.

#BuildResponsibly and Happy Hopscotching!

31 7 / 2014

Building a Learning Community

One of our goals at Hopscotch is to create a learning community where Hopscotchers can learn from, and be inspired by, others. Platforms like GitHub, Wikipedia, Twitter and YouTube have shown us how powerful it is to enable members to learn from each other.

Our release today (featured in the App Store!) is a step towards building a positive, nurturing and strong community with 4 big new features:

1. You can now create an account!

You can see all the projects you’ve started or published, as well as projects you’ve favorited. Other people can see the projects you’ve published and favorited, too.

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2. You can follow other users

You can follow other users in the Hopscotch community to see and learn from their latest projects! Tap the “Stream” tab to see the latest from those that you follow.

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3. We’ve placed new emphasis on Branching

You’ll also notice a new icon for remixing—a branch!

Branching is when someone takes a community member’s Hopscotch project and adds something to it. Let’s be clear, branching is very different than copying (and this is why we moved away from the “download” icon).

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You’ll also notice that we’ve replaced “Popular” with “Most Branched”. We think someone liking your project is cool, but someone branching your project to add to it or learn from it is the ultimate compliment. We always show the original author as well as the brancher.

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See what happens to your creations when you put them out into the world!

And if you want, add challenges at the end of your project to encourage others to branch your work.

4. We’ve added a How-Tos section

Some of you have been on Hopscotch for a while and have learned some great tricks. You can now share those with others by creating “How-To” projects. We’ll feature “How-tos” that we think are especially helpful.

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Tell us what you think of the updates—we love hearing from you!

Happy learning, sharing and Hopscotching!

<3 The Hopscotch Team

25 7 / 2014

Coming Soon

Hello Hopscotchers!

Thanks to all of you who have written to us about the Hopscotch 2.0 Update. We got a huge amount of feedback, including awesome projects you’ve built, ideas for future versions, and suggestions for improvement. Your input has been enormously helpful, and we’ve made some changes based on your ideas that we think make the app even more intuitive. 

We’ll be releasing our next update soon, likely sometime next week. In advance of that, we’d like to give you a sneak peak of some of the changes.

With this update, you can choose whether or not your code becomes an ability. In the past, when you added code, Hopscotch made all scripts an ability by default. This is great if you’re re-using code, but not necessary if you aren’t re-using code. Now, we’ve left the decision to create a new ability up to you. Another nice side-effect of this will be fewer unruly lists of “Untitled Abilities”. :p

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You’ll be able to use the same event more than once for a character (yay! Many of you requested this).

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It’s easier to select and edit an event and change its script. You no longer have to delete a rule if you want to change the event.

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As always, please keep the feedback coming our job is never done :)

Happy Hopscotching,

<3 Jocelyn, Sam, Jason, Asha, Liza, Luis, Marlon, and Shreeya!

23 7 / 2014

On Monday and Tuesday, Hopscotch was at DLDwomen14 in Munich, Germany! Our co-founder Jocelyn lead a Hopscotch workshop, which was the first workshop to sell out! 
Later on in the conference, Jocelyn joined Rachel Swindenbank (Codecademy UK) and Kristen Titus (from Girls Who Code) for a panel discussion on the importance of coding in the 21st century, and how we can encourage the next generation of coders to find their passion. You can watch the panel video here.
Many thanks to DLDwomen for having us!

On Monday and Tuesday, Hopscotch was at DLDwomen14 in Munich, Germany! Our co-founder Jocelyn lead a Hopscotch workshop, which was the first workshop to sell out

Later on in the conference, Jocelyn joined Rachel Swindenbank (Codecademy UK) and Kristen Titus (from Girls Who Code) for a panel discussion on the importance of coding in the 21st century, and how we can encourage the next generation of coders to find their passion. You can watch the panel video here.

Many thanks to DLDwomen for having us!

21 7 / 2014

Last week, Hopscotch co-founders Sam and Jocelyn were featured in a video published by FastCompany, where they got to talk about how to get kids excited about programming. 

One important thing that was highlighted in the video and that other Hopscotchers have demonstrated is that given the freedom to make their own choices (and mistakes), kids can solve complex problems in new amazing ways. Programming is, at its core, a new kind of language - a method of expression and communication that allows people to change the world around them. 

Thank you to our friends at FastCompany!

Happy coding!!

17 7 / 2014

Check out this video from a group of students in Galicia, Spain. We were blown away with what these kids have done! 

Here are some of our favorite quotes:

[Programming’s] a way to learn how to think because of the obstacles that you have to overcome…

What does programming mean for us?

Creativity! 
Obstacles
Projects!
Stories!
Fun!
Learning!
Games!
Science!

Thanks to Hopscotch, we are able to create and share projects between us all.

¡Gracias a todos!

17 7 / 2014

An Eye-Opening Chat with Alan Kay

Last week Hopscotch HQ was paid a visit by the one and only Alan Kay. Alan, along with other members of the Xerox PARC team, helped invent the modern graphical user interface we know today, the Object Oriented programming language Smalltalk, and early computer networks, in the 1970s.

We talked with Alan about programming, in particular about how Hopscotch can help shape its future and listened in awe as Alan explained many of the motivations behind his work at PARC, and his more recent work on eToys. For Alan, the computer isn’t so much a tool as it is a medium of expression and communication which he believes can create more informed members of society.

Alan offered suggestions for how we can make Hopscotch a more powerful programming language and while we won’t spoil any surprises just quite yet, suffice it to say we plan to let you make incredible new kinds of games and apps in Hopscotch in the coming future.

Thanks for stopping by, Alan!

by Jason Brennan

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