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Programming Education Entertainment

Watching People Code Is Becoming an (Even Bigger) Thing 135

itwbennett writes: Faithful Slashdot readers may recall the story of Adam Wulf, who spent two weeks live-streaming himself writing a mobile app. The phenomenon has quickly become thing, by which we mean a business. Twitch.TV, Watch People Code (which is an offshoot of the subreddit by the same name), Ludum Dare, and, of course, YouTube, are bursting with live or archived streams of lots of people writing lots of code for lots of different things. And just this week, Y Combinator-backed startup Livecoding.TV launched. The site has signed up 40,000 users since its beta went live in February, but unlike the other sites in this space what it doesn't have (and doesn't have plans for) is advertising. As co-founder Jamie Green told ITworld: 'We have some different ideas around monetisation in the pipeline, but for now we are just focussed on building a community around live education.'
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Watching People Code Is Becoming an (Even Bigger) Thing

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  • by enigma32 ( 128601 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @11:57AM (#50033555)

    This is even worse than a stream watching someone play a game. Who wastes their time with these things?

    If you want to improve your coding skill you're better off practicing and reviewing code written by those more experienced than you, not watching someone "in the act" of doing it.

    • Insomniacs maybe?
    • Honestly, no idea. Young(er) people seem to like this thing of watching instead of doing a lot.

      I am actually testing it as a way to have some of my coding work on tape (together with my comments, attitude, etc.). That is: basically a coding self-promotion. Also a nice practice to improve my talk-to-camera skills

      I am currently starting and thus cannot say too much about the results, but so far it is delivering exactly what I want. Well... there might be some bothering watchers, but after a couple of hard-e
      • Well, please post a link to your videos.
        • Thanks for your interest, but it is not the kind of self-promotion which I want to post everywhere. I am pretty bad at talking to camera (I get distracted very easily) and haven't done a single video yet which I seriously like.

          On the other hand, I am sure that anyone being even partially interested in finding these videos, will certainly find them. And this is basically what I want: interested potential clients, not everyone. Note that I don't get any kind of benefit with more or less watchers. For me, thi
    • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:12PM (#50033715)

      Depends on how the streamer works. Just watching text appear in an editor with the sound of cheetos being munched? Not very helpful.

      But, if there is a running commentary about how they are thinking of solving a particular (sub?) problem, deciding what arguments a function needs, what it needs to return back to the calling location, etc. can certainly help with the "How do I solve a problem" type stuff.


      • by Rasperin ( 1034758 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @01:19PM (#50034257)
        This is exactly what I was thinking, the best way I've found to help jr programmers is a kinda pair programming where I explain things while they watch. When I run into a fork, I talk out loud about which route (and obviously take any input if offered, which rarely is, sometimes I push them to think about a complex question too but the idea is to keep mobility). And then assign them the other half of the day with there own tasks.

        With modern languages there are just so many "you should use this over that" and pitfalls that you can run into sometimes having the fish can be more helpful. (I really want to explain why this metaphor works so please bear (pun caught, now intended) with me) You need energy to fish, also you have to learn how to clean and cook the fish which is best done by the experienced individual the first couple of times so you don't die or have the shits from a simple mistake.

        Anyways, food for though. :D
      • This type of thinking is exactly the same as the folks pushing the "everyone can/should learn how to program" idiocy.
        Programming is not easy. Watching a video of someone coding some random thing will not make it easier. Ease comes with practice and reading a *lot* of code, both good and bad.

        Do you honestly think it is possible to show anything but the most facile examples in a video that someone will actually be able to follow?

        • Watching somebody type is worthless.

          Watching somebody's thought process as they write code is maybe helpful, maybe worthless.

          Watching somebody code while they natter about random things could be entertaining, depending on how entertaining the coder is.

          Watching somebody debug their code is by far the best way to learn advanced debugging techniques that I've ever seen. That goes way beyond facile examples.

