Jeff Atwood: Learning to code is NOT overrated

Jeff Atwood, author of the Coding Horror blog and creator of the Q&A site StackOverflow, wrote an article with the provocative title:

 Learning to code is overrated

He argues that we should not teach our children software development, because there are better, greater skills that we should teach our children. He seems not to realize how much of his own perspective is involved in this opinion.

One of the great achievements of modern computing is that we no longer need to be programmers to create, build and get things done

Oh, and let’s just pretend he did not write that and we did not read that.

Language vs. Mathematics

So the main reasoning in the article is this:

There’s nothing wrong with basic exposure to computer science. But it should not come at the expense of fundamental skills such as reading, writing and mathematics.

Sounds reasonable, but wait, what?! We should not teach our children (computer) science, because they might get behind on reading, writing and math? I would argue the opposite about this fantastic applied science: We should learn children to create software in order to make them want to learn English (reading and writing) and master mathematics.

I know that I was totally unmotivated at primary school for reading, writing and mathematics. On the other hand I was highly motivated to learn whatever was needed to understand IBM-Basic programming language. This challenge showed me why it was important to pay attention at school.

When Jeff Atwood says that reading and writing are more important he may also be referring to “Literature vs. Computer Science” or more generally “Language vs. Mathematics”. I do not see how you could argue that one is more important than the other. I do on the other hand recognize that people tend to lean more towards one than the other.

Programmers can’t communicate

Jeff Atwood seems to imply that the world solely consists of “Mathematical” people, when he writes:

Learning to talk to the computer is the easiest part. […] The people — well . . . you’ll spend the rest of your life figuring that out.

I think this is where Jeff is blinded by his own perspective. Children on a primary school are not guaranteed to think talking to the computer is easy and talking to people is hard. Only the people that do not need encouragement to go into computer science are like that. For most of the people the opposite is true. These people are discouraged to enter the profession, due to the lack of diversity.

… typing in pedantic command words in a programming environment

This is how Jeff Atwood describes programming. I guess somebody convinced him that programming is an inferior activity and not the creative and intellectually challenging craft that it actually is. It makes me wonder who in Jeff Atwood’s life is responsible for destroying the ability to enjoy the magic of creating software that I cherish so much. I promise that I won’t let this happen to me.

TL;DR

Jeff Atwood wrote an article to criticize the mayor de Blasio plan to teach programming to kids. His main argument seems to be that he values language skills over applied mathematics. But he seems to forget that we are not all mathematical minds that can easily learn programming. Learning kids to code may improve the popularity of the profession and hopefully also the diversity.

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Google PageRank still matters for SEO

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On Monday, September 21st we moved this blog to another domain. This has made the traffic on the blog go up from 2000 to 2800 unique visitors per day. You can see the effect in the graph above (source: count-per-day plugin).

Google PageRank

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At LeaseWeb we run several websites with different Google PageRank scores as you can see in the picture above (source: www.seomastering.com). In order to let the sites benefit from the highest valued domain we could move the sites from subdomains to paths. We did that for this site (LeaseWeb labs).

www.leaseweblabs.com => www.leaseweb.com/labs

This higher Google PageRank led to an expected increase of Google search traffic. It went from 1250 to 2000 (+60%) clicks per day. It is incredible what better Google PageRank can do for the traffic of a site.

Moving domains? 301 everything!

Moving content from one domain to another (or from http to https) is not without risk. If you do not proper 301 redirect your content, you may lose traffic/rank due to penalties for having 302 redirects or no redirects at all.

I suggest that you create a second property on the Google’s Search Console so that you can see the search traffic move from one site to the other. You can also tell Google in the search console that the site has moved.

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On the above graph (from Google’s Search Console) I have drawn a red line to show the 6 day transition from the old to the new domain.

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Mobile friendly works for SEO

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In the past month this blogs traffic has structurally improved from 1800 to 2050 unique visitors on a working day. We have seen on Google’s Search Console that the organic search traffic has gone from 1000 to 1250 clicks per day (see graph above).

+25% for mobile friendly

In the past month we have seen the traffic to LeaseWeb labs increase every week with a few percent. When we analyzed the traffic we found that only the organic (non-paid) search engine traffic has grown. The only real thing we changed was the new mobile friendly layout of the site. Interesting is that the amount of mobile traffic on the site has not significantly changed. We believe this can be explained by a lifted penalty Google had given us for not being mobile friendly. Not having the penalty, causes higher ranks in Google and therefor more visitors. Apparently this penalty applies to both mobile and desktop users.

