When we think about languages and how they evolve, it’s usually at the needs of the people that use them. If we want to share a bit of information, whether that be an emotion, or description — we can create a new collection of letters to form a new word. As long as another person has a common understanding of this combination of letters, we can now use our new word in sharing information from one mind to another. Languages can be pretty neat this way, and can get even more descriptive if we talk about emojis.
Software, on the other hand, has overhead and accessibility issues. Sure, it also allows you to invent new meanings, and even create new languages — but currently it only evolves when you tell the machine to do something specific, and with correct details. This makes it tough for most to get involved and interested in seeing how the web, and computers will shape publishing going forward.
Max Bittker and I were lucky enough to spend the last weekend in June on...
How do principles become timeless?
When I discovered Strunk and White’s (1920) famous The Element of Style in school, it provided one of the best lessons in brevity I’ve experienced. I still keep it in mind whenever I’m asked to write, because its concise points are timeless––timeless in the sense that while it is about style, it is not binded to style. Strunk and White’s style guide is still incredibly in-touch with writers almost 100 years later.
So I was happy to find this book, a derivative of the famous Strunk and White book, The Elements of Programming Style by Kernighan and Plauger, written in 1978, close to 40 years ago.
TEPS uses Fortran as its example language, but much like the book that inspired it, the lessons it teaches are timeless and still hold up today. When you can distill rule and opinion to good practice, you can advice that lasts a longtime.
I don’t think it’s quite right to call either the English, or programming style guide timeless, but it’s still evidence...
One of wonderful things about the Internet is the deep dives you can do on things you didn’t know existed only a few minutes earlier.
I found the below video when researching the overlapping worlds of math, art, and computers. I was looking into motorized pen draings when I found the world of the harmonograph. Traditionally haramonographs are mechanical devices that power a drawing tool. Using a repetitive drawing motion on a surface that changes position creates some incredible results.
Tools that allow anyone to create, and get results that spark intrigue are my favourite type. They’re accessible, but bring people into both the art and math world.
It reminded me of Turtle Programming (Logo), where the user is given immediate visual feedback to their input. I recommend reading Turtle Geometry by Abelson, and Papert’s Mindstorms to understand the care put into Logo that allows for sufficently complex drawings and logic, while balancing accessibility.
As I dived further into the world of harmonographs I found that motors aren’t completely necessary. As slow, and methodic...
Shipping a Fellow
Good news — today the Open Journalism Project is announcing the start of a Fellowship program.
A few months ago when Asad and I wrote about the experience and research we’d done in understanding problems that student newsrooms are facing — we got many thoughtful responses. We were able to talk to students quite literally scattered across the globe, from Pakistan and India, to small-town USA, and big cities in Europe. These were students that shared our frustration with the lack of opportunities at their universities to tinker at the intersection of code and journalism.
While we’ve written, talked, and advised students newsrooms — we’ve been lacking in our methodology. At best we’re able to recommend similar setups we’ve seen at professional newsrooms. We haven’t been able to clearly point to what has (and hasn’t) worked. We can’t share how we got a student newsroom curious about programming or obsessing over data. In part this is because nothing like this exists in Canada — we’re carving out a new and important path in journalism education. Today we’re announcing...