          I haven't watched any of these streams. I don't know what they do. But I can't discard it as idiocy wi

        • by narcc ( 412956 )

          This type of thinking is exactly the same as the folks pushing the "everyone can/should learn how to program" idiocy.
          Programming is not easy.

          Don't be silly. Programming is ridiculously easy. So easy, in fact, that young children can, and often do, teach themselves. The bulk of programmers here taught themselves -- a good many of those when they were less than 10 years old.

          Anyone can do it. It does not take a special mind. Looking at studies done in the 80's, there's evidence that programming can be successfully introduced early in elementary school. You'll find that there isn't any evidence for the absurd belief that programming is limited

          • First of all: Bullshit....

            I have tried to help numerous people who just don't "get it", and have reached the conclusion that they never will.
            That doesn't mean that they're incapable of it. It just shows that it's more difficult than they'd like and they don't wish to expend the necessary effort on it-- and they often give up before joining the ranks of us that "get it".
            Yes, anyone can learn how to do basic things with programming. But thinking about complex systems it not something that is easy to do for an

          • You can speak English since you were very young (I presume). In fact, you started speaking English without studying anything (I presume again). By following your reasoning, English is very easy and nobody should be proud of how much English they know

            Yeah, that makes lots of sense.
          • Programming is easy. Developing large, reliable applications that are easy to use, understand, modify, and extend is difficult. Otherwise, programmers would not be making the significant salaries they get, and there would not be so many failed applications.
        • Why not ?

          They do it already in other fields pretty well.

          3D content creation for example. Loads and LOADS of videos showing folks creating 3D models and animation from scratch along with commentary of not only what they're doing but why they're doing it this way. Entire business models are built around this ( Digital Tutors and Gnomon Workshop come to mind ) and they seem to be doing rather well.

          Another would be any of the numerous Network Administration training sites out there. ( Like CBT Nuggets for ex

      • I haven't seen much problem solving and thought process on the few I watched. It was mostly "google: how to get current mouse position in Unity"
        • In my normal programming work (as said in other comment, while streaming, I am just doing easy-to-me developments; mainly because I am new to live coding and don't like too much talking to camera), I do use Google (or StackOverflow or Dot Net Perls or MSDN or equivalent sites) a lot; and I recommend to any programmer to rely on such a proceeding as much as required, rather than memorising anything. Why not using a computer for storing information (exact commands in the given language) and a programmer for c
          • After having read some comments in other parts of this post, I just want to clarify that I have a VERY DEMANDING JOB, where I create different type of implementations on a regular basis. I am an experienced programmer who can face virtually any problem and, even though, I do think that perfectly knowing all the required commands does not represent a relevant knowledge. On the other hand, knowing the set of commands which delivers the best answer to a specific problem is certainly important.

            For example: yo
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:13PM (#50033729) Homepage

      As the OP said - if you want to learn to code then review and practice. Watching is pointless.

      • I can see "watching coding" when it comes to instructional videos. I've had good experiences with some of those. However, watching someone code as a form of entertainment? I love to code but I'd be bored if I had to watch someone else code.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hsa ( 598343 )
      I have been coding commercial software since 2000. I worked as a teaching assistant for an introductory programming course in one of the top universities in my country.

      I think these videos are awesome. One 2 hour video should be mandatory part of high school IT classes.

      Every year, we used to get 2-5 people in our 700-800 people course, who do not belong. They are definately not becoming coders, they are in pain and shouting "IS THIS IT? IS THIS WHAT I HAVE CHOSEN? WHAT IS THIS SH*T?". Then they drop out or
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I've seen/witnessed 70% washout rates in a State College. It can be worse than Thunderdome, at least there 2 men enter and 1 leaves. This for for command line which only has a very basic level of coding/scripting incorporated within it.

        Though to be fair the instructor was very hard on everyone, but anyone I know who survived has had 0 problems advancing their careers after college. It's also the prime location I went to when searching for interns or new part time help.

