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Show HN: "Programming is for Anyone" (bastardsbook.com)
105 points by danso on Dec 5, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I've just glanced over it, but so far it seems to fill an identifiable niche: non-programmers who realize the importance of programming.

It's really the right time for a book like this (for all the reasons the author enumerates).

Everyday I see how bad decisions are made because the people in charge haven't touched a line of code in over a decade (if they ever programmed at all, which is the more common case). This is a big driver of missed deadlines, cost overruns and generally craptacular products. Learning just a bit of programming can really shed some light on what coding is all about and what one needs to consider. It also highlights the potential for making your business decisions a lot more data driven instead of relying on people's personalities and internal politics.

I was thinking of ways to get more non-programmers in my company to understand the importance of coding and also something to get them started off on the right track. This book might be just what I was looking for.

Thanks for the efforts and thanks for making the draft available online, otherwise I would never have bothered reading it.

I'd say your description is very accurate. I come from a business background with no technical skills. But recently I've become very intrigued and fascinated by this new world of programming that I have been introduced to. The culture, the efficiency, necessity, etc. are all very alluring. So this book is right up my alley. Look forward to reading more.

Thanks...that is the niche I'm aiming at, though I really don't want to give off the impression that programming has come so far along that it's as easy as pie. But it's certainly a lot less maintenance than it was when we had to compile everything.

I think that there's a good solid group of people with the smarts and dedication to do something with programming, if they can see that it's something that has virtually limitless application. I personally went into programming because I thought I wanted to make video games, and after I decided I didn't, I basically stopped doing programming until I realized how it could help me in just about every day-to-day thing I do with my computer.

Awesome idea -- I can think of three or four people who would really benefit from this kind of book. One thing: you recommend SciTE for a Windows editor, but the real preference these days is for Notepad++ (http://notepad-plus-plus.org/). I've used both, and while they're largely similar, Notepad++ simply works better on Windows.

On a similar note, it would be great to be able to leave comments like this close to the source. Maybe you could include a system for on-line comments on the site, kind of like what Real World Haskell did (http://book.realworldhaskell.org/read/getting-started.html).

Great work. I especially like how well you made the case for non-programmers to pick up programming. The introduction is pure gold.

Thank you for the compliment and tip. Yeah I had been aware of Notepad++ but didn't know if it was completely free (and of course, now that I took the time to check out the page, it obviously is) and I was impressed that someone got SciTE running on their corporate old laptop, so I decided to go with the lowest denominator. Will definitely checkout Notepad++. Anything with code coloring and Regexp is about all that's needed.

I'd say not bad for the initial draft. I don't really think it's for "anyone" though. It seems like it's written by a programmer for other beginning programmers. That's just my first review without going through it more thoroughly. Here's some feedback based on going through it real quick:

1. The main link leads to http://ruby.bastardsbook.com/about/ which talks about the book, but it took me forever to figure out that I go to the top where the little "Contents" link is to actually read the book.

2. I think you're whole first chapter with cut-paste could work, but I would provide the files. On a technical level there's all sorts of problems with cut-paste out of a browser and into code. It's rare but it's problematic, either by browser encoding problems or sloppy mouse usage. I'd set up a little .zip file with the code in it so they can just run it that way. Personally though, I find cut-paste has almost no value in actually teaching people to code, but I get you're trying to get them interested.

3. Your first real chapter, "Conventions" is just too much for most actual beginners. It is throwing in complicated inject calls, blocks, a really gnarly block of code that no programmer with any style would ever write, and other oddities. I'd recommend reworking this chapter so either it's at the end and is a capstone on "idiomatic" ruby style, or ditch the convoluted examples and keep it simple. Also, don't be fooled if someone who can already code tells you this is awesome. For an already capable programmer this is good, but for "anybody" this is just way too much and you'll lose them here.

