Tangential anti-educationist rant (was: what is easier to learn first?...)

Dennis E. Hamilton infonuovo at email.com
Wed Mar 22 21:30:08 CET 2000

Here's my perspective on your questions:

1. Conversion to the True Faith.  Don't do that.  If this is a religious
effort, it will have little value.  In the United States, I use the
Waldenbooks Test (when in Italia, the Mondedori test).  From no Python books
in main bookstores, and a rare occurrence in specialist stores, there are
now 4-6 different titles in my favorite Barnes & Noble and Borders stores.
This is an improvement, and still pretty spotty.  In my favorite store here
(where I found the Unicode 3.0 book yesterday), there is a complete 7-row
shelf of titles on Visual Basic and another one for C/C++, for example.
Python is beginning to erode the lower right corner of the Visual Basic
shelf.  Python is receiving more attention, but it is in a game with lots of
contenders, and certainly more-established alternatives.

2. Wide Acceptance.  I don't know if the circumstances are comparable today,
but an important period in the establishment of Basic in the PC world was
simplicity and ubiquitous support.  It was still painful.  But a key element
of Basic (in the old TRS-80, Altair, Atari, Apple IIe, IBM PC, CP/M-80,
Microsoft QBasic days) was that there were very simple ways to begin
operating and exploring.  Basic was not addressed to people who were already
programmers and could appreciate (or impugn) its utility.  I would say that
the thing to do is participate in CP4E and see what it takes to make
programming truly accessible without *requiring* that people program.  When
Python is everywhere, the issue of adoption will disappear.  The challenge
will be to equip people to avoid inappropriate adoption because it is the
familiar tool.  Maybe that won't be a concern in the future.  Maybe it is
the problem we want to have.
	The second thing is to have something like certification available in
mastery of Python in an application setting.  But that has to do with the
professionalization of the acceptance of Python.  Is this part of your
agenda, or would you be happy if a Python descendent were simply ubiquitous
and at hand?  I can sympathize with managers who are concerned about
maintenance, ability to replace key people who have used marginally-known
tools, etc.  Without professional adoption, it will be difficult to have it
be widely-accepted in production settings.  There will be acceptance, it
just won't be commonplace.  And that takes time.  Not as long as it took the
US automobile infrastructure to go from drum brakes and unbelted tires to
front disc brakes and radial tires, but a while.  Watching the growth and
explosion of Java books and its apparent leveling off over the last few
years is an useful measure.

3. Freeing People from Other Tools.  One of the seven deadly signs of
testosterone poisoning is knowing that the world needs to be saved and I
must be the one to do it.  I suggest that agenda will not be useful except
among techno-geeks who would rather be right than produce useful results.
(If that statement has you see red and want to grab your flame thrower, yes
I am talking about you.  Personally.  Me too.  Deal with it.)  Leave 'em
alone.  Keep working on having Python be more useful and productive.  Keep
working on the easy ability that Python provides for sharing snippets,
solutions, and also scaling to useful, modular projects.  Do the work.
Don't get lost worrying about the one-true-tool that is
the-only-right-tool-for-everyone.  Get results.  Be accepting of the benefit
that people gain from having existing craft that works for them.  Learn from

4. Have fun.  For some of us, Python is a cool language and it provides a
great playpen for ideas and projects.  It's not Lisp.  It's not C++.  It's
not Basic.
	In today's world, most people approach a computer because of something that
is important to them.  Learning to program in order to accomplish their
purpose is usually not the first, second, or even third thing that people
want to do.  Other people like to explore new technologies and computers as
artifacts interesting for themselves.  There are lots of ways to come at
that.  I think CP4E is a valuable way to make comprehension and mastery of
the technology more accessible.  I don't care if Perl and Basic and Fortran
and Cobol are still around at the turn of the next century.  I'm not worried
about it either.

-- Dennis

Dennis E. Hamilton
mailto:infonuovo at email.com
tel. +1-206-779-9430 (gsm)
fax. +1-425-793-0283

-----Original Message-----
From: python-list-admin at python.org
[mailto:python-list-admin at python.org]On Behalf Of Alessandro Bottoni
Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 02:04
To: 'python-list at python.org'
Subject: RE: Tangential anti-educationist rant (was: what is easier to
learn first?...)

[ ... ]

This topic could opens up three interesting discussion threads:
1) How can we present Python to our managers and get them converted to the
true Faith?
2) How can we get Python well-known and widely accepted, like Basic?
Do there is a way to have Python mentioned in the primary school books, like
it *does" happen here for Basic?
3) How can we free people from Basic and Perl? Electrochock? Exorcism?
Re-educational Gulags? Mind erasing/rewriting a la "Total recall"?

Alessandro Bottoni (Alessandro.Bottoni at Think3.com)
Web Programmer @ Think3 inc. (www.think3.com)
I do not speak for think3 and they return the favour

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