Episode 19 – Al Sweigart on Python for Non-Programmers

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Summary

We got the opportunity to speak with Al Sweigart about his work on books like ‘Automate The Boring Stuff With Python’ and ‘Invent With Python’. We discussed how Python can be useful to people who don’t work as software engineers, why coding literacy is important for the general populace and how that will affect the ways in which we interact with software.

Brief Introduction

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  • We are recording today on July 27th, 2015 and your hosts as usual are Tobias Macey and Chris Patti
  • Today we are interviewing Al Sweigart about Python for non-programmers

Interview with Al Sweigert

  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
    • Started in PHP/Perl, introduced to Python in 2006
    • Lack of curly braces took some getting used to
    • Clarity of standard library was refreshing
  • What inspired you to start writing books for non-programmers?
    • Friend who took care of 10 year old interested in programming
    • Lack of coherent introductory material
    • Started writing a tutorial which grew to book length
    • All books published under Creative Commons license
  • You have written a few books about teaching Python to people who have never programmed, can you share your thoughts on the best order in which to introduce the various aspects of programming?
  • Where does software testing come in when teaching new coders how to program?
    • Use the logger, debugger, and assertions effectively
  • In invent with Python you use games as the vehicle to discuss the principles involved with writing code. What is it about computer games that makes them so popular as a means to introduce programming to newcomers?
    • Something everyone is familiar with
    • Easy to make a simple game to get started
    • Good way to get creative with programming
  • For automate the boring stuff with Python you focused on explaining how programming can be useful even if it is not someone’s occupation. How did you determine which kinds of activities to focus on for the book?
    • Got the idea at a meetup talking to someone who works in an office doing repetitive tasks
    • A lot of office jobs that involve tedious computer work which could be automated
  • What are your thoughts on the need for software literacy among the general population?
    • How much programming knowledge do you think is sufficient for a member of our modern society?
  • You also wrote about using Python to decrypt simple ciphers as a means to learn about code. What was the inspiration for this approach to software education?
    • One of the projects in invent with Python was a simple cypher, inspired further interest in the subject
  • In episode 7 with Jacob Kaplan-Moss we talked about how we define what a programmer is. Can you share your opinions on what separates someone who can understand code from someone who is a programmer?
    • Barriers to entry have been significantly lowered, making the distinction very fuzzy
    • Definition of programmer is becoming much wider
  • Books available at:

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