Posts Tagged ‘essay’

Learnable Programming

September 26th, 2012 09:42 admin View Comments

Bret Victor wrote another great essay, Learnable Programming: Designing a programming system for understanding programs, in the wake of StrangeLoop.

The goals of a programming system should be:

  • to support and encourage powerful ways of thinking
  • to enable programmers to see and understand the execution of their programs

A live-coding Processing environment addresses neither of these goals. JavaScript and Processing are poorly-designed languages that support weak ways of thinking, and ignore decades of learning about learning. And live coding, as a standalone feature, is worthless.

Alan Perlis wrote, “To understand a program, you must become both the machine and the program.” This view is a mistake, and it is this widespread and virulent mistake that keeps programming a difficult and obscure art. A person is not a machine, and should not be forced to think like one.

How do we get people to understand programming?

We change programming. We turn it into something that’s understandable by people.

Bret Victor writes in a flowing, highly accessible, and richly exampled style that I have, perhaps unfairly, come to expect from him. This essay will be of great interest to anyone who is exploring live programming, interactive programming, augmented programming, or integration of programming language with development environment.

TOPLAP, an community for live coding since 2004, provides a little extra context for the essay.

Source: Learnable Programming

Famous ‘Uncanny Valley’ Essay Translated, Published In Full

June 12th, 2012 06:30 admin View Comments


An anonymous reader writes “IEEE has published an English translation of the 1970 essay in which Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori introduced the now-famous concept of the Uncanny Valley. The original essay was in Japanese, and IEEE says this is the first publication of a translation authorized and reviewed by Mori. They also have an interview with Mori, who still thinks that robot designers should not attempt to ‘cross’ the Uncanny Valley.”

Source: Famous ‘Uncanny Valley’ Essay Translated, Published In Full

Bringing Auto-Graders To Student Essays

March 30th, 2012 03:10 admin View Comments


fishmike writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report: “American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots. Or, more accurately, robo-readers — computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade. The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn’t have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they’ll become — even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms. … Take, for instance, the Intelligent Essay Assessor, a web-based tool marketed by Pearson Education, Inc. Within seconds, it can analyze an essay for spelling, grammar, organization and other traits and prompt students to make revisions. The program scans for key words and analyzes semantic patterns, and Pearson boasts it ‘can “understand” the meaning of text much the same as a human reader.’ Jehn, the Harvard writing instructor, isn’t so sure. He argues that the best way to teach good writing is to help students wrestle with ideas; misspellings and syntax errors in early drafts should be ignored in favor of talking through the thesis.”

Source: Bringing Auto-Graders To Student Essays

The Science Fiction Effect

February 8th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments


Harperdog writes “Laura Kahn has a lovely essay about the history of science fiction, and how science fiction can help explain concepts that are otherwise difficult for many…or perhaps, don’t hold their interest. Interesting that Frankenstein is arguably the first time that science fiction appears. From Frankenstein to Jurassic Park, authors have been writing about ‘mad scientists’ messing around with life. Science fiction can be a powerful tool to influence society’s views — one scientists should embrace.”

Source: The Science Fiction Effect

Delayed Outrage Over A Censored Site; What’s a Better Way To Spread News?

February 7th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments


Bennett Haselton is back with a thought provoking essay about not just an incident of Internet censorship on an American university campus, but a proposed method of propagating news, so that relevant stories aren’t buried as easily by chance or time. Bennett writes: “The real scandal in the story of Arizona State University blocking students’ access to the website, is not just that it happened, but that the block persisted for two months without being mentioned in the media. As a card-carrying member of the ‘outrage grapevine,’ I surely think we need a way to respond faster.” Read on for the rest.

Source: Delayed Outrage Over A Censored Site; What’s a Better Way To Spread News?

Neal Stephenson On ‘Innovation Starvation’

October 5th, 2011 10:31 admin View Comments


Geoffrey.landis writes “In an essay discussing the space program, author Neal Stephenson suggests that the decline of the space program ‘might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done.’ He suggests that we may be suffering from innovation starvation: ‘Innovation can’t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail. The vast and radical innovations of the mid-20th century took place in a world that, in retrospect, looks insanely dangerous and unstable.’” Though the context is different, this reminds me of economist Tyler Cowen’s premise that the U.S. has for decades been in a Great Stagnation.

Source: Neal Stephenson On ‘Innovation Starvation’

Computers Could Grade Essay Tests Better Than Profs

August 7th, 2011 08:33 admin View Comments


An anonymous reader writes “Robot essay graders could be the answer to grade inflation. New software being tested turns over the task of grading to computers — this article has an interactive demo of the software. One professor says the computer is far fairer than human graders, who get tired and become inconsistent, or play favorites.”

Source: Computers Could Grade Essay Tests Better Than Profs

Why Programming Languages?

June 27th, 2011 06:44 admin View Comments

A short essay by Tom Van Cutsem, Why Programming Languages?:

When I present my research work on programming languages, people often ask me “why do you need a new programming language to solve this problem? Why not just implement it as a library?” Or, I get asked “why didn’t you implement it as an extension to {some existing language}?” In this essay I try to make explicit some of the goals and motivations behind language design.

Van Cutsem is the author of AmbientTalk, which has been discussed obliquely on LtU a few months ago.

Source: Why Programming Languages?

Crowdfund a Moon Monolith Mission?

January 6th, 2011 01:04 admin View Comments

Jamie found a somewhat amusing little essay on putting together a crowd-sourced mission to put a monolith on the moon. The author estimates it would cost half a billion dollars, which is a sum he thinks could be raised. Although personally, I think a half a billion dollars could be put to better use, it’s a fun thought exercise.

Source: Crowdfund a Moon Monolith Mission?

FCC Chief Technologist on Telecommunications in Haiti

February 19th, 2010 02:00 admin View Comments

In this exclusive essay, the chief technologist for the FCC, John Peha, argues for the value of building the telecommunications infrastructure in the earthquake-rattled country.

Source: FCC Chief Technologist on Telecommunications in Haiti