A sound in the forest

If a sound is made in the forest, but no one is there to hear, is it a sound?

Recently, I find myself in a pensive mood. I started this site as a way to help programmers. There are programming forums out there covering every imaginable programming language (such as Dream In Code). They have members giving out tips and help to questions, giving a direct solution to a tangible problem. There are many other types of programming sites and blogs, some tinted with personal stuff, some merging with other technology topics.

My aim is to create an environment which makes you think. It didn’t start out that way. I tried writing some basic stuff, like reading and writing input and output, and formatting. I felt there are many sites covering the basics much better than I can, so I stopped. Besides, I felt like I was regurgitating from a reference book.

Then I went on to try some other things, like outsourcing, toilet manners, a study of social media effects and even how dementors can bring you down. Actually, right now, I feel very much brought down by an invisible specter…

Ok, so I thought my math background gave a unique perspective to programming. I wrote about a different way of using Bezier curves, and also Fibonacci sequences and the associated golden ratio. Not quite sure how many people can deal with math theories and such.

Then there’s some programming articles like the investigation into the effectiveness of empty strings, some artificial intelligence, and a discussion on being stuck in design mode.

I’ve gotten some comments (thanks to all you wonderful commenters!), some interaction, some response. The thing is, I don’t know if I helped anyone at all. I certainly don’t write a lot of code examples, since they seem very limited in use. Basic stuff is well-covered elsewhere, and I’m afraid advanced stuff would put off a lot of people.

I feel very much like a sound in the forest.

My articles are shifting towards talking about programming, more theoretical than pragmatic. Because I’ve very little to work on. I want to solve real world problems. A polymath programmer should be solving real world problems. That’s why he’s learning so much about topics other than programming. Because real world problems can’t be solved with just one skill.

You might not understand how a botanist can possibly contribute to the success of space travel. Until you realise the journey might take weeks and months, and you need a renewable source of breathable oxygen, and it’s coming from plants. Who’s going to take care of those plants?

I still believe in helping programmers write better code (or at least suck less). I just appreciate some nudging. Perhaps a question, a query, a topic you’d like to know more about. I think all humans want to be acknowledged. Perhaps it’s happening here.

I have a few ideas I want to try out in the name of creating that environment for thinking, of promoting original and individual thinking. Because programming is very much a thinking activity.

So my answer to the philosophical question posed at the beginning is this: The moment you acknowledge a sound to be a sound, it becomes a sound. Whether it’s actually heard by a human or a doe or butterfly is irrelevant.

I’ve never heard the songs of whales. I’ve read about people who’ve heard them. The moment I acknowledge that whale songs exist, whale songs become real in my reality. The fact that I’ve never heard one is irrelevant.

Ok, going back to reading the minds of those faceless visitors, trying to figure out what I can help with…

  1. Ben Barden

    I think the main challenge you face is that many people look for specific solutions to specific problems, usually going to the kind of forums you mention above.

    Many of these people do not cut code for pleasure. I’ve encountered very few programmers who genuinely enjoy coding. It’s not so much that they hate it, it’s more that they just do it… and when the day is over, they want a break. I think you’ve mentioned this in a previous post.

    I am definitely someone who enjoys programming and that is why I set up a software company. If I had set it up simply to generate money, I’d cut corners and rush things out as fast as possible. But as I enjoy what I do, I spend the time to do it right.

    Maybe you need to look around the web and see if you can find more people who are interested in this kind of content. It could just be that the right people aren’t finding you yet.

    For the record, I like your blog. 🙂

  2. Vincent Tan

    I help out at the Dream In Code forums, so I understand the need for specific solutions. There’s still a large group of people who are still very much entrenched in the difficulties of programming in the short term, that they never get off to gaining the skills to solve problems in the long term.

    I’m planning to do what you said about looking around the web. It’s time to venture forth to unknown territories.

    “For the record, I like your blog.”
    That is just awesome. Thanks!

  3. Aaron

    You could probably use forums to find ideas for posts.

    I’m currently struggling with the actual theory behind programming. Perhaps you could right an article about that?

    I remember when I started to learn how to program, I always struggled with the fact that I could store file paths and file handlers in a variable. File paths are easy to explain, they’re just strings pointing to a file.

    However, I’m still confused about the ability to store file handlers. I was learning PHP at the time.

  4. Vincent Tan

    “Actual theory behind programming” sounds very philosophical… I’m not even sure how to begin. Let me think about it…

    As for file paths and file handlers, I’ve always been able to tell them apart. Are you referring to something like
    $handler = fopen($filepath, “r”);

    Quite similar to C actually.
    FILE *handler = fopen(filepath, “r”);

    A file path is like a street address. A file handler is like a pointer to the house at that address (you know pointers?). It allows you to manipulate the file contents such as writing to and reading from the file (adding decorations and looking through refrigerator?).

    Hmm… let me go think about it some more…

    Thanks for letting me know your problems.

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