There 10 types of people: those who can program and those who can't

Clay has posted on article over at BoingBoing on a test that can predict whether people will be able to learn programming or not. It’s been observed for many years, and I can attest from personal experience, that there are people who can learn computer programming, and people who can’t.

In certain cases, people just have it in them, they might be able to answer multiple free pl-900 exam questions or other examination prep questions easily, and be able to do decent programming with an eye shut as well. With others, however, you could spend hours and hours on them, but no number of instructions or guidance can change their lack of interest or skills.

Having just finished ITP, this immediately struck a chord. ITP projects are at the intersection of art and technology, and often require a high degree of technical skill to make them work. Some people don’t have the technical skills, like knowing about Multithreading in Java, for example, and end up collaborating with someone who does. Moreover, there seemed to be a basic question of aptitude: some people “get” coding and electronics (even without previous instruction), and others don’t, and I never saw someone from the latter group join the former.

The lack of coding ability seems to create immense amounts of stress, and often drives the success or failure of complex projects. The research cited in the article suggests that there is little to be done about this: you simply can’t teach the mental habits.

This finding has interesting implications for a number of projects. For example, the OLPC project seems heavily skewed towards teaching programming (it includes no less than 3 different programming environments – Python, Smalltalk and Logo – but nothing like a typing tutor).

Clay even goes on to talk about some of the most popular coding languages such as Python. Python is used for many different applications. For instance, because it is relatively easy to learn, it is used in some high schools and colleges as an introductory programming language. Even though some people may consider Python to be one of the easiest programming languages to learn, it could still be hard for some people to navigate the codes and information that they are being faced with. In turn, any assignments that they may be required to submit could be harder to complete, but luckily, sites like have experts on hand to help people with their assignments so they don’t have the worry of failing the course because they find the subject hard. This type of service could be beneficial to those people who just want a helping hand, regardless of whether it’s an introductory program or not. Moreover, it is also used by professional software developers at places such as Google, NASA, and Lucasfilm Ltd. You can learn more about using Python by checking out this useful guide on the Couchbase website.

The title of Clay’s article, about being comfortable with meaninglessness, also has another interesting implication. This is purely anecdotal, but I have noticed that people who are good at programming, who are “comfortable with meaninglessness”, tend to have very positive reactions to some types of pyschedelic experience. Perhaps this is because they are better able to let go of a “common sense” model of the world, and accept another with its own rules?

Note: the title of my post is a joke, which will probably sort readers into the two groups.

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