First techncal difficulties even happen at the dh2012, but after everone managed to connect to the wi-fi, we can get started „playing like a programmer“. First lessons: Computers are pedantic. Mia tells us to imagine a little kid, who’d never let anything go but rather be about: why, why, why. „So you have to be very clear“, she explains. The good thing: „When your replies don’t satisfy your kid, he/ she doesn’t just die. So note that you cannot break computer – well, you actually can, but you’d have to do a lot better than that.“

Programming is like preparing a dinner party. At least that’s what Mia, our workshop leader, tells us. So through today’s Programmers-101, we will try to go through the steps of buying supplies, setting everything up, baking pastry and more. Let’s get this party started, then.

„I wrote my last code in 1986 and then I stopped, so I have some catching on to do“, says Brian, one of the participants eager to learn. Dave, another, wrote his first code two months ago. From „getting a bit of a feel for it“ and „learn some xslt but no more“ to „being able to do a little more“ and „being able to really play with things“, the 17 workshop-participants have different, individual expactations and goals for this afternoon.

Programmers think differently. Because we are so used to constantly failing, looking for errors and trying different solutions for problems every day, our mindset is quite different.“ To understand that mindset, Mias emphatic and metaphoric way of speaking about computers and programming really helps. She explains: Computers are like little, dumb kids, who always have to be taught everything. They never stop. They just dont have that much common sense. And also: Programming is telling someone else to make pastry, and how to actually get pastry out of it. Well, what about „Hacking“? – Unlike I believed, Mia points out that „it has nothing to do with illegal access! Its about tinkering, it’s about playing… Hacking as in „hacking it together“, as in „building cool stuff, quickly“.

Variables are cotainers: they are just empty and wait to be filled. It’s like in math class: back to apples and oranges! The participants seem to love the analogies, as we can see by the many tweeds about the workshop. That leaves just one question we’re all excited to find out about: „Mia, can you make pastry?“ „No, but I have a friend who does!“, says Mia, speaking like a programmer.

During the course of our exercices, another lesson is to be taught: There are always several ways to solve a problem. And if it doesn’t work: go through every bit and look for mistakes to fix it. After all, that’s nothing you can do with pastry, or any other part of analogue life, for that matter.


2012-07-16 13.34.39

Mia Ridge, playing like a programmer (photo: jmlv)


Have a look at my programming-exercise! (ms)