Posted on June 5, 2012 by

May Novapy Meetup

We had three great speakers this month at the Novapy meetup group. Brendan Mannix(@b_mannix) gave a great overview of how to use Virtualenv and create environments across multiple machines. Kurt Yoder introduced everyone to Pyglet. He shared why he chose that framework and got pretty gritty with some OpenGL details while discussing the functionality that Pyglet has. Finally, Anthony DeBarros shared a great story about converting SQL output to JSON in order to populate graphs for a story he covered. This let him avoid the undoubtedly lengthy red tape involved in getting the IT department involved in creating custom web hooks into the database.

I was particularly interested in Anthony’s talk as he is not a programmer, but a journalist. This changes everything. I’ve always liked programming but I see it as something that I just kinda do all day, rather than a tool to solve a problem. Today programming isn’t some dark art requiring years of dedication. Its getting pretty easy to get started. This means you don’t have to be a “programmer” anymore, you can just be a person trying to solve a problem.

Somewhat recently, Jeff Atwood wrote Please Don’t Learn to Code and it drove everyone nuts. Now in principle I totally agree with Jeff. Learning to code really is a pain in the ass and you only approach one possible solution to your problem(which is writing a program; now you have two problems). I think that a person looking for a tool to solve problems would be much better off taking an English course, or even just going to some creative writing workshops as opposed to learning to program. Problem solving starts with effective communication and ends with implementation. Without effective communication, you are missing the foundations required to solve a problem in code. That’s why I feel learning to code is more about a journey rather than any particular destination (this is why deadlines are really just harshly worded suggestions and rightly ignored). All in all though, I think Jeff’s post was geared mainly towards would-be entrepreneurs who decide that they should learn to code in order to start a business. I think they should focus on defining a problem instead.

So I really liked to see Anthony use what he knows to solve a real problem in his daily life, and then to tell us about how he did it. I think this is a great story about how we, as a society, can move past big O and memory leaks and garbage collection and start solving real world problems rather than grokking  computational theory before we can control computers.