Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Understanding Socialism

A few days ago one of my colleagues had expressed the idea of decreasing the pay gap between the highest paid employee and the lowest paid employee in our organization. I didn't give a lot of thought to that at that moment.

Yesterday morning YouTube showed me a video of Sunil P Ilayidom in which he talks about Gandhiji. I'm embedding that one here. It is in Malayalam.


Somewhere in the middle he talks about how Gandhiji was in South Africa till his 40s and didn't know how the poorest Indians lived and then how once he returned from South Africa Gandhiji walked into the hearts of Indian farmers. He talks about how Gandhiji's political campaigns always started with the real life problems of the common person. And he talks about how Gandhiji's first Satyagraha in India - the Champaran Satyagraha - was fought with the simple demand that farmers should get compensation for their crops.

If you can understand Malayalam, Sunil Ilayidom's talks about Gandhiji (powered by YouTube recommendations) makes you sit and listen for hours and hours together.

Another point that Gandhi made which SPI reiterates is "The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed."

Yesterday evening we had our weekly ECHO session in the primary healthcare fellowship and Dr Vivek