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Python Education Programming The Internet

Parlez-vous Python? 164

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that the market for night classes and online instruction in programming and Web construction is booming, as those jumping on board say they are preparing for a future in which the Internet is the foundation for entertainment, education and nearly everything else. Knowing how the digital pieces fit together will be crucial to ensuring that they are not left in the dark ages. 'Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the Web,' says Sarah Henry, 39, an investment manager who took several classes, including some in HTML, the basic language of the Web, and WordPress, a blogging service. 'I'm not going to sit here and say that I can crank out a site today, but I can look at basic code and understand it. I understand how these languages function within the Internet.' The blooming interest in programming is part of a national trend of more people moving toward technical fields. 'To be successful in the modern world, regardless of your occupation, requires a fluency in computers,' says Peter Harsha. 'It is more than knowing how to use Word or Excel but how to use a computer to solve problems.' However seasoned programmers say learning how to adjust the layout of a Web page is one thing, but picking up the skills required to develop a sophisticated online service or mobile application is an entirely different challenge that cannot be acquired by casual use for a few hours at night and on the weekends."
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Parlez-vous Python?

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  • Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @02:52PM (#39499303)

    . 'To be successful in the modern world, regardless of your occupation, requires a fluency in computers,'

    I believe I speak for every computer geek on the planet when I say "Ah! He's full of sh*t!" We've all done tech support. We've all been asked to fix the computer of our friend or family member. And we are STILL endlessly mystified as to how people can be so damn clueless. No. Being successful in the modern world doesn't depend on fluency in computers... it still depends on the same things that humanity has also (perhaps erroneously) placed value on: Who you know, how attractive you are, your personality, and in semi-rare cases, how good you are at what you do.

  • Python? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @02:53PM (#39499315)

    I love Python as much as the next programmer, but how does this story relate?

  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @02:58PM (#39499369)

    You can indeed learn to design mobile apps in just a few hours a night. It will just take a lot of nights. I imagine even a greenhorn could be designing decent apps within a year, just teaching themselves at night. It's really all about self-discipline and motivation there.

  • were the replies underneath. the holier-than-thou pronouncements of arrogant assholes decrying the proliferation of code monkeys

    hey, assholes: when someone tries to better themselves, and takes an interest in what you do, smile, and encourage them, or shut up. your ego needs a serious deflation when you adapt such an ivory tower attitude to people just earnestly interested in what you do. don't mock their enthusiasm, most of them might not amount to much real skill growth, but some will

    i think more coders is a GOOD thing. a planet of coders: what we could do!

  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:01PM (#39499405)

    Is there a boom? I've never met these people. The Internet doesn't seem to me to be any different from any other technology. When it is all the rage people are interested, but it then becomes commonplace and is taken for granted. The vast majority of people are content to know precisely zilch about how it works or what's going on inside.

    How does an automatic transmission work? How does a television work? Hell, how does lever work? Hardly anybody out there walking around gives a flying fart about understanding those things.

    I find it funny that this article is running now, when the "social network" is taking over how we use the Internet. Why would you create your own homepage or blog? You can just sign up for a Facebook or Linked-In, etc. Why would anybody other than professional devs look at code?

  • Waste of time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcovje ( 205102 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:03PM (#39499437)

    The real waste of time is having to hear sales pitches from people like this that don't realize that the problem isn't in the tooling, but in the problem to solve

  • Re:Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:05PM (#39499451)

    yes but don't forget, she says she has taken a wordpress class and "can understand the basic code of the internet" or somesuch. problem really seems to be that the masses out there seem to truly believe that swiping colourful icons around on a touchscreen is the same as understanding how computers work. they are literally so dumb that they don't even know what smart looks like.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:08PM (#39499491)

    I haven't read the comments but in my experience random folks learning just enough HTML and PHP to be dangerous is not a good thing.

    It's a great example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, they know a little and are ignorant of what they don't know. Then real developers have to come in and clean up their mess (which is often more work than just building it from scratch).

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:16PM (#39499581)

    i think more coders is a GOOD thing. a planet of coders: what we could do!

    If I were acting as a rational self-interested economic actor, though, the last thing I'd want is more competition, because that reduces the value of my skillset.

    Yet another example of confusing training and education. I took a civil war history class at college (mumble) decades ago and it was an education because it gave me a lot to think about, practice at thinking, practice at reasoning... No-one, not myself or anyone else, is under the illusion that it gave me the training necessary to be a trained history professor, or that I'm impacting the technical achievement levels of the history prof job market.

    As training, a middle aged investment manager taking intro web classes is probably completely useless. As education, its priceless.

