The Inferno Lab provides a social setting to explore ideas and develop expertise: a Junto for mutual improvement. As a programmer moving up the skills ladder from novice to expert, you need the assistance of others to appraise and criticise your work and correct you on your course.
A principle of inferno lab work is that code is meant to be read. It is part of the dialog. Snippets of code appear in blogs, mailling lists, wikis, and irc.
Preface to SICP: "We want to establish the idea that a computer language is not just a way of getting a computer to perform operations but rather that it is a novel formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute."
Knuth: "Programming is best regarded as the process of creating works of literature, which are meant to be read."
Both the above sources used single specific notations for expressing their "how-to" knowledge. Knuth used CWEB and Abelson and Sussman used Scheme.
I have chosen a system, Inferno, and any appropriate notation for the problem at hand. The UNIX philosophy, after all, is about diversity of notations, creating new little languages the best express the solutions to a given problem domain.
The lab then is conversations about code. The code can be read, executed, pulled apart, and mashed up into another idea, replicated, evolved and distributed. By joining the lab you are participating in this process. Once you start copying code, reading it, and writing and publishing your own you are creating an active essay.