        Apparently we're on opposite ends of

      • Similar background, but since 1991, totally agree with your post, many of the older teenagers who want to "write games" are artists, not coders.
    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:23PM (#50033807)

      I don't know who does this, but I'm waiting for the market of "watching paint dry" to start picking up, then I'm buying a can of paint and charging $300 for an hour of viewing.

      • If you can stream it with entertaining commentary (like Mystery Science Theater 2000), then you can get viewers.
      • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:35PM (#50033923)

        It's nonsense. I do my coding in my head. You want to "watch me code", get an EEG or a CT scan.

        When I'm sitting at the keyboard, I'm not "coding", I'm typing. If I have coded correctly, then I'm typing fast. If I haven't, I either retire from the keyboard and revise my coding, sit and stare vacantly while I'm revising my coding, or cut-and-paste.

        Here's a clue, then. When I look my most "productive", I'm not. When I look the most busy then I'm not doing my most valuable work. In fact, like a lot of people, the really valuable work is done while I'm in the shower or in bed not-sleeping in the wee hours.

        And THAT, children, is why I get surly when you come and interrupt me while I'm "just sitting there". Because while it's irritating to be interrupted when I'm trying to get it all typed in, it's enraging to have someone push a cow in front of my train of thought.

        • I understand, I actually debugged an issue in my sleep three days ago. The solution came to me a few hours before my alarm went off, I opened my laptop, typed some stuff, problem solved. Back to blissful sleep.

          Exciting stuff.

        • From my short experience, the fact that I am really bad at talking to camera and by letting very clear that I am not a watcher (and that I might even be using the system almost against its true intention), I can say that nobody "code" as you describe it. Nobody starts to analyse a complex problems and thinks during hours about the best approach. I don't think that there are even people streaming "serious" work.

          In my case, for example, I am taking advantage from a code rewriting a had to do and I am doing
          • Side Comment: why slashdot.org is the only site not allowing to edit your posts? I am so used to quickly click on "submit" and to perform all the corrections later via editions that I haven't still written a single post in slashdot.org without spelling/grammar errors!!
            • Side Comment: why slashdot.org is the only site not allowing to edit your posts?

              Errors are less of a problem than revisionist history.

              • I wasn't complaining (and surely not blaming anyone else than myself), just highlighting something certainly curious. As per my knowledge, this is the only social-based site having such a "peculiar feature".

                Well... it was also a kind of justification for all my errors (quite uncommon in my posts on other sites, where I usually perform various "correcting rounds").
                • by AdamHaun ( 43173 )

                  As per my knowledge, this is the only social-based site having such a "peculiar feature".

                  Slashdot has been around since 1997. The interface is much older than the ability to easily edit comments. Use Preview for proofreading.

                  • Sure. As said, I am not complaining at all. In fact, this "limitation" might even be seen as something positive; and the typical all-the-editions-you-want as an implicit promotion of somehow bad behaviours (like mine of submitting before proofreading the text properly).

                    I am just highlighting my impressions. Slashdot might be old, but I have started using its commenting features just some weeks ago.
        • Hopefully these streamers comment what they are doing and why they are doing it.
          I doubt anyone would watch a stream of text appearing on a screen with no comment?

          For someone as myself, who works on projects for smaller clients a lot, often alone, that would be an interesting thing. There are a lot of little things you can pick up from others, but you wouldn't think of them by yourself. Watching this a bit may lead to some good insights.

        • Agree. I thought I might just be a shitty coder (still am really). I do most of my heavy-lifting/algorithmic stuff with paper and pen. I can tell when I am probably writing something inefficiently when I am typing uninterrupted for a long period of time.

          • Actually, (getoffmylawn) when I started, in school, we had like 1 keypunch and dozens of students. So you'd better have your text in order before you sat down. First job I had a lot of old-timers never typed anything at all. They wrote it out on coding pads, sent it to Data Entry, and they returned a source deck.

            There are times when I think one of the biggest mistakes ever made was in giving programmers direct code entry. You can waste so much typing mindlessly when you should be thinking.