Twentyfifteen theme

We have used the WordPress built-in twentyfifteen theme for this blog. This theme is mobile friendly out-of-the-box. The only things of the theme we adjusted are the colors and the added logo. It is quite interesting to see that this default theme works well on mobile and thus scores good on Google. It is expected that this is the world’s most used website theme as WordPress is the most popular CMS and this is it’s default theme. I guess that this time it paid off to be lazy. 🙂

Move to leaseweb.com

To further increase the traffic to LeaseWeb labs we have moved the site from www.leaseweblabs.com to www.leaseweb.com/labs. We have recently made this move and it is still too early to discuss the changes we measured. We will report on the effect of this move in our next post. Stay tuned as this seems to have a positive effect as well!

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AmsterdamPHP meetup on state machines

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Summer is drawing to a close, join us tomorrow (Thursday, September 17, 2015) at LeaseWeb HQ for the AmsterdamPHP meetup on state machines!

Schedule  

19:00: Welcome Drinks
19:30 – 20:30: Talk
20:30 – 20:45: Raffle
20:45: Social, drinks and Pizza

Talk: State Machines at Telfort

Telfort, a major Dutch ISP, uses php driven statemachines for the automation of their business processes and delivery streets.

In this presentation we will dive into the following topics:
– the use cases for statemachines
– the problems they solve(d) for Telfort
– the design challenges for a php statemachine
– the way they are used by the organization in the broad sense
– tooling for support and visualization
– how it supports unittesting and QA
– process automation using statemachines and message queues
– how it facilitates the complex interactions within the system itself and when interfacing with 3d party operational support systems

Examples will be supported by the opensource php ‘izzum’ statemachine package (https://github.com/rolfvreijdenberger/izzum-statemachine) which is functionally equivalent to the Telfort inhouse statemachine system.

Speaker: Rolf Vreijdenberger

Rolf Vreijdenberger is currently working as the software architect for the Telfort delivery street for the copper and fiber business support systems. He has been working in IT since 2001 when he co-founded creative online agency “De Pannekoek en De Kale”.

Raffle

We got some awesome stuff to give away this month, so make sure you attend another awesome meetup!

Location

LeaseWeb Netherlands B.V.
Luttenbergweg 8
1101 EC Amsterdam
View Panorama

Sign up

Click here to go to the meetup page to sign-up for this event!

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Linux commands “astu” and “astsu” in Mr. Robot

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People told me that the hacking in “Mr Robot” was pretty accurate. Mr Robot is a TV series about a hacker named “Elliot”. I had to see it, but until now I was lacking the time. Last Sunday was a prefect lazy day and I took the time to finally watch it. I must admit it was pretty amazing to see the inside of a data-center and all the geeky Linux command line screens in a such a popular TV series.

Linux commands “astu” and “astsu”

When Elliot (the main character) is hacking he uses two Linux commands frequently: “astu” and “astsu”. The commands play a critical role in the series. I did not know what they did, so I wondered:

Did anyone figure out what the “astsu” command is supposed to be? Did he just type random characters or what? The other commands I noticed were all real.

On which some other user on the Cyberpunk and Science Fiction board replied:

It seems to be used like sudo (or ssh) would so I guess the idea was that the company that he works for has its own way to allow safe privilege escalation and this is the tool they install astsu = AllSafe Toolkit Super User (allsafe security being the company name).

You should read the Mr. Robot Episode 1 Analysis for more detail on the actual commands used during the hacking.

Things I liked

Some things were really spot on in the series and I liked them a lot:

  1. The correctness, detail and accuracy of the hacking that goes on.
  2. Elliot has some social challenges and thus feels like an outsider.
  3. Elliot is unhappy and this is his strength, as he has nothing to lose.

But not everything was good, there was also some stuff that bothered me in the series.

Things that bothered me

Here is a list of the most annoying things in the series:

  1. Elliot uses a smart-phone and he never switches SIM or phone.
  2. Elliot’s schizophrenia is making his conspiracy thinking less genuine.
  3. Computers and downers do not match. Caffeine on the other hand…

I feel the makers of Mr. Robot should have thought these things over better. Nevertheless they made an enjoyable TV series. Recommended!

 

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