I can post some of the notes I took on the course if anyone is genuinely curious. The key premise of the course is that the brute force approach people usually take to learning is highly inefficient and ultimately ineffective (you'll forget).
EDIT: Notes https://pastebin.com/JNbGxvpQ
Someone else made the exact same remark about Cal Newport's book "Deep Work" earlier this week in another thread.
I find this to be true about a lot of books/courses/content of a "self-help" nature that are designed to be practical and applicable - the real helpful stuff boiled down to its essence could fit in a tri-fold pamphlet (or a 350-line pastebin), but you can't make money selling a tri-fold pamphlet, so the content gets augmented with tons of case studies and variations on variations on variations of the core ideas to justify 200 pages or a multi-week course.
I stopped buying these kinds of books. Every one turned into "thumb to about page 60 to skip the intro/life story/motivating metaphor, read a few pages, and skim the beginning of each chapter after that."
They are arguably gaining reputation from it.
However, I do not think it's true that they're making the same point over and over again. There is little repeated content, and what is repeated is done in a way that triggers recall.
It is a content-dense course, and to put this in the same bucket as an airport best-seller self-help book is deeply unfair.
Two books I've come across recently that do well to circumvent that problem: Sapiens by Yuval Harari and Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann. In both cases, you get a sense of the author distilling a lifetime's worth of knowledge and expertise into a form that seems hopelessly condensed, and in fact provokes you into further study. That's the mark of excellent exposition in my opinion.
Some older books which were content-rich had the feature of "descriptive" TOCs. They would not only have a clear headline, but also a sort of teaser description of what that chapter would tell you. So you could use that to get a high level understanding of what the book is about and what it would tell or teach you without even having to skim the actual content.
On the other side of the spectrum, many of those sparse business/popsci/etc books often have extremely cryptic TOCs. That's a good sign to just ignore that book.
I would submit that you may not be tuned into the value in them, if you think that. Maybe it's true of some, but most are just an acquired taste of the same sort as, say, the freer-form varieties of jazz, or classical music. It takes some work and some experience before you get what they're doing, before you understand their rhythms, learn to recognize when they're telling you to pay attention (and to what, which may not be obvious at first), when and how they're simply playing and what about the particular play they're engaging in makes it remarkable and worthwhile, and so on.
There's a sensitivity required for much (not all) of the body of classic literature that most people have to work to develop before they really get it, and lots of allusions that have the chicken/egg problem of requiring you already to be familiar with a lot of literature before they start to land with any frequency—again, same as some genres of music, like classical and jazz again, hip hop especially, others too, but usually not as much as those. Just because you can read doesn't mean you get literature, just like being able to see doesn't mean you get fine art, though in either case you might still enjoy at least some of it, and you might still develop strong opinions about the works you don't enjoy.
Movies and TV are similar. You're not born recognizing good film-making, understanding why it's good, how the way the camera moved in that shot actually contributed meaning rather than just being an artifact of the medium, how that shot was a reference to some DW Griffith movie and what purpose that might have, how that shot is weak and works against the tone or action of the scene in a way that makes it bad, and so on. Most people who watch and enjoy film never bother to develop an actual understanding of it, but that doesn't mean the things that go over their heads are bad.
That's just how all art is, really. Sure there's some posturing and BS mixed in with it all, but you in fact do have to put some serious hours and effort into arts to get the most out of them that you can—even just on a critical or enjoyment or character/intellect/empathy-building level, not even getting into making art—and very probably by the time you've done that a bunch of things that seemed like worthless overrated crap when you started won't seem that way anymore.
I'm of the opinion that if you have to be "trained" to find a work aesthetically appealing, it isn't inherently aesthetic. By analogy, some women find pretend rape and pain sexually gratifying, but I don't think anyone would argue those acts are inherently erotic.
Why or why Not?
Things like taste are subjective. I am thirty something and don't like the majority of coffee and I don't drink beer or wine at all. I had a Mexican Coke (so much better than normal coke) in preference to bitter coffee this morning. Does that make me childish?