4. You seem to spend a lot of time trying to convince the reader why they should learn to code. So far most of the material I've read has been the kind of stuff to pump them up and get them excited. Maybe you think that's necessary, but if that is your goal, then go back and rewrite some of your examples so that they're more accessible and people will think "oh man, I can totally get this!" Right now I think they would think "yeah! totally! oh wait, wtf is that shit?"

5. In the chapter on methods, why on earth are you showing them the C code to Ruby's implementation of puts? I really think that has no place in this book and wonder why it's even there. The link to the code isn't even valid anymore, which should tell you one reason why this is bad: Ruby's C code changes to quickly. The other reason is Ruby's C code is just bad. Not only are you overloading the student with C code in a Ruby book, but you're showing them very weird C code.

Overall I think you've got a book for programmers who want to learn Ruby, and not really a book for beginners or "anybody". Programmers would love this book because there's not many free good ruby books that are this extensive except for _why's (and that's crazy so many programmers can't handle it). You should basically consider making up your mind. Is it for beginners? Ok, then ditch everything complicated and redesign the order you teach things. If it's for programmers who can already code, then keep doing what you've got here. I'd place it at maybe intermediate programmers or beginners.

Thanks Zed for the criticism. You basically voiced what I was thinking as I quickly skimmed over old material, that a lot of it is overwhelming (especially when even I had trouble remember what was going on), and not in the good kind of way. But I guess I worried too much that things were too dumbed down and overcompensated. I definitely still have to find the proper balance between accessible and thorough.

As I mentioned in various scattered parts on the site, your LPTHY was definitely an inspiration. In fact I think I started writing this shortly after LPTHY came out.

Yeah, I think you just need to sit down and figure out who you're really writing it for. When I wrote LPTHW I had three or four actual people in mind and I kept laser focus on making it a book they could learn from. They weren't programmers at all, so that helped me make the book work for people who can't code at all. Figure out who it's for, then what you want them to be able to do when they're done, then focus on that. If the stuff you're writing doesn't help the target reader accomplish what you want then cut it.

Anyway, keep writing it and I'm following you on twitter so bug me when you got something you want me to read.

I've always wanted to learn Ruby. I think this book is perfect for me. I had to just scroll over the pages to "get it" (I have a really bad attention span).

Though I've been programming in PHP for a while sheepish smile. So, that might've helped. Total beginners, I'm not sure.

The probable reason for this is because, you get to the "good parts" quickly (twitter code). It's good for me because I don't want to be drilled down with the basics all over again.

An idea for a code example. As you mostly concentrate on web scraping, you can teach people how they can make a PDF version of your book so that they can read it on their ebook readers. I normally learn new languages when I have a real good need for it. This example can motivate them to actually "start" coding.

And thanks a lot for your effort! Appreciate it.

Ha! Yes, I was going to include a "Steal this book" example. Just didn't get around to it. And because a lot of the HTML was hand coded, didn't want to embarrass myself. But I guess even if the parsing doesn't go perfectly, it's good practice. Thank you for the feedback.

This is pretty awesome so far. Many introductory programming texts do not show the user practical things they can do with programming, or if they do make an attempt, they tend to gloss over the details involved.

I just quickly moved through the books first few chapters, but as someone who is self taught, I would have killed to have something like this when I was starting. Its well written, well design, and peeks interest by keeping the exercises fun and concise. Awesome job, you could really put together a series with this as your template.

This is a great book. There are so many good programming books out there, but I like the approach this one takes.

Nice job. Great topic, well-written (so far), and very nice looking typography and design.

I actually really like the style of the writing and think this would make a good introduction for beginners, but I'd request the profanity and adult stuff be removed or toned down - so that it doesn't turn off others

Great book idea! We salute you here at Code Academy.

Thanks, the feeling is mutual!

link does not work for me.

Ugh. I had a problem getting onto it randomly this morning. It's a static site served off of S3 so its not a traffic issue, but I probably messed up the domain setup somehow.

works well here. Maybe try this? http://ruby.bastardsbook.com/

Seems to have come back online moments ago.

Google cache link if all else fails: http://bit.ly/uuJn78

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