            But times have mov

        • +1

          I run through nearly every part of a system in my head before I even think about touching a keyboard. I think about it at the highest levels, then hone in on areas I know will be difficult or enforce some particular constraint on the system. When I think I have a good understanding of what I'm about to build, the technology I need to use, and constraints - then I sit at a PC and start to...study all that shit in detail. I make sure I know the algorithms and techniques I'm looking to use are appropriate.


        • I spent 4 weeks thinking, and then I coded 22,000 lines of C++ in about two weeks.

          Ended up in wrist braces.

          The code was worth it.

        • A wise and insightful set of observations. I offer that praise, of course, only because the Reindeer reflects my own experience in working with that odd codebase known as "English." I once encountered a question at a LinkedIn group I follow, which asked: "How do you prefer to write -- with pen and paper or computer?" And my answer was, "neither." I further explained that a typical 1,500 word piece gets "written" when I'm out walking, sitting in meditation, or hitting golf balls at the driving range. Very of

      • I don't know who does this, but I'm waiting for the market of "watching paint dry" to start picking up, then I'm buying a can of paint and charging $300 for an hour of viewing.

        Well, clearly, this is the introductory offer, right? I wouldn't expect such a good deal once this thing goes viral..

      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        That market was saturated years and years ago [watching-paint-dry.com].

        What you want is to start a new trend towards "retro, artisanal, locally sourced, eight-bit drying paint".

    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:37PM (#50033937)
      Are you new to coding? Have you ever wanted to write a program or app, but didn't know where to begin? You can read books about programming, but that only takes you so far. Sometimes, you just want to see how other (successful) people do it.

      Every single book I have read about C++ programming tells you how the language works, but suspiciously says something to the effect of "Using your compiler is beyond the scope of this book".


      You can learn how to program, but you will never see the rewards of your effort because you don't know what linking/compiling is or what object/executable code is.
      • The way I started, was I read books from people who were successful. Then messed around with their code. Then realized I wanted a new feature and added my own code, and then it was broken and I read more, etc.

        I cannot imagine how watching someone type for hours is instructional, you could get well in to a book by that point.

        • I cannot imagine how watching someone type for hours is instructional, you could get well in to a book by that point.

          I cannot imagine how just sitting reading a book is instructional. I would rather see someone do it. Look at the proliferation of youtube videos on how to do basic stuff like change your oil. Some people are visual learners. Those people used to go into trades where as book learners went to college.

          A civil engineer could tell you all the theory behind pipe flow but I want a plumber plumbing my house. Someone that learned through hands on visual training.

          Programming and coding is on its way to being a trade

      • I kind of agree on this. Watching others code can really help you pick up on things you can't get from a book. For instance, VS.Net has a really nice feature where you can Type Ctrl+?, which focuses on the search field. Then you type ">of" followed by a file name. You can do this to open files and edit them. It also has autocomplete so you can find your files faster. I use this functionality for switching back and forth between files all the time. It's often a lot faster than going to the mouse to switc

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a lot more to coding than the code itself. Watching someone's IDE and command line tricks, how they navigate code to modify it, how they read code, etc.

      One of the things that make pair coding so successful is being able to watch someone else code, to notice all the things they do that they never thought to tell anyone else about. This is just an extension of that.

    • Oh get off your high horse already with your myopic POV.

      A bunch of us game devs "stream" coding. Some on Twitch others on YouTube.

      The real-time nature of Twitch means people can ask questions and get insight into why the coder is doing it _that_ way instead of _this_ way.

      If you want to see how "professionals" solve problems it can be worth while. For experienced developers I agree it is probably a waste of time, but for inexperienced developers you can learning coding style, naming conventions, organizati

      • I frequently use StackOverflow. You're not exactly comparing apples to apples.

        SO is inherently nonlinear. People can ask problems when they encounter them (or, better, just search for others that have asked the same questions). You'll find people get a much greater benefit from learning something when they want to know the answer rather than when they just happened to stumble upon some bit of knowledge. Problem-solving is not a skill you learn by watching --you learn it by doing-- and it's problem-solving t

    • I haven't watched the video but I would imagine it's like when a film-maker tells the actors to ad lib.

