Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Essay: Learnable Programming

Posted on September 30th, 2012 in Essays | No Comments »

I don’t typically share a lot of technical material on this blog. (Actually, I don’t seem to share much at all on this blog anymore, but bear with me.) However, I do want to share an essay on a rather technical topic: How do people learn to program and how should we teach them?

Programming is unquestionably an important skill and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It is also, at least in some ways, a rather new skill that’s still developing rapidly. Developers create new platforms, languages, tools, and systems every year. Theoretically, these are all efforts to improve the craft in some way, but it’s still fundamentally hard to do. Worse, we don’t really know how to teach programming. Brett Victor’s essay on Learnable Programming examines some ways that we might improve on this.

Brett’s essay is extremely well-written, and I strongly encourage everyone reading this post to read it. It is clearly understandable for the non-technical person. Brett also demonstrates an excellent use of supporting multimedia. Most people aren’t particularly great writers, but even rather solid writers often struggle to use tables, figures, and video appropriately in their writing. For some material, such as textbooks, future readers will require excellent use of these visual aids.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Essay: Solitude and Leadership

Posted on January 3rd, 2012 in Essays, Uncategorized | No Comments »

When I first introduced the ‘Essays‘ category, I said that I wanted to start sharing some great, thought-provoking essays that I’ve read. Here’s the second installment: Solitude and Leadership.

Solitude and Leadership is actually the text of a lecture at West Point in 2009 by William Deresiewicz. The moment that I knew this hooked me was when he started talking about distinction between solitude and introspection. It’s probably worth reading today and again in three weeks after you’ve had time to ponder it a bit. The essay is around 5,800 words and will take just under 20 minutes or so to read. Enjoy!

Welcome Back

Posted on September 28th, 2011 in Essays, Life, Website News | 1 Comment »

Welcome faithful reader! How do I know that you’re a faithful reader of this blog? Well, because in the craziness that has been my life for the past few months, this blog disappeared and I didn’t even notice. I have rectified the problem, and it has left me with a group of lean, mean, faithful readers.

Any time you have an unplanned outage for your site, you might as well re-think what you really want to do with the site. However, I don’t really have time to do that right now, so things will probably continue mostly as they are now for the forseeable future. Currently, I write for and maintain several websites. You can read about them if you wish.

However, there is one small change that I would like to announce. As most of you know, I’m an avid reader. I read books, academic papers, news, and all sorts of other things. However, one of my favorite things to read over the last couple of years has been a great essay. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have a few theories I won’t bore you with.

Because of my growing appreciation for essays, I’ve thought about linking to some of the great essays for a long time. I’m not thinking about it any longer; I’m going to start linking to some of them in this category. Now, there are several sites out there that exist solely to aggregate longer form, essay-style writing. I won’t pass along nearly that volume of essays, so if you find that yourself loving the art of the essay, you should investigate those sites.

Today I would like to pass along an essay I read this past summer. It’s by Paul Ford and it’s titled “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” It’s an extremely well-written essay about Ford’s personal experience with in-vitro fertilization, and definitely worth reading. I’m passing it along today because I’ve learned (through Daring Fireball) that there’s a short post-script on his personal site. Don’t read the post-script first. There are spoilers there that could ruin the essay for you. Enjoy!