As some of my long-suffering readers and friends know, I’m an economist by training, a management consultant, and a web-content and document management almost-expert. Most of my work includes someone customising or developing software, though, and I’ve long been tempted by the matter. It’s a vice: I started out hiring people to do my WordPress sites, now I build them myself if I have the time.
So taking advantage of a couple of free days this week, this Sunday I decided to take the matter up. I delved up some references in the matter I’d like to do (mobile development: my whim is to build a document management environment, and also a magazine kiosk), and concluded that I’d best start with a practical primer. So I looked up Stanford’s offer in the iTunes U and eventually picked the CS106A course, which is a “coding for everyone” approach, and dug in.
First off, I found the iTunes materials to be outdated. The customised programming environment they link to is outdated and doesn’t work on Mac OS X Lion. But since the course’s site is open to the public, I eventually got the current materials. Emailed the teacher with the warning, too, with no answer.
Then… I enjoyed the experience (when not deciphering low-quality slides on video). Very much. I’ve spent most of my free time yesterday and this morning on the first coding assignments, going iteratively through inspiration, bafflement, desperation, and exhilaration. I finally got all four programs to run on every (relevant) environment, which is more than I expected.
The missing part is the sharing, correcting and interacting, of course. The “section leaders” that Stanford puts to help and correct the code, and solve doubts, and doubtlessly provide some hints when the student becomes narrow-sighted. As far as I’m seeing, the learning environment on-site must be simply great.
Tonight I intend to tune in to the third lesson, and I’m both dreading and looking forward to the next lot of assignments…
And yes, I’m also pottering around the Apple newbie materials. Just to add confusion.
If through some miracle I find the time and will to persevere, I intend to torture my long-suffering readers with gossip as I go along. And clunky pieces of code. You have been warned.