I don't see how this is tenable, given how much aesthetic taste is learned regardless.
A lifetime's journey through arts, if done with any thought at all, is certainly a process of learning, of training. Efforts to defend old favorites in light of new knowledge will be attempted, sometimes succeed and allow new levels of appreciation of already-experienced work, sometimes fail when one discovers that the work lacks the substance on which to defend it. Maybe one continues to like the work anyway, but understands its limitations, its shortcomings. Learning, or training, happens, taste refines, horizons widen, new works become accessible, and the process repeats. Sensitivity to the arts develops, informs other areas of life. This doesn't even need to be the result of some kind of formal arts crit/appreciation training; informally and casually but thoughtfully engaging with art will allow (perhaps slower) progress of the same sort.
However, a similar journey taken thoughtlessly is trained just the same, but arrested. The hardened aesthetic taste of the latter is still "trained", just poorly, probably in part accidentally, and with training halted or slowed at some point, leaving the remaining guiding tastes and opinions unchallenged, surviving favorites unexamined and unexaminable as the approaches and knowledge required to even begin are undeveloped and unknown. Why did the author include this particular character? Dunno, never thought about it. Must have wanted to is all. Did you feel the prose itself change pace as the action waxed and waned? Sure didn't, this book sucks and was boring. headdesk. OK, how about Encyclopedia Brown? WTF no, I used to like that but now it's boring too, give me some good fiction for adults like Stephen King. Not Dan Brown though, he's terrible. Oh, and why is he terrible? Just boring is all, and I don't like the way he writes. Ah, OK.
So, trained, advanced to a point, but arrested. Which is fine, we all pick our battles, but I'm not going to take the latter subject's aesthetic judgement very seriously or consider that anything they fail to enjoy is necessarily aesthetically lacking.
I guess we can quibble over your use of "inherent" but I can't see that ending anywhere other than "nothing a 2-year-old doesn't find aesthetically pleasing is inherently aesthetic" which doesn't strike me as a productive direction to go, however valuable the beauty of nature and child-like wonder may be.
Point conceded on philosophy though. Some of the most painful reads I've managed to complete were philosophy—More's Utopia in particular nearly broke me, and definitely wasn't worth the effort.
It is true that no preferences exist free of introduced bias. My problem is mainly with things that people train themselves to like in order to appear "sophisticated". It's like an arms race, where people learn to like progressively less pleasant things in order to differentiate themselves. Everyone would be happier if we collectively said "screw sophistication" but nobody wants to be the first person to appear "boorish".
Ah, I misunderstood. I agree with you that redundancy is a common problem even in "good" works of non-fiction, though I think it's sometimes a sign that one has approached a work too late, not that the work is generally poor. I found the oft-recommended A Demon-Haunted World, for instance, to be an over-long, dull, repetitive, low-value work... but if I'd read it when I was 14? Who knows. Judging from others' testimonies I suspect I'd not have had the same complaints if I'd read it at a different time in my life.
Full-on self-help books—to include pop-business books—I would exempt from this cautious judgement, since useless padding is practically a codified, defining property of the genre.
> It is true that no preferences exist free of introduced bias. My problem is mainly with things that people train themselves to like in order to appear "sophisticated". It's like an arms race, where people learn to like progressively less pleasant things in order to differentiate themselves. Everyone would be happier if we collectively said "screw sophistication" but nobody wants to be the first person to appear "boorish".
Absolutely a problem. Humility, compassion, restraint, self-awareness, and plain speaking are everywhere in short supply.
[EDIT] looking back, I think I took your words "the 'classics' of western literature" more broadly than you intended them, i.e. to include fiction, verse, et c.
I know a retired journalist who worked for 20 something years. When started articles and film pieces used a strategy of jamming as much information in as densely as possible. Towards the end of his career the strategy was making the message as clear as possible so that a few facts could be conveyed accurately and meaningfully.
