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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Wednesday March 09, 2005
07:38 PM

Apress beta books and how to write for novices

[ #23574 ]
Apress has a beta books page where you can read and comment on books being written (it should be called beta chapters as I don't see more than one chapter from any book in there). This is kind of asking for help a la open source but not given back a la open source, but ignoring that, I think, neat, I can comment on the work of other first-time authors and maybe help them out a bit even though I'm not the most encouraging person around.

The second one I looked at (discussion of the first is for another article) is apparently an introductory book on Python. I've tried to learn Python before, but ORA's book is a real sleeper. And it's huge. Well, this one, from Beginning Python gives a pretty standard tour of language syntax (I wish the "hacking" connection were more real rather than just figurative). If you've read a dozen language books you've read a dozen tours of syntax. This got me thinking about how to write for novices (which I haven't done yet).

PHP (gag, gag) books show newbies how to do a heck of a lot just using built-in functions. This makes sence as PHP doesn't offer a lot of syntax. A task oriented ("how to do X") book (rather than a boring reference manual) won't stumple across syntax that often - it just isn't part of what's needed to get things done.

So I'm playing with the idea of a Python/Java/Ruby/Pike/Perl/whatever book that takes a similar approach and procrastinates teaching how to program in favor of leveraging the existing infrstraucture of a language, namely the API, modules, frameworks, etc. I'd be interesting to see a class room full of high school kids writing programs just gluing things together with only an inkling of the syntax of the language. And this is ripe for exercizes too - I could pick out a catalog of interesting modules - 3D graphics, AI, hardware control, net information services, and so on, and ask what would happen if X were glued to Y. Isn't this kind of the Squeak approach anyway - don't worry about syntax, just have fund sending messages around and watching things happen? I wish I knew Squeak well enough to propose a Squeak book...

-scott