      They get really loud and say "Fuck!" a lot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not necessarily to learn something, but just to watch how a programmer works. It is like those tv-shows that mount a camera on a train and just live stream the images without editing. It is called 'Slow TV', and there is a Ted talk about it: Slow TV [ted.com] if you want to see how popular these kind of shows are. I've personally watched a train voyage for hours, while I was recovering from the flue. Nothing happens, it just goes on and on, but it forces you to use your own imagination, instead of digesting the

    • People that learn by watching?

      Some people learn by doing, some people learn by watching, some people learn by reading.

      Reading and doing have been covered for a while but.

      My coding technique is closer to the shotgun approach where I throw stuff at the wall, see what sticks, peel it off and throw it at more walls. It's hacky but it's how I code. When something is ready for final public release is when it gets documentation and proper indentation.

      Just reviewing someone's final proper code won't help me figure

    • I'm not going to knock it till I try it. I have watched people at work before and learned little things.
    • I do. It is the equivalent of reading a book on a subject. You see how other people think and categorise their code, hopefully inspiring or improving your own. Even if you don't agree with the way they are doing it, you broaden your spectrum on how things should not be done or how they can be done better. I've been a programmer for 24 years (12 of those as a professional) and I love watching people program as an inspiration. Watching notch code a doom engine from scratch in WebGL (Dart?) after constantly cr
    • Reviewing completed code doesn't tell you anything about the process of actually constructing it.

      I recently did a presentation of a new framework at work. I decided to do it as a live-coding exercise. Everyone agreed it was far more engaging and illustrative than sharing a bunch of static code for them to look over. Seeing the end product is entirely different than seeing it built step by step.

      • Building the end product is entirely different than seeing it built step by step.

        Fixed that for you.

        • Thanks, captain obvious. That doesn't invalidate what I said.

          Of course practice is invaluable. Learning by doing is still the best way.

          But a combination of instruction and practical is better than either alone. Your original post is nothing more than "REAL men teach themselves".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Soon you'll be able to pay to view people using the toilet.

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @11:58AM (#50033571)

    >> We have some different ideas around monetisation in the pipeline, but for now we are just focussed on building a community around live education

    Translation: we are going to be ad-free to grab as many users as possible until we finalize the sale of the company to an appropriate advertiser. (That's pretty much how these start-ups work.)

    • Bait and charge.
    • Yup, if we showed you the level of abuse we'll be doing you'd get scared off and not use our service, and our IPO could be in jeopardy.

      For now they're trying to pretend they won't start acting like assholes as soon as they can.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    an thing.....AN thing....AN THING

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now you can watch some fat ass eating Cheetos and drinking Mt. Dew with some occasional key punching!

    Chrunch, chrunch, chrunch, slurp, nom, nom, nom,"See this is how you create a C# class", BELCH. Chrunch, chrunch, "when you look at this browser tab, it...oops", (closes pron tab), " we'll edit that out right?", chrunch, chrunch, "see how this is so much better than Java or Objective C!", FART.

  • People who enjoy watching paint dry might be interested in this.
  • I recently had my first experience with a form of pair-coding, with another engineer looking over my shoulder while I explained an API he would be working with. It was unnerving at first but after a while I almost found a flow. I gained something by using my left brain to verbalize what I was doing with the very right-brain task of visualizing algorithms and data structures. I will probably be repeating this.

  • by mtippett ( 110279 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:30PM (#50033865) Homepage

    As a viewer, it's about learning technique and thought processes. Identifying issues, attempting a particular thought process, only those that provide a strong narrative to the work they are doing will be likely "stars". Watching how good programmers (assumption) deal with their environment and the typical problems they face. Seeing how people top down or bottom up write code is very interesting (within limits).