The average person just isn't ready for dense facts outside their expertise. Things like repetition, dilution and numerous examples make internalizing external information easier.
As a programmer you are probably already an expert at self directed learning and find that method simplistic. How would you want to approach a topic you were inexpert at not planning on pursuing professionally?
I was already pretty disillusioned with the self help crowd (even those who claimed a scientific background), but that was the nail in the coffin.
Probably the biggest testable assertion Cal makes is that focus is a muscle that can be strengthened and called on a schedule rather than a depletable, fickle resource. This is consistent with current research: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/03/psychologys-favorite-th...
This study has a been confound which is equivalent too "we asked a bunch of people if they thought they were strong. People who said yes we're stronger than people who said no! Therefore believing your strong is how to become stronger!"
I either missed it or didn't read properly, but I'm definitely going to unsubscribe.
p.s. I've read the book and felt that there is too much noise and anecdotes for actually useful content.
As an aside I always hear podcast adverts for https://www.blinkist.com/ which does audio/text summaries of non-fiction books, I haven't tried it yet but it might be worth checking out.
I do feel a lot of self help books are often hammering home a single point over 500 pages. By the end even the authors tend to seem bored of writing their chapters.
"Research by Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues has shown that thinking about the benefits of success can actually make you less likely to achieve your goals. They can reduce the amount of effort that you want to put into achieving your aims."
*Apologies if they are somewhat disorganized; they are generally broken down into the four discrete units that match the course. I wrote the notes with no intention that other eyes would see them :) feel free to reach out if you have any questions on them though
I've had good results with EdX, but my one positive experience with them ('Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life') is much more anecdotal than my multiple very poor experiences with Coursera. It's gotten me excited about the potential of online classes again, though!
It's been a gripe I've had with the Andrew Ng ML class: the audio is so bad that increasing the speed sometimes makes the lectures unintelligible. I appreciate lessons being offered for free but lecturers should really put more effort into the recording.
These are a hell of a lot more organized than my raw notes. Well done.
My wife and I have thought about the topic of learning probably more than the average person. She has been using Anki for years to help with foreign language study. She admits she didn't figure out how to study until college and most of it was self learned try-and-fail.
We see others in our family who spend hours blankly staring at materials, but still do poorly. I feel like learning should be taught in schools. Not sure if high school is too premature or if it should be a college freshman course.
Honestly, teachers are all professional educators. The basic principals should be taught throughout school--effectively part of it.
I remember talking with two students who took a class my friend was teaching at uni: it was critical thinking with several example of typical manipulation techniques, from marketing techniques to what cults use.
One student told me "It was interesting but a bit obvious. Anyone knows that, no?" and the other one said "I learned a lot of interesting things about source checking."
Also, as some others have noted, A Mind For Numbers is a much more expedient way of ingesting the course material for people who don't care for a visual-audial medium. It's the same exact material (often verbatim). The title is extremely misleading - there's almost nothing in it pertaining to math specifically.
And you then list 11 concepts, 5 of which I'd never heard of before I took this course, 3 more which I had not associated with aiding learning and the remaining 3 not being sufficient to help me learn more.
Your tone is unhelpful, elitist and snobby. This course is extremely useful to a lot of people - there is a reason it's popular, a reason why I recommend it to many others who seem to be struggling with studying, and a reason why this should not be the top-voted comment.
I'm sorry but I find HN utterly dismal when people say things like "Oh, Einstellung, Feynman and chunking? Sure everybody knows that, right?"
Go have a think about this: https://xkcd.com/1053/
And next time, try and be more encouraging of others, please.
>>> Yea didn't phrase that correctly. What I really meant was it's largely the standard stuff you come across if you spend a handful of hours browsing on the subject. But there is a convenience in having it all in one place and extra assurance in seeing it validated with actual research (Dr. Oakley is especially good at collating relevant academic papers/articles).
So what I meant is that the content mostly isn't earth-shattering for anyone who has already spent a decent bit of time trying to explore learning methods independently. I made the obviously poor assumption that the HN crowd would be disproportionately interested in that sort of stuff.
