[FoRK] Advice From An Old Programmer

Aaron Burt aaron at bavariati.org
Wed Jun 22 17:05:51 PDT 2011

On Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 01:20:49PM -0700, Stephen Williams wrote:
[Quoting http://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/advice.html ]
> Programming as an intellectual activity is the only art form that
> allows you to create interactive art. You can create projects that
> other people can play with, and you can talk to them indirectly. No
> other art form is quite this interactive. Movies flow to the
> audience in one direction. Paintings do not move. Code goes both
> ways.

This is nonsense.  If programming is an art form, so is any other craft.
Most every craft creates tools and devices that interact with the user.

> People who can code in the world of technology companies are a dime
> a dozen and get no respect. People who can code in biology,
> medicine, government, sociology, physics, history, and mathematics
> are respected and can do amazing things to advance those
> disciplines.

Indeed.  Coding is an incredible (though narrow) skill-amplifier, up there
with power tools or standardization.  Cool things are starting to happen as
coding skills filter through the population and get adapted to different
disciplines.  (See: automated systems administration)

It's a slow process - standardization required a certain level of literacy,
knowledge and communication to even get started.  The spread of power tools
was limited by the availability of power sources (i.e. suitable rivers).

Coding depends on programmable computers with suitable I/O, but like
standardization and power tools, it also depends on a willingness to learn
a new and strange kind of thinking.

Many, many folks don't get algebra.  How many can get loops and recursion?
Heck, spreadsheets and mail-merge are deep juju to most folks.

> You can code. They cannot. That is pretty damn cool.

Bah.  As a Librul, all I see is something good that's not being shared.

Teach every kid Processing.  Make them use it to teach Arduinos (or their
cellphones) react to real-world stimuli.

And then some day we can let the CS departments get back to CS, rather than
acting as trade schools for programmers and sysadmins.

Wecome to the age of the Sorcerer's Apprentice,

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