Tomorrow, at 10:15 a.m. I will be starting my first day of Hacker School. I will be using this blog as a tool to help me learn over the next three months. I invite you all to come, watch, and see what happens.
To be clear from the start: this is a personal blog, the opinions stated herein are mine alone, and do not reflect the official position of any organization, including Hacker School.
Hacker School will run until the end of December. Until that time, I will update this blog at least once a week with some new information regarding how I’m spending my time and what I’m hoping to accomplish with it. The way I see it, this blogging is designed to serve two primary functions:
Blogging will force me to work incoherent and abstract thoughts into some measure of concretion and clarity. Teaching myself to code these past few months has been fun, but I have constantly lost ground by permitting half-formed understandings to slip away from me as I moved on to new problems or topics. The only way I can write about a topic is if I understand it at least well enough to express it in whole sentences. In addition, writing on a blog is inherently public, at least in the sense that it may be seen by others. I will never be guaranteed that someone will see my writing, but I will always guaranteed that I am never completely sure that someone will not. That’s a great thing, for a few reasons, not the least of which is how much I enjoy the attention. But writing for an audience, especially for someone with relatively thin skin, means that I will have assistance in holding myself to a higher standard of comprehension than if I were answerable only to myself. I’m counting on you.
The second reason I’ll be blogging is to build a concrete metric of my progress during Hacker School, and as a programmer in general. Since I began coding, I’ve made tremendous strides in some areas, and very little in others. My workflow and toolchain could have been designed by my computer-illiterate grandmother (love you!). I can get some natural measure of my progress just by comparing code that I’ve written recently to old code, but that kind of raw comparison only goes so far. I have a ton of old projects that relied in crucial parts on borrowed code-ideas and patterns, and which therefore don’t fully reflect my abilities at that point in time. Not to belabor the point then – having a record of my progress would have been immensely satisfying, and will be extremely useful as a tool with which I may measure my own progress.
That’s why I’m planning on blogging about my journey through Hacker School.
With that said, I do plan on continuing with this blog’s original mission, which is to provide a place for me to publicly muse about public data and data analytics. The main difference is that there will be, for a while at least, a new focus on method. I will be spending more time considering how I learn the technical skills I hope to use to understand these topics, as opposed simply to what I get out of it, or why I think these things are important in the first place.
It is my hope that adding this component will only enhance my original mission. Understanding the underlying techniques always helps users evaluate content. Specifically, knowing what tools I use and what my skills are, as well as how they have been derived and what other techniques inform those skills, will all give users a richer understanding of my writing. One natural – and unnerving – consequence is that users will be additionally empowered to criticize my writing. For you, knowing which things I know about, and how much I know about those things, will go a long way to pointing out where there are holes in my writing (although it is certainly not necessary!). As scary as that prospect is, it’s also a great challenge for me: as I said earlier, writing for an audience is an inherently fraught enterprise. It comes with a bit of exposure and the potential for a lot of embarrassment. But knowing that someone is out there, maybe watching, and maybe getting something useful from my time and my effort more than makes up for that fear.
So tonight, on the eve of Hacker School, I bid you all welcome. Pull up a chair, grab some popcorn, and fire up your favorite IDE.
It’s time to learn.