As a beginning guitarist/musician, I would often browse sites such as ibreathemusic.com and vai.com in an attempt to further my knowledge and perhaps meet some like-minded person who perhaps had slightly more experience than I, but not enough to be considered an expert, or even an intermediate musician.
My first inclination would be to head straight to the beginners section of the forum and read everything, offer my thanks for a benevolent master musician's help, or perhaps offer a small bit of my own wisdom, if I felt sufficiently confident that day. Occasionally, I would foray into the Music Theory section, where discussions on the merits of the Hungarian Minor scale or the proper voicing of an A13sus chord abounded. For the first couple of months, I would always leave that section with my head spinning. After a while, I would find a thread that I understood, and in my joy I would attempt to give my input, only to be politely patted on the head and told to go play with the beginners.
Years later (well only a couple, 3 years feels like a good chunk of my 17 year old life), I can comfortably enter that section and post with the best of them. I felt like being surrounded by that community helped me see where I was as a musician and what areas I desperately needed to improve upon, be it improvisation, music theory, technique, or ear training.
Being an avid technophile as well as a musician, I have always been drawn to programming. I got into it once when I was 13 and bought some For Dummies books on C++, XML, HTML, and one called beginning programming. Basically anything that sounded cool. Music pushed it the back of my mind for a while, and I promptly forgot about them.
Recently, after reading William Gibson's Neuromancer, half of the Dune series, and all of Alastair Reynold's novels (big fan, if you can tell), I've decided that I must get a Ph.D in computer science and become a master hacker(I do wish I had discovered this need earlier, and I would have taken a few more AP classes). It's been about four months since then, and I must have bookmarked at least 100 sites by now, ranging from stackoverflow to hacker news to zed shaw's blog. My language of choice is Python, though I did spend a fair amount of time on Perl and C++. I feel pretty confident in my abilities right now. I've done about 20 Project Euler problems in Python (just started a few days ago), and I can usually understand the source code of a medium sized Python program if you lock me in a room for a day with some Red Bull.
But here's my problem. I don't have anyone to identify with. Everyone seems to be an expert hacker already. So onto my questions:
Are there any programming communities that cater to the beginner/intermediate programmer?
Would joining an open source project be feasible, or is it too early?
If possible, share your journey towards your rockstar ninja pirate coding guru status? I like the term 'expert hacker' better, but I've seen this term thrown around quite a bit recently, and I find it kind of funny.
Sorry for the life story, I'm just a lonely beginning programmer looking for some friends and guidance. I hope I didn't violate any rules or anything, as these types of questions seem to reside in a gray area.