This is a list of possible icebreaker questions.

You should make it very clear that everyone should answer the question, and thus it should be very broad. The point is to make sure they know how to use the tools. Make sure that the question feels inclusive - not just that people can answer, but that it doesn’t make people feel they are far behind others.

If you ask people to add there name as part of an introduction, the document becomes personal data and must be controlled more, and sets you on a path to extensive editing before it can be released. Think before you do this - maybe you just ask for information about backgrounds without names.

Relevant to workshop

An icebreaker isn’t supposed to be relevant to the workshop, but it could be useful some days or as a second question.

  • What from this workshop are you going to use in the near future?

  • What was the most confusing thing from yesterday?

  • Have you already used what you have learned in the course during your work? If so, what?

  • What is the most useful thing you know, that you wish someone had just told you about computing when you first started it?

Adapted from pre-workshop survey

  • What is the operating system that you will use during the course (on your laptop)?

    • macOS

    • Linux

    • Windows

    • Other

  • Have you used version control? If yes, which?

    • I don’t know what it is

    • I haven’t used version control but I know what it is

    • I have used version control, but I don’t know which system

    • Git

    • Mercurial

    • Subversion

    • CVS

    • Perforce

    • Bazaar

    • Other

  • Which programming languages are you using or will you use in your projects?

    • Matlab

    • R

    • Python

    • Perl

    • C

    • C++

    • Fortran 77

    • Fortran 90+

    • Julia

    • Haskell

    • Go

    • Rust

    • Other

  • Are you using automated testing platforms (e.g. Travis CI, Jenkins or GitLab CI) in your programming project(s)?

    • No and I don’t know what it is

    • No but I know what it is

    • Yes

  • Are you employing code review in your programming project(s)?

    • No and I don’t know what it is

    • No but I know what it is

    • Yes

  • Are you using the Jupyter Notebooks in your programming project(s)?

    • No and I don’t know what it is

    • No but I know what it is

    • Yes

  • Are you using a web-based repository for your code(s)? Which ones?

    • I’m not using a web-based repository

    • GitHub

    • GitLab

    • Bitbucket

    • Redmine


    • Other

  • How would you describe your programming experience?

    • I have no programming experience

    • Basic understanding and experience, I have looked through code and made minor adjustments

    • I have written my own simple programs

    • I have written many small codes and/or contributed to large complex software

    • I am an expert

  • How comfortable are you with the Unix/Linux command line working in a terminal window?

    • I know what most of the following commands do: cd, ls, cat, mv, rm, chmod, man, mkdir, cp, ssh

    • I do not know what most of these commands do

  • Please mark the sessions that you are most interested in.

    • Introduction to version control

    • Documentation

    • Jupyter notebooks

    • Collaborative distributed version control

    • Managing complexity and modular code development

    • Automated testing

    • Git branch design

    • Software licensing

    • Reproducible research

General questions

  • What’s a good icebreaker question?

  • How is the weather where you live?

  • How are you doing?

  • Are you happy to continue this workshop for another week?

  • Is that an Iphone?

  • If you could have anything what you want for dinner today, what would it be?

  • What cool thing/tool have you discovered/learned the past days? (independently of this course)

  • Is this course part of your work? Or do you spend free time on it?

  • Do you like olives?

  • Are you annoyed at the size of anaconda?

  • What’s your favourite pizza?

  • Do pineapples :pineaplle: belong on pizza?

  • What did you have for breakfast?

  • Do you like Python?

  • Where’s your favorite place to nap?

  • Do you use git or identify as one?

  • When and how did you learn to program?


Most of these questions came from a “What is an icebreaker” question in the first Mega-CodeRefinery workshop.