Teaching Children Programming and Linux

Andrew Cowie andrew-2KHxOkysSnqmy7d5DmSz6TlRY1/6cnIP at public.gmane.org
Fri Jul 18 03:53:32 UTC 2008

On Thu, 2008-07-17 at 21:09 +0000, Robert Brockway wrote:

> A lot of OSS projects suffer from a lack of doco as we well know.  A great 
> way to contribute is to write docs.  So if you develop useful material 
> consider submitting it back to the project to see if they can use it.


In the project I am maintainer of, people often flail about a bit as
they try to a learn the library and more to the point how to use it

When helping such people on IRC or whatever, I watch for the eureka
moment happening... and when it does, I really earnestly encourage them
to record their experiences - ideally as a contribution to the code
(JavaDoc in this case) that generates the API documentation, but also
perhaps as an example, etc - because, really, you only learn something
once, and if you can [with my help] capture how you thought it should
work and then explain how it really works instead, then that will be a
tremendous help to the next person who comes along with the same
preconception of how it [does not, in fact] work.

        "... if you are trying to do X, then look HERE instead."
        "... beware - you might think that this will cause Y, but no,
        you'll need to do Z first."

        "... if you're wondering why A hasn't happened, then try
        "... B is for this, only. You probably want C instead."
        "... this can be interesting not only for the usual purpose D,
        but also because it enables you to do E, something really cool
        you might not have thought of."

That kind of thing. All such comments have come from the practical
experience of people *using* the library, and such experiences recorded
in a reusable fashion, are contributions worth their weight in gold. And
you don't have to be a seasoned hacker to make such observations - these
come as a result of the learning of people new to a project.


This obviously conflates the issue of mere "improving documentation"
with "contributing [code] to a project", but when we as maintainers do
what we can to lower barriers to entry, then small contributions become

And that's a great way to get people involved not just for my own
benefit, and not even in the benefit of the free & open source movement
in general, but to the broader cause of citizenship and finding ways to
better the [physical] communities we are a part of.


Andrew Frederick Cowie

Operational Dynamics is an operations and engineering consultancy
focusing on IT strategy, organizational architecture, systems
review, and effective procedures for change management. We actively
carry out research and development in these areas on behalf of our
clients, and enable successful use of open source in their mission
critical enterprises, worldwide.


Sydney   New York   Toronto   London
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