Programming is so important that I need it in 3 days
Peter Norvig considers why there are so many books on “Learning programming in 3 days” (or 21 days, or some other small number of days). He does a good job of explaining why we should be thinking in terms of years, not days. I am most interested in his analysis of why people want to learn programming so quickly. Is it because programming should be that easy? Or is it that it’s so valuable that people want the skill immediately?
But if it is so valuable, why do they expect that skill in so little time? Maybe it’s because they understand it so little. I’ll bet that 90% of all people have no idea at all of what it means to program a computer. Maybe they expect it to be a subset of natural communication–since they’re already good at talking with people, so it should be like talking to people but only using a small subset of particularly geeky words.
Norvig is right — there’s something deep and interesting in why there are so many books about learning programming so quickly.
The conclusion is that either people are in a big rush to learn about computers, or that computers are somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else. There are no books on how to learn Beethoven, or Quantum Physics, or even Dog Grooming in a few days. Felleisen et al. give a nod to this trend in their book How to Design Programs, when they say “Bad programming is easy. Idiots can learn it in 21 days, even if they are dummies.