Learning to code for Valentine’s Day: Same problems as everyone else.

February 14, 2012 at 8:15 am 2 comments

Here’s a cute story: Girlfriend of the founder of the website Instagram learns to program in Python in order to give her Valentine a new web tool to work with Instagram.  From a computing education perspective, it wasn’t so sweet. The complexity of learning computing got in her way and ruined her secret.  It’s just too darn hard.

And yes she also had to learn Photoshop to come up with the the three different designs, “It’s almost harder than Python,” she told me.

While the service ended up looking amazing, her plan to keep it a secret from Krieger didn’t work, mainly because of her frustration with working out bugs, “Something would take me an hour and a half and I knew that ten feet away is someone who could fix the same bug in ten seconds.” So she spilled the beans.

via Instagram Founder’s Girlfriend Learns How To Code For V-Day, Builds Lovestagram | TechCrunch.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doug Blank  |  February 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

    “After she learned Python, Trigger then had to complete a Django tutorial in order to bring the Python online — she used Heroku to push stuff to a webserver.”

    She didn’t just try to “learn to code”… she tried to build a rocket ship! Seriously, this project has just about everything in it: client/server, database design, web design, UI, image creation…

    This isn’t the “same problem as everyone else”… few people would try to do something so complex. Should it be easier for someone with no experience to be able to do? I don’t know. Should it be easier for someone without a Physics background to send a rocket into space?

    We need to do a better job of setting expectations, and help people learn what is hard in computing. And it is hard because it involves a variety of points of knowledge, not because someone made some tool unnecessarily obtuse.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  February 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

      I think the problem I quoted sounds like “same as everyone else” — that she hit some behavior that she didn’t understand, perhaps wasn’t well-documented, and she found it easier to ask someone than write the code to try it out and figure out the behavior. That’s a common problem in CS education.

      I agree that she was doing something complex, and I strongly agree that the real problem is setting expectations. She was like “everyone else” in thinking that a Web app should be something easy to do. And maybe it should be, but it isn’t, and that the actual amount of work involved isn’t being explained well. In “The Social Network,” didn’t Zuckerberg kick out the version of Facebook in just a few hours? That’s all it takes, right? The number of hours spent developing the ability to do something in just a few hours is invisible.

      On the other hand, nobody expects to make a rocket ship over night. Maybe we should make web programming more like building a rocket ship, so that the expectations are reasonably conveyed…


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