The course is longer than it needs to be in MY opinion. For instance, of the notes I posted, only about 10% was in bold in the native styling and that's the part I considered useful. I also noted elsewhere that the book is a better alternative.
People are always welcome to disagree (and many have).
I made a lot of notes when I went through it. Nearly all of it was new to me, and I've got a degree and also taught at undergraduate level!
Frankly, I'd never really thought about the process of learning, as I assumed what I'd been doing all my life was good enough - the course was enough for me to realise there were better ways to do it, and has helped me already.
That reminded me the book "Make It Stick". It's something that has change the way I approach learning.
I'm relearning to play basketball and found repetitive drills on basic skills to be the most helpful. I shoot dozens and dozens of mikan layups and it's really helped my pick up game.
I can remember my credit card numbers because I have chunked the digits into a whole. Or at least that's what I thought was meant by chunking.
Sorry, it's been a while since I watched it.
I think I recall that not too long ago, the most popular course on coursera was Ng's ML course. It is ironic that people are now more interested in teaching oneself how to learn versus a machine. This change could be attributed to other reasons like change in user demographics, or, market saturation, so that naturally popular courses will change once a large majority moves from one to the next. But I want to believe there is a more interesting phenomenon occurring where reading about abstract notions of learning causes a person to question how they themselves learn, and if the same abstract concepts apply. This is more a whimsical thought, than a serious one.
The second reason this is interesting is it could be surfacing a real issue with the way we have become accustomed to ingesting data. Could it be that we are becoming aware and fearful that the long term effects of suckling the internet's spout of instant gratification is causing serious harm to our ability to "actually learn".
Neither may be the case, but it seems like there is something interesting going on here.
Andrew Ng's Course is 11 weeks and it's about ~5 hours a week and on top of that you'd really want to be quite able at High School Maths and have some programming background.
I find having a text reference with dedicated time makes me learn more, so if you're interested in the course you'd probably also love the book.
It's geared more toward a younger crowd, but it's still pretty good, at least so far.
My pace on reading programming books for instance has gone down such that it takes about 2-3 times it would normally take to go through the material, however the difference is unmistakable with respect to how much I know the material. It took me 2-3 years of additional work experience to be at a comparable level in other topics.
When I come back to the former book I go through the chapter again creating Anki cards for anything notable. The sheer amount of material I notice I had completely forgotten on the second reading is astounding.
I go through the Anki cards daily, in the morning I cover the material created from two of my books. In the evening I go through the third book (which I deem more valuable in a deep sense/abstract).
I have yet to have solid a strategy on chunk-building (as the course pushes you to do), however I can still see some bigger units emerge with time.
It is the process of recall that makes things stick to memory as opposed to repeated memorization. Working on several subjects at a time spaces out sessions and prevents the illusion that you have access to the knowledge you worked for when in fact you don't.
I'd put more emphasis in topics like SRS, but maybe it is a matter of taste.
It even comes with interviews from some successful scientists on the tips they use.
Feedback welcome! Would love to learn what other techniques devs use to learn and level up
Rough stuff. Look elsewhere for online courses. Coursera is all about pushing sales, not learning.
Then I went into a course in edX and the website was way better, the platform was miles ahead, the forums were better, the video player was amazing with the ability to change video speed and add subtitles, etc... but I dropped out in like two weeks!
Now this post has motivated me to look again in Coursera and there are two specializations for Chinese that didn't exist before, one from Peking University (with different teachers to the one I remember) and another from Shanghai Jiao Tong... I'm going to choose one and give it a try :)
It's one thing to say that their lectures are objectively bad, but quite another to argue that asking for payment in return for a service is itself a bad thing. I personally have benefited quite a bit from Coursera and Udacity, and now see paying for courses as the best way that I can make sure others are able to benefit as well.
I had no idea this was going to be their business model. When Coursera started I thought it was this great scheme like Wikipedia is, free education for everyone. That's why I'm disappointed, the amount of money might be little for some, but it will be a barrier to others.
