Daniel Miller

From Around the Web

Reply All – Friends and Blasphemers, “An online diary used by American teenagers finds a strange and terrifying enemy,” or how Russia co-opted LiveJournal.

Presentable – The Tenuous Resilience of the Open Web, Jeremy Keith and host Jeff Veen “get into the history of technology, how we make decisions about what to use, and how our industry seems to make the same mistakes over and over again.”

I’m currently reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (yes, despite being a big Cory Doctorow fan, I’m a little behind on reading his canon). I would recommend it for any young adult interested in tech. The expositional portions get a little tired after a while, but if you remember it’s a YA novel and that the intended audience probably hasn’t been introduced to the topics in question (lots of stuff on cryptography, open source software, programming, etc), it’s not so bad. Those sections also often include a useful metaphor for explaning these complicated topics.

From a section on programming:

If you’ve never programmed a computer, you should. There’s nothing like it in the whole world. When you program a computer, it does exactly what you tell it to do. It’s like designing a machine – any machine, like a car, like a faucet, like a gas-hinge for a door – using math and instructions. It’s awesome in the truest sense: it can fill you with awe.

A computer is the most complicated machine you’ll ever use. It’s made of billions of micro-miniaturized transistors that can be configured to run any program you can imagine. But when you sit down at the keyboard and write a line of code, those transistors do what you tell them to.

Most of us will never build a car. Pretty much none of us will ever create an aviation system. Design a building. Lay out a city.

Those are complicated machines, those things, and they’re off-limits to the likes of you and me. But a computer is like, ten times more complicated, and it will dance to any tune you play. You can learn to write simple code in an afternoon. Start with a language like Python, which was written to give non-programmers an easier way to make the machine dance to their tune. Even if you only write code for one day, one afternoon, you have to do it. Computers can control you or they can lighten your work – if you want to be in charge of your machines, you have to learn to write code.

433 words