    As a broadcasting coder, it takes a fair amount of personal confidence to do it, particular in this field. Having to verbalize what you are thinking and how you are considering the problems in front of you is actually quite challenging. Those that do well in the broadcasting scene will most likely be strong professionally as well.

    That said, I personally don't understand the fandom about broadcast games to the level that it has taken. I get the benefits, but I don't get the market.

    • Tho i haven't (yet) watched, I can see two things I'd get out of it 1) I've been doing AngularJS for a while so I know the syntax very well, but it'd be useful to see how someone might use it in a more productive manner; i.e. i start with services and tests, maybe someone else writes controllers and dummy views first. If there was another Angular person in my office maybe I'd get some of that at work, otherwise I'm must out in the woods by myself. 2) I've got to pick up Swift fairly quickly; I've signed
      • I agree fully. Having tried to get my mind around d3.js, there are *a lot* of leaps of understanding in coming to up to speed. Watching someone who provides a narrative how they get from a to d by verbalizing b and c will help immensely. The docs really go just from a to g.

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:32PM (#50033891)
    Arrive at office. Read email. Get coffee. Figure out what I need to code today. Start a for loop. Change CDs. More coffee. Flesh out for loop. Look up String API, find a method better than what I was after. Scrap everything. Lunchtime!

    Collaborate with a colleague. Get a Mountain Dew. Change CDs. Write glue code to make shiney new String API do what's required. Waste an hour explaining something basic to some marketing dude in a different state. Get code to compile. Scratch butt. Test/debug. Change CDs. Check working code into git. Figure out what needs to be coded next. Manager enters office, informs me requirements have changed and what I just checked into git is now wrong. Read /.. Go home.
  • Just wait until I launch my "live streaming people entering usernames and passwords" site launches!

  • There will be a channel to watch people watching other people code. I mean, just look at them, the way they watch the coder with such intensity!
  • by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:48PM (#50034031)
    I've actually done something similar to this in the workplace before and found it to be very effective. Basically I scheduled a meeting for the last hour or so of the workday Friday and invited the other developers to come jump on with me. I shared my screen, we had an open mic, but basically I talked through what I was doing and they had a chance to see how my thought process works and also to make suggestions or ask questions. It turned out to be a good chance for the more junior folks to learn from me and some of the other experienced developers and at the same time it made us think about what we were doing at a deeper level, which is something you can get complacent in after you've been doing it a while.

    This is something I did for several weeks in a row, but the last time was at least two years ago -- and yet as recently as last month I've had some of the folks that participated bring it up and comment how much they learned from it. If you think about it, it's basically pair programming on steroids.
    • If you think about it, it's basically pair programming on steroids.

      You reminded me of the last time I did pair programming. It was in college, and I recall thinking, "This is an awesome way to code!"

      I can see it becoming tedious when it's forced upon you all the time; but I remember liking the second pair of eyes to notice typos and other bugs, and having a second brain to double check the logic of what I was doing.

  • I had a college roommate who kept his keyboard on the floor and typed out term papers with his long toes.
  • Set up a screen share and let a few hundred people kibitz while you're trying to work. Imagine all the helpful advice you would get.
  • "Work is fascinating; I could watch it all day." Or the Kyle Kinane bit about Ice Road Truckers.
  • If you are broadcasting your code live to millions (or hundreds) of people, can you still claim copyright? If you performed it in public it would seem anyone could use it.

    I would assume you wouldn't use this service to flesh out your world changing video encryption code (you know, that 'middle out' idea you had)...
    • publish == broadcast. In the USA publishing a work grants you copyright. You have copyright over what you publish on Twitch (assuming it not derivative work) Everything written on the internet is copyrighted. Including this comment. Fair Use exemptions and the terms of use you agreed to when you clicked Submit is why you have a license to read comments. Terms of use is why you can view content on Twitch. But the copyright still exists. You can't take someone Twitch content and then sell it.
  • Start one of the Editor only streams on one of your monitors in full screen where the boss can see. Surf Slashdot on the other.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.