Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to learn programming

There is a huge 'learn coding' wave nowadays. Coding is, as we know, common parlance for computer programming. Many people are prophesying that coding will soon be the new literacy. I don't totally agree with this with stand, but I do realize that programming a machine is a fundamentally new invention of mankind (like the invention of writing) which will lead us into different ways of thinking (like writing did).
What I don't really agree with is the numerous 'teach coding' programs around.

I'd like to give my views on programming and how to learn it, from my own experience of more than 10 years (college+industry). The first and most important thing to know is that programming cannot be taught. It can be learned, by doing it. Yes, you will get stuck every day while you are programming and then you will have to refer to some guides, or consult an expert, or listen to a class. But your guide or your teacher will only give you inspiration, direction, and clarity. And also what he/she thinks.
But programming is like human thought -- it is continuously evolving. When you are stuck at a problem, you might come up with a different way of programming which no one has done yet -- and this has been happening regularly for the last few decades.

As I see it, the way you advance in programming is:
1. get inspired and get some direction, by talking to someone, or listening to a good classroom lecture, or whatever works for you
2. get started and get stuck as soon as possible -- getting stuck is crucial to learning programming (it is crucial to any learning)
3. go back to the references, talks, scratch your head, and come back to step 2.
This is why I like programming so much -- it is such a very practical art which one cannot learn theoretically.

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