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Tag: there are 10 kinds of people

Throws LacunaException

Posted on January 28, 2012 in Computrons Culture

I found this old Jeff Atwood post (yes, it’s because it was linked from so-called “Hacker News,” okay?) about the apparent intractability of teaching programming, based on an academic paper. The upshot is that 1) some (and perhaps a majority of) people are simply incapable of coming to grips with programming and 2) these people seem to derive almost no benefit of any kind from programming coursework.

An example of a question that can be used to determine if someone will get anything out of studying program is presented:

Read the following statements and tick the box next to the correct answer.

int a = 10; int b = 20; a = b;

The new values of a and b are:

  • [ ] a = 20 b = 0
  • [ ] a = 20 b = 20
  • [ ] a = 0 b = 10
  • [ ] a = 10 b = 10
  • [ ] a = 30 b = 20
  • [ ] a = 30 b = 0
  • [ ] a = 10 b = 30
  • [ ] a = 0 b = 30
  • [ ] a = 10 b = 20
  • [ ] a = 20 b = 10

So people throw out a whole lot of explanations for this in comments and inevitably devolves into “teachers suck” because everyone on the internet is such a fucking precious snowflake, but I’m not going to get sidetracked by that, because then I’ll just get depressed and never get to the point.

Which is: the reason this information confuses people is that they think that variable assignment is confusing because it’s a mathematical abstraction, but this isn’t true. Variable assignment, and a number of similar concepts that you need to wrap your head around in programming are confusing because they are linguistic abstractions, and linguistic prejudices are confusing and difficult to override (or, as is apparent here, even identify) because they develop than people tend to think they would, and so much work goes into preserving them. Understanding computers requires one to assume intuitively (although not consciously) that meaning is pretty arbitrary, which is arguably the single most important step to understanding (again, often in a pre/non/sub-conscious way) how to interact with the rules whereby meaning is generated.


Posted on January 2, 2012 in Computrons Images

So I decided that my existing side-projects were all too mercenary and that I needed to do something goofy. The goofy thing I decided to do centers around generating random text using Markov Chains. I’m learning Javscript as I go, and when I was ready to have it generate text from the probability table I wasn’t somewhere where I could connect to the internet, so I didn’t know how to generate random numbers. Just to test the generator I arbitrarily set it to retrieve the first word from the list of possible words. For various implementation reasons, this will give you the input text, unless certain kinds of repetition occurs.

As an input text, I used the last two paragraphs here, because I thought it would be funny, and a little meta. After all this explanation, this will probably be a little disappointing, but the point is I got this:


and I thought it was totally hilarious.

Theme-Monkeying and Amateurism

Posted on November 29, 2010 in Computrons Culture

Okay, so things look normal again. There were a bunch of non-cosmetic changes which were good in that they made things cleaner (I think I managed to cut six or seven divs without changing how anything looks, which ought to tell you a lot), but also kind of stupid inasmuch as many changes were to expose functionality that I have no intention of using, and which very few people would miss if it weren’t there.

The reason for this latter aspect of the change was that I thought it might be fun to bundle this theme and make it available at the WordPress theme repository. I don’t want to be a dick about this, but the experience was sort of disheartening. So I’m not a PHP dev, but the whole point of frameworks like WordPress is that you shouldn’t fucking have to be in order to participate. Really, a unique stylesheet should be all a submitter has to present in order to get a theme accepted, but this is not the case. In fact, there are default behaviors in WordPress that mean a theme must be submitted with a custom functions.php file. Shit like this is basically what’s killing the internet. People are moving to siloed, closed, tightly-controlled places like Facebook because the effort required to maintain your own stuff is too great for most people.

When Geocities limped off into the sunset last year, responses tended to be pretty glib. By this point, we’re all expected to love the shiny, AJAXy feel of web 2.0, and people are already scrambling to find excuses to call their bullshit shovelware web 3.0 (it uses Ruby to generate the annoying Javascript! It’s brand new!) We love it so much that we kvetch about how ugly Craig’s List is, and how it needs a makeover. So when you go to make your own damn site, you know nobody will be interested unless you’re willing to spend hours making it go, or you just throw up your hands and put it on Facebook (or similar) and have done.

El Reg recently had an article highlighting Tim Berners-Lee (OBE)’s complaints about Facbook/iTunes and similar’s threats to the “universality” of the web. Berners-Lee, who is about as technical as a person can be, doesn’t seem to understand that people flee to places like Facebook in large part because putting your stuff up has become so intimidating. You can’t just upload your marginally-formatted text documents like you did in the olden days. You’ve got to get all that shit right.

So yeah, it’s kind of too bad that the internet has lost the taste for amateurism that allowed a thousand Timecubes to bloom, and it’s even worse that we didn’t get anything worthwhile for it. Instead, we get a bunch of “services” that duplicate existing functionality under kind of retarded terms. Like real world democracy, I guess it was good while it lasted.


Oh, Thanks

Posted on February 19, 2010 in Computrons

From the Intel IA-32 function reference:

The pseudo-code uses a notation similar to the Algol or Pascal language.

Hey, good choice, guys.