Keynote at What Beginners Teach Us

I returned from Taiwan on Monday after a long weekend at

I gave a keynote called “What beginners teach us“. Audrey Tang graciously translated the slides for me.

The talk was a bit short – about 30 minutes, which left nearly 15 minutes for questions. So many people asked questions about resources for teaching their families and children Python. My first recommendation was Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science. The reason I suggested this was the clearly articulated learning objectives at the start of each chapter.

What we really need, though, is a short list of books oriented toward the different kinds of relationships programmers have (parents, grandparents, colleagues, lovers, children, etc.). Each relationship feels a bit different in terms of what will motivate the person, why the programmer is seeking to educate them and what ultimately will be useful about programming or computational thinking in their lives. I’d appreciate any books or resources you’ve used!

Anyway, the questions were wonderful, and I’m looking forward to the video being posted.

UPDATE: Video is now posted!


I met members of WoFOSS and chatted about starting a PyLadies Taiwan chapter! WoFOSS has been around at least since 2010, and they have monthly meetings in Taipei. About 70 Taiwanese women are involved, and they are hackers from all kinds of different FOSS communities.

Great hacker talks

I also saw some amazing talks, including one by first-time speaker Andrew Cole, who also publishes a zine in Seattle about pinball. His presentation was a tour of Rosetta Code, which translates bits of code between lots of different languages. He linked to the fabulous “chef” language (not the configuration management tool).

The conference was full of amazing hacks, like this Open Office piano-player (and many more audio/pictograph hacks) from imacat. This hack used OO Calc to create a playable piano, and another sheet plays a Christmas tune that reveals an image of Santa flying reindeer.

More fun hacks came from Yusuke Kawasaki. His talk was a very funny set of demos using iPhones and a very simple IR transmitter, made from extremely cheap parts and Sguru. He later demo’d a two-iPhone camera and remote control system for a remote control dump trunk at the hackathon.

On day two, Audrey Tang gave an amazing demo of making an open source dictionary using Postgres and Node out of documents available only in Excel from the government. I was inspired.

I highly recommend, which typically happens in April every year.

Re-thinking “Mistakes were made”: free and open source software and teaching

I’m working on my keynote for FrOSCon right now.

They asked for me to revisit the “Mistakes were Made” talk. My introduction will probably be a lot the same. A core idea is a theory that the ratio of failure to success remains mostly constant over time. So, in order to succeed a lot, we need to be trying and failing a lot more.

But this talk, I am planning to go into what concerns me the most about open source software: succession.
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