By Sumana Harihareswara (Contributing Writer, Geek Feminism)
I just ran across Karen Rustad’s “How to teach programming: shy, practical people edition”.

She cared more about making practical things than about what she perceived as “coding,” so her early technical life centered on HyperCard and making webpages, rather than boring faffing about with “mathematical curiosities.” Finally she came across a project she wanted to help, and scratching that itch meant learning more programming:

“Basically what revived my interest was having the opportunity to work on OpenHatch. Getting thrown into web app development and all the associated languages and tools — Python, Django, git, Agile, bash and other command line nonsense — all at once? Yeah, it was a lot. But Python out of context is just a toy. Django out of context is plausible, but hard. Git out of context … wouldn’t’ve made any dang sense. So sure, I couldn’t remember half the git commands (Asheesh eventually made a wiki page for me :P) and I had to look up how to restart the Django development server practically every dang time. But I made do, and I learned it, because the context totally freaking motivated me to. Because *finally* code had a purpose — it was clear, finally, how it could be self-expressive and useful to me. Learning these tools meant I could help make OpenHatch exist. Like, fuck yes.”

Different people learn in different ways, and for different reasons.

I figure I learn how to tinker in software, especially in open source, via three methods:

  • Google
  • Gossip
  • Gamification

I learn to search the Net well, iterating on keywords and site: and so on; I fall into or develop a network of folks who won’t think I’m stupid for asking questions; and I play little games with myself, or write them, feeling the thrill of the challenge, leveling up little by little.

I was missing all of these when I tried to Learn To Program.

Read the full post at Google, Gossip, and Gamification: Comparing and Contrasting Technical Learning Styles.
About the guest blogger: Sumana Harihareswara is a geeky gal living in New York City. She coordinates volunteer software development at the Wikimedia Foundation. Before that, she managed programmers at an open source consulting firm. She co-edited Thoughtcrime Experiments, an online scifi/fantasy anthology. Sumana holds a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of California at Berkeley, and a master’s in technology management at Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter at @brainwane.