    Often training and education seem overlapping, but the older I get, the further apart I see them. I'm not entirely certain we even have a "education" system, it just seems to accidentally happen sometimes, to some people.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:22PM (#39499657)

    i think more coders is a GOOD thing. a planet of coders: what we could do!

    Over my 25+ years as a system programmer/admin on just about every Unix (and, sigh, Windows) platform known, I've seen, and fixed, a LOT of code of questionable quality and shudder at your thought. I'm sure a "planet of coders" would bring forth some sort of Apocalypse. Hopefully, I'll be dead by then.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:28PM (#39499733)

    I've never met these people.

    Try night classes at your local uni or college. Stuffed full of people learning Japanese for the F of it, learning civil war history for the F of it, and according to this article, at least some are learning basic html (and python?) for the F of it. This works for Vo Tech too, I am very handy with the lathe and mill, but I'm the worlds shittiest welder and I'd love to take some vo tech welding classes, not because I wanna get a new job at about 1/3 my current pay spending 40 hrs/wk welding, but because I like playing with fire and melting metal together and generally Fing around with stuff like that.

    Hardly anybody out there walking around

    Walk around somewhere else. You're not going to find interesting people at the local sports bar, or at the water cooler talking about the latest survivor episode, or walking around the mall. Sry about that. I once had a kind-of relationship with a chick who's idea of a hobby or interest was sun tanning, drinking, and watching tv, glad I ran like hell from that.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @03:38PM (#39499875) Homepage

    Somebody with an educational understanding of my field can masquerade as somebody with the training and experience to do the job. Ergo, he appears to be a competitor to the manager who wants to keep his labor costs down, regardless of what that does to quality. For the obligatory car analogy, a Yugo can kinda sorta do the same job as a Toyota, so somebody who doesn't understand cars could easily confuse the two and thus set their price expectations for the Toyota based on the price of the Yugo.

  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @04:58PM (#39500985)

    True, but my RWOME (real-world old man experience) tells me that only about 10 to 15% of the populace has the ability to really understand basic logic, troubleshooting and decision structures. To us, coding and debugging is easy and natural, to most people it is a bunch of weird magic.

    I have many intelligent friends who have taken classes on programming, classes on various aspects of computers, classes on networks, databases, etc. and they just don't "get it." They don't think like we do. Conversely, we don't think like they do. But then a world full of nothing but people like us would drive us all mad. That's the beauty of how we all get along.

    And of course, the reason why we can make some good scratch doing easy crap like this.

  • Re:Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pdabbadabba ( 720526 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @05:42PM (#39501505) Homepage

    Maybe the GP AC should not have been so glib, but he has a point. There are a lot of very smart people (including young people) who have never compiled a kernel, or fired up Eclipse, or who don't even know what HTML is. You just think they are dumb because you have, presumably, structured much of your intellectual life around these concepts, much like other /.ers. They seem obvious to you and you can't see how others could fail to understand.

    But imagine how your relatively careless writing (no criticism here, by the way, this is /. after all, so who cares?) would look to someone who writes for a living like, say, a New York Times reporter. To someone like that, who has spent most of their intellectual efforts learning how to write well, you yourself probably would seem "literally so dumb that they don't even know what smart looks like."

    At least, that is, if they shared your apparent view that everyone has to know the same sorts of things that you know in order to be any more than an idiot. But we can probably agree that they shouldn't judge anyone's efforts by that standard. And neither should you.

  • by rjh ( 40933 ) <> on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @06:08PM (#39501801)

    At OSCON 2006 I was delivering a presentation on a new heuristic algorithm. We implemented it in C++ and provided Python bindings for it. An hour before my presentation I was in the green room, head deep in code, getting one last bugfix in before the presentation. As I found a bug and fixed it I said to myself, "Python, I love you. You make the hard stuff so easy."

    The green room immediately went quiet. I lifted my head and looked across the table and discovered Damian Conway, of Perl fame, was sitting across from me hacking on his own code. Damian looked up, looked around, and particularly at all the people who were expecting a Python-versus-Perl flamewar to arise. "What?" he asked them. "Listen, the only thing I love more than Perl is software that works well, even if it's not written in Perl." Then he went back to his code, I went back to mine, and the room resumed its normal dull roar.

    There's a lot of wisdom in Conway's perspective. If you seriously believe that coding in Ruby makes you a better programmer than a Python or a PHP programmer, then I hate to break the news to you, but you've been sadly miseducated.

    Yes, I know Ruby. I prefer Python. So what? My best friend knows both languages and prefers Ruby.

