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Thursday, 5 August 2010


I've been working in the web for a long time now. I love it. I used to be fine with admitting I don't do any programming because the world was full of many more smart programmer-y type people than I would ever be. Lately though, I've felt more and more hampered by my inability to begin even the simplest programming task.

I have worked with some top-notch programmers in my career so far, and have been exposed to bleeding-edge, seat-of-the-pants, exciting, improvisational programming. There's nothing better than talking out an idea and having a design or concept come to life at the fingers of a coder. I understand what is possible -- although still claim a Beginner's Mind, as my eye-rolling colleagues will testify -- and that understanding lets me design web software, but, I can only make things to a certain extent. As much as I love collaborating, I want more.

I'd like to be able to read code like I can read prose; to really understand what's being written, not just that it can be. I'd like to be able to hit an API and return a response. I'd like to know how to put some data into Processing. I'd like to write a regular expression. I wouldn't like to go to university to learn this.

A grade is not in the least bit important, because the proof is in whatever I can produce. I could take the time to try to teach myself all of this, but frankly, I would much prefer being taught without the burden of a formal course. I enjoy exploring new territory with friends too, like some sort of emu parade of knowledge gathering.

Luckily, I have a friend called Ben who's willing to help show me more of the details behind coding. (Ben is also the chap who's been a volunteer hacker doing some really interesting stuff with Internet Archive full text versions of books and natural language processing. My frustration piqued the other day when Ben released a dataset of his work so far that I had no idea how to interact with. Stopped short, reliant on someone else's time and inclination to help me.)

We suspected there might be other people in a similar situation to me, so, together, we'd like to try something we're calling CS404. It would be a short series of small classes to help people "speak code" by introducing serious computer science and programming in a practical, casual environment.

Are you in my boat?
Posted at 11:48 pm

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