I love pair programming and working on code with other people and talking things through. In short, editing code as a social activity. If you noticed Google’s Mobwrite, it was a large scale collaborative editor, fun to play with, basically a real time wiki. Bespin provides a structure within a browser window to check code out from an svn repository, and edit it at the same time as other people, who appear in a sidebar. You can start projects and give people you “friend” varying levels of access to the code.
I’ve experimented with collaborative coding using screen for pair programming, and during meetings to discuss code. It’s best done in person or with voice and chat at the same time. Bespin looks like an incredibly useful extension of that concept. I hope that there will be effort to make it as universally accessible as possible.
I see Bespin as something that might be especially useful to women coding together, and I’ll see how Dreamwidth project members feel about trying it out. I could also see it being quite useful for people I know at BlogHer to debug WordPress templates. I think that women might more often than men buy into the myth of the lone and lonely programmer, the hermit-like coder genius, where code springs out full grown like Athena from Zeus’s head. But in my experience guys hack together and thus they learn together, while women are not only more often isolated, but are under more pressure to display perfect solutions or not to expose work in progress — a systematic pattern of that kicks in very hard when we’re teenagers.
The soul of open source is collaborating and improving on previous work. I think that collaborating in real time as a friendly social activity, with conversation, will feel more comfortable to some women than checking in code and waiting for feedback. So, I predict that Bespin and tools like it will be a powerful factor bringing women into coding and into open source communities, as a social activity to be done with friends.