I've once worked through "Make it stick", a book that is often recommended when it comes to learning. What I've found is that there is nothing wrong with the content but it did not really help.
I imagine that most people who struggle with learning deal with some kind of psychological issues that need to get addressed. They need to learn how to deal with stuff like frustration, worries, perfectionism or self esteem.
None. It's like all self help books or "learning to read" books or etc. The only thing it does is make you feel like you are accomplishing something and actually "learning". But you are just wasting time.
The title is even self-defeating. "Learning how to learn". How can you learn to learn without already knowing how to learn in the first place.
In order for the class to be useful to you, you would have to already known how to learn to learn the material.
Ultimately, those truly motivated would have gone on to learn what they wanted regardless of this course. And those unmotivated will not go on to learn regardless of this course.
The goal is long-term retention and learning. The course addresses bad habits that people use for learning that don't accomplish this goal, and suggests better methods.
I haven't taken the course but I'm familiar with some of the methods, such as spaced-repetition. Spaced-repetition hasn't falsely "made me feel like I am accomplishing something" and I've been surprised with the results over time. There is a body of research and evidence showing positive results.
> How can you learn to learn without already knowing how to learn in the first place.
This might feel like a clever comment but it's pedantic and doesn't contribute to the discussion. Most people have some minimal capacity to learn new things, and can also improve how they learn.
Are you under the impression that everyone in the world has had access to decent education their entire lives?
Are you under the impression that motivation is the sole factor in determining one's ability to learn?
>How can you learn to learn
By not taking everything hyper-literally. The course is educating people on strategies they can use to help retain and learn information. How is that self-defeating?
Don't be overzealous in finding mistakes if you want to to understand. Approach things with a positive attitude. "Learn how to learn" can easily mean "Learn how to learn better". Almost nothing is black-and-white.
That's just a little trick for you to learn I guess :-)
As a side note, I have found that the most powerful technique for me is recalling.
The one thing I really like about the course were the interviews where the interviewees (such as Cal Newport and the 1 year MIT degree guy) went into great depth on their focus methods.
I also liked the assignments since the scorers gave helpful feedback although I don't know what it's like now with the changes coursera has gone through since I took this class.
Edit: small correction, according to google the book was published in 1984
I now always try to skim the index of a book or chapter before reading it. Also try to study in smaller sessions, every day, instead of cramming a ton of info in just one day.
It was an interesting look at Sufi thought.
> The studio for what is arguably the world’s most successful online course is tucked into a corner of Barb and Phil Oakley’s basement, a converted TV room that smells faintly of cat urine.
I feel embarrassed on the Oakley's behalf. But I'm not a cat owner so maybe a room in one's home smelling (however faintly) of cat urine isn't particularly embarrassing.
Am I unreasonable in thinking that the author is an asshole?
That clearly misfired with some readers, so I think that means it wasn't an effective use of detail. Still, I don't think the author was actively trying to be a dick about it.
I can see Bill Burr's angle - just own up to what's yours, be honest about your own shortcomings and move on with life. But everyone handles negative emotions differently, often in spectacularly unproductive and defensive ways. Which might help explain the abundance of stand-up comedian talent in the world today :P
My point, shame has always been useful, at least for me. Feeling ashamed is a sign of knowing I can be doing better, and it generally motivates to do better. Its not easy. But, why do we draw lines that shouldn't be crossed on anything that might make us feel this.
You shouldn't call a smelly apartment smelly, because someone might feel embarrassed, even if you are not trying to be a dick. For instance, the author researches and publishes an article about a popular course and the people offering it and gets called an asshole for one sentence without any judgemental qualifiers, ignoring everything else in the article.
EDIT: I am surprised so many feel strongly about this and it didn't strike to me as insensitive at all. Just makes me realize that being sensitive to others is quite hard, specially while writing for platforms with such diverse set of users. How would one know? :)
I don't get it. I would be embarrassed if someone said my home smelled like cat pee.