    Children get into holy wars about code. Grown-ups are too busy writing code to waste time on such childish diversions.

  • Re:Lies! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @06:13PM (#39501887) Journal
    People often misdiagnose ignorance as stupidity because the behaviour of the afflicted is almost identical. As Einstien once quipped to a reporter; "I cannot teach you how to bake a cake if you don't know what milk and flour are."
  • Re:Lies! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @06:22PM (#39501993) Journal
    It's all relative. Go live in Mongolia for a while and watch the locals laugh their arse off at you trying to milk a Yak. Thing is, no matter what form of ignorance a person is trying to cure, experts are more than willing to help, provided the novice is willing to accept it.
  • Re:Lies! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pdabbadabba ( 720526 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @06:36PM (#39502161) Homepage

    This is true, and interesting. I do think, though, that a lot of people around here could use to develop more reasonable (not to mention kind) expectations about the state of other peoples' knowledge and its relationship to their intellect. Here's an obvious place to start: the more specialized one's knowledge becomes, the less likely it is that failure to posses it is a good indicator of stupidity. (Of course possession of specialized knowledge probably is a good indication that the person in question is intelligent. This is probably part of the problem.).

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:55PM (#39503021) Journal

    Closures are plenty elegant in Python - just def a nested function, and lo, there's your closure. I suspect you confuse closures with anonymous functions.

    Anonymous funcitons, now - Python has a shorthand expression form for them for use with basic stuff like map/filter/fold, but for something larger you need a named function you can pass. In practice, this doesn't affect things nearly as much as a Rubyist would think, because Python has syntactic sugar for pretty much all common cases where Ruby uses multiline closures - namely, iteration, RAII, and callback chaining.

  • Re:Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:33PM (#39504403) Homepage Journal

    I'm a non-computer geek but in the 1990s I learned HTML well enough to put up a quick web site, because it was fun and it was useful. I also learned how to put together a few databases and spreadsheets, and automated my word processing programs. I know about as much FORTRAN and BASIC as you would get in an introductory 101 course. I used to read Forrest Mims' notebooks and build digital circuits. I like it. I like flashing lights. I like programming f=1/r^2 fields. I like to open up the case and figure out what the parts do. It helps me understand what's going on in the world around me. So sue me.

    I think any intellectually curious person wants to learn a lot of things, just because they're fun. I took my car apart and put it together. I learned the basics of a few foreign languages, a lot of math, chemistry, history, art, filmmaking, poetry, and other things I'll never use professionally. I could place respectably in a contest for the world's worst piano player.

    I realize how offended people get when a novice, an amateur, presumes to learn something that they are an expert in. How could they affront your wisdom by suggesting that they are basking in the same sun? However, their target is different. As somebody in TFA mentioned, he learned enough to appreciate what real programmers are doing, so maybe you will get the respect you deserve.

  • Re:Lies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:51PM (#39504523) Homepage Journal

    I think there are a lot of people out there who want to know what's happening behind the screen when they swipe colorful icons around.

    There are a lot of people out there who want to get a better idea of how computers work.

    It can be done. Learning Python or Java is a reasonable place to start.

    I remember a special issue of Scientific American on computers, which had an article that walked you through how a simple, Turing-style computer worked on the logic circuit level -- reading from memory, adding binaries, storing the answer, etc. I spent an hour figuring out the illustration, and I had a pretty good conceptual understanding of how a computer worked. Any reasonably intelligent person who was willing to work at it could have read that article and understood it. A lot of people did. They understood the future a lot better.

  • Re:Lies! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xelah ( 176252 ) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:18AM (#39506595)

    One can be successful without a knowledge of many things. However, your opportunities for success (including more middle of the road success, not just top-of-your-profession success) may be narrower. A lawyer with a better understanding of computers than his peers may have more success when it comes to litigating some cases, for example. Or maybe he has an understanding of chemistry, or medicine, or engineering, or anything else that might mean he can read and digest related documents faster, follow arguments better, sift the important from the irrelevant and think of things others might not.

    This is not just about being able to 'do the computer stuff', it's also about people who may have commission software, make purchasing, investment or budgeting decisions, understand organizations which produce or heavily use software, write regulations, laws or standards, or do many other things in other specialisms that have some sort of connection with computers.

    Learning a few basic coding skills may only be a small part of what may be useful...but a better conceptual understanding and a better understanding of the nature of working with IT/software might not just help them make better decisions, but help them interact in a better and less frustrating way with the IT specialists they employ/work for/work with.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.