On the current state of learning how to code

Since 2012, numerous organizations have proliferated to teach people of all ages to begin programming. A famous example is Hour of Code.

Back then, when I was eight or so, I did not have those opportunities. You couldn’t Google “programming for kids” and have something more functional than Scratch come up. And Python was not so popular back then, much less geared toward beginners. Consequently, I had to put up with VB.NET until such resources came about, and people actually started caring just a bit about youngsters who wanted to seriously pursue coding.

But after all that – the hours of code have passed, you’ve mastered the docs after poring them over – what now? How would a nine-year-old ever start doing anything more constructive with coding than “Hello World” and bubble sorts and turtles without lurking forums and having some autonomy?

An epiphany

Many people seem to be stuck in this cycle of misery: that their life hasn’t gone “as it should have been,” that they’ve made too many mistakes, that they just want a chance to start over, that everything is impossible now, that all the windows of opportunity are gone forever now.

But I have realized that what you call “mistakes” is actually a particle of individuality.

I’ll give you an example. Sometimes during the day, I feel really stupid for doing simple math wrong; other times, some brilliant idea pops up and never gets written down; and sometimes, the intelligence just comes out and I do a couple of hundred lines of well written code in an hour or two. The stupid and the smart moments, and how we tolerate them – that’s individuality.

One too many times have I seen people who don’t care about individuality. You have to be the ideal person: the “best” person. You wanna be the guy who does a 200 day streak on GitHub, because without it you’re nobody. If you’re not part of the hive mind, you’re an outlier. These days, the clusters of people are crystallizing; it’s harder to be an outlier. You’re either in the regular, ordinary people cluster, or you’re in the “I-started-coding-when-I-was-two” hyperintelligent cluster. Suddenly, the outliers grouped and it became a cluster on its own.

And what if you’re in the middle? Are you an outlier? Are you a nobody? Or are you a ripe individual?

How about this: let nobody judge you. Exalt yourself when you must; humble yourself when you can. Do not let people view your dark side, just as people on Earth never see the other side of the moon.

Don’t think about the scatterplot. Think about you, the point. It sounds selfish, but it’s not, because if you think about the scatterplot then you will feel like a grain of sand. You will be overwhelmed, because there is someone better than you but no best in sight. Do not be overwhelmed. You are not a grain of sand, because if you were, you could only be picked up by the wind and carried away, stomped on and be destroyed. But you can move. And because you can move, you are self-conscious and therefore a powerful entity of the universe.

If you want to win, stop trying so hard, be an individual, and that in itself will be a victory. The victor isn’t the one who gets the trophy, the victor is the one who made the most out of the contest, the one who helped, the one who put up a fair fight against his adversary, not the one who spent six hours practicing the day before. Such dedication is not what the human body was designed for. It was designed for survival. Is this what you call survival? Clearly it is not survival, because it is at the cost of yourself.

To survive is to be the individual. If it means breaking from the trend, do it. If it means fighting the stream sometimes, do it. (But please, you should follow the streams most of the time.) If it means looking like a madman trying to get a point across, do it. If it means getting 900 downvotes trying to bring a message across, do it. Persecution is not a barrier. There are no barriers, because the individual is only bound by the desire to be free.

So do it. Be the individual. Forget about fighting against the big stream of time. There is an expanse of time ahead of you.

Please God

I don’t want to code alone. I want a team. And I don’t want it to be across the Internet either. I want to have a real, physical team composed of people like me, people my age.

My brother once asked, if God is present in the physical world, could he also be present in the virtual world – a phantom signal, an identity who cannot be traced? A random string generator gone wrong?

I swear someone out there is reading this. Maybe it is the phantom signal. Maybe somebody who can help me.

But please, whoever it is, come closer.

On prodigies and starting things at an early age

Back in the 70s and 80s, we got people who picked up a certain hobby at very early ages. But in this overprotective day and age, the opportunities for such things to be learned so early in life are dwindling, because the means to learn them so early are “more” illegal now, and the systems involved in such hobbies have become increasingly complicated, convoluted, and expensive.

