Coding Horror: Please don’t learn to code

To those who argue programming is an essential skill we should be teaching our children, right up there with reading, writing, and arithmetic: can you explain to me how Michael Bloomberg would be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder? It is obvious to me how being a skilled reader, a skilled writer, and at least high school level math are fundamental to performing the job of a politician. Or at any job, for that matter. But understanding variables and functions, pointers and recursion? I can’t see it.

An interesting blog post by’s Jeff Atwood on why not everyone should learn to code. I generally agree with the points he makes (don’t learn to code for the sake of it, and don’t do it for the “fat paychecks”), but I also believe that even just the simplest attempts to learn how to code will give people insights into how computers work. This, in turn, will take away some of the myths surrounding computers (“don’t touch that! It will break!”) and maybe lead to a better understanding of what’s going on inside those boxes – we need not only more good programmers, but also digital literacy of the wider public!

Read the complete post on

Semi-productive procrastination: The LaTeX motivator.


Two things that might be relevant for understanding what I did here:

  1. I’ve recently started learning Python and I love it, thus try to write as much code as possible in Python.
  2. I’ve also recently started writing my thesis, and I try to write as much as possible.

Voila, the “LaTeX motivator” script is born (based on a version by my supervisor… but mine has special effects). Download it off github, copy the scripts (.py plus the .pl wordcount script) into the directory with your tex files, run, select your favourite motivating animal, and off you go. Now all you have to do is write a thesis. Easy!

Update: It seems that the stats.csv output is a bit broken. Will fix once I’ve written enough to make the dino happy.

JavaScript for Cats

We all know the internet was invented for the sole purpose of sharing funny images and videos of cats, right? So it’s about time our furry friends (and perhaps their humans, too) learn a little bit about coding. JavaScript for Cats introduces the basic concepts of JavaScript with some simple examples and good explanations. And cat jokes, of course.

It’s easy to code along to the tutorial, as it simply use the Google Chrome browser’s JavaScript console. The site is in its early stages and currently contains only the very basics of JS, but it looks very promising, and there are a few links to other great JS resources at the bottom.

Go to “JavaScript for Cats”

The Semantic Web Layer Cake

I just came across this 3-dimensional representation of the Semantic Web Layer Stack – or cake-  handcrafted by Benjamin Nowack. The author also links to Jim Hendler’s talk on the Semantic Web Layercake (from 2009), possible the world’s first Semantic Web talk completely in rhyme. Jim’s talk gives a good overview of the evolution of the Semantic Web and how an incredible number of icing, sprinkles and candles was added to the layercake over the years.


The complexity of the stack – both the ‘simplified’ version and the more elaborate one in Jim’s talk – makes me wonder how usable the Semantic Web approach really is. Will there be a point where the technologies converge, some die, others emerge as winners? Or will we live happily with a big messy cake that’s got a little something for everyone?