On Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 5:59 AM, Joe Hourcle <[log in to unmask]>

> Last year, we targeted the beginner's track as a sort of 'Perl
> as a second language', assuming that you already knew the basic
> concepts of programming (what's a variable, an array, a function,
> etc.)
> Would it be worth us aiming for an even lower level of expertise?

Yes. The hardest part is getting started. If you know the basic stuff, you
know which questions to ask. If you don't, you won't even know what you
need to figure out -- this makes the problem overwhelming.

For the past few months, I've been working with someone who started out not
even knowing what a variable was and had never seen a console window. Now
she's using arrays, hashes, regexes, functions etc to do some really cool
stuff that the uni really values. If she had only known what she needed to
get started, she would have figured out everything on her own long ago.

BTW, I think perl gets the short shrift as a utility language. People hate
it because it's ugly, but for data manipulation and analysis, it's very

On Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 6:45 AM, Diane Hillmann <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> I'm all for people learning to code if they want to and think it will help
> them. But it isn't
> the only thing library people need to know, and in fact, the other
> key skill needed is far rarer: knowledge of library data...
> ...More useful, I think, is for each side of that skills divide to value
> the skills
> of other other, and learn to work together....

Well put. No amount of technical skill substitutes for understanding what
people are actually doing -- it's very easy to write apps that nail any set
of specifications and then some but are still totally useless.

Even if you never intend to do any programming, it's still useful to know
how to code because it will help you know what is feasible, what questions
to ask, what is feasible, and how to interpret responses.

That doesn't mean you need to know any particular language. It does mean
you need to grok the fundamental methodologies and constraints.

Just as techies who don't understand the workflow of the people they're
trying to help will have a heck of a time doing the right thing, people who
don't understand anything about what others do to help them will have
difficulty communicating what they need in first place.