Writing and Writing Code

Over the years, I’ve published some of the articles I am most proud of on Advogato. As you can imagine, I was sad to see demise of Advogato announced early September and thrilled to see that by the end of the month, Steve Rainwater had stepped up to save the site.

For a belated welcome of Advogato back from the edge of the grave, I’ve published a short essay about the effectiveness of an analogy of software and writing on the site. In it, I introduce the analogy and argue that it is useful in advocating free software and programming education and in justifying the disproportionately large amount of programming related projects in the free software world. Here’s the intro:

Advocates of free and open source software, myself included, like to talk about the "democratizing" effect of free software. Others, especially non-programmers, are quick to point out that the only technical people can take advantage of half of the enumerated freedoms in FOSS. The freedoms to modify and collaborate mean little if you don’t know to program. Over time, I have come to the conclusion that the only good solution to this problem — and one that I was initially quite opposed to — is to teach everyone to program. In considering this position, the processes of reading and writing provide a useful analogy when considering the processes of using and creating computer software. Additionally, the analogy provides an powerful justification for the fact that FOSS programmers produce a disproportionately large amount of software that is primarily of interest to FOSS programmers.

Please check it out on Advogato and feel free to leave a comment on my blog if you don’t have an Advogato account.

4 thoughts on “Writing and Writing Code”

  1. What is needed, I think, is making better languages, make better OS’s, etc., so that there aren’t exceptions, so that a single person can, through exploration, understand the small and the large.
    Even with good documentation, it takes someone with lots of patience, time, etc. to be able to substancially participate in a non-trivial programming effort.
    A remedy you mention would be for teaching programming in school, but I think programmers now-a-days could also start thinking of the utopias the future needs, and make bigger leaps in computer technology in their domains (like it happened in the 50/60/70′s).

  2. I think what you say is right on the spot. If those people could just program a little, even if it is just something as simple as JavaScript, more people will be able to appreciate what Free Software is about. I hope to work towards the day programming is taught as a subject like Math and Science in school. So a high schooler will have enough skill to program his/her own refrigerator.

  3. I mean institution. Also, I did say powerful too many times. Unfortunately, Advogato does not currently seem to let authors to edit the articles once they are posted. I’ve made the corrections in spirit and if I revise it for publication elsewhere, I’ll do that.

  4. You wrote “instituation” — did you mean “institution”?

    Also, you used the word “powerful” three times — this is certainly not a crime but it jars in an essay of such shortness.

    Ethan

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