Do you not know how many hobbies have fallen apart due to this? Photography, aviation, ham radio, and heck, even computing. Society tells us that we can’t take pictures without a $600 camera, fly a plane without tens of thousands of dollars just laying around, talk to someone 12,000 miles away without being subject to massive regulation and buying equipment easily worth $1,500, and make a simple program without enclosing it behind a layer of abstraction or reading heavily on an operating system’s API.

Back then, life was much simpler.

I’m not saying that I wish I lived in the nineties, because it had a whole new set of problems; I’m saying that people should have just as many – or more – opportunities now than they did before, despite the necessity for the newbies in life to take more time to “catch up” to mankind’s recent inventions.

Do I have a grandfather who flew planes? No. An uncle who grew up as a hacker, or who enjoyed making games in BASIC or assembly? No. A father who has plenty of money to blow on a hobby? No! Then what the heck am I supposed to do?

There’s one thing you get for free when you live in this universe, and you get it one second per second at absolutely zero cost to you: time. You have 2,207,520,000 seconds available to you during your entire life. Currently, I have used 22.8% of that number. But even then, time is immortal. I may not have the money, but if I just keep working, and working, and working toward a goal related to a hobby, I will come to it. The energy placed becomes purer and purer, because it is not energy due to anger; it is energy driven by passion, but fueled by time, not money.

Therefore, I have come to a conclusion: age does not matter. Its physical effects may place a burden on humans, and the surrounding environment lives on due to (and depends on) time, but such limitations will not last forever. Perhaps one was simply not able to learn or engage fully due to such circumstances and limitations.

But if they do not emerge because they are good at something in particular at an early age, then where will our prodigies emerge from? The recesses of an “even playing field” referred to as standardized testing? Such testing I detest, because it means nothing. It does not test competence in anything in particular, except what you sit down on a desk to do at school: algebra and English. Boring. Where is my multivariable calculus? Where is my C#, my JavaScript, my fluency in Japanese and Spanish, my loyalty, my talent, my devotion to a multitude of things, my passions, my hopes, my dreams and my desires? I do not see them on this multiple-guess sheet; I guess they do not matter nowadays.

At my high school, many are represented: the girls, in dance; the boys, in band and sports; and the programmers and hobbyists and the intelligentsia? Where are we? Do we not do service in our works, helping our classmates in homework? Are we not good enough? Is this a popularity contest? Why are we not respected? Why are we not represented or recognized?

I wish I could say I could go off to somewhere and do great things with people like me. But I can’t. I have to talk to people over the Internet who are twice my age and deal with lowly, average people down here and lowly, average problems.

And now you say the problems rests in my ego? Now I have become the enemy. Nonsense. It is not I who am your enemy; it is my humanness, my mortality, not my soul.

You wanna become a prodigy? You’re a prodigy for finding this blog, congratulations, now go away. You wanted to do C# and not VB when you were nine? Congrats, you did something, now go get a time machine and try to do it better. You wanted to win a contest? Congrats, you won the contest in my book, now burn my book and try 0th place next year.

I hate contests. I hate tests. I hate when people try to judge my life, because it takes away the pride and thus security that I can bestow myself with.

And without security, can you say that such things are really improving our lives?

On the state of Ace of Spades

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/11/apr/spade/ace6.jpg

Once upon a time, Ace of Spades was a really nice game, a crossroads of sorts between Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft (or so they said). Its 90s-style graphics simply made it more appealing to gamers, both hardcore and in those countries that still use Pentium III computers. Ben Aksoy, the really nice guy he was, updated the game twice a week, and in no time we went from 0.15 to 0.75. The forums thrived, new open-source server software was in the works… until the Fire Nation attacked.

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On the Hour of Code

The Hour of Code sure has alleviated quite a few hurdles in the early stages of learning how to program by introducing “engaging” courses for people between the ages of Really Young and Really Old. But what does that mean for programmers like me who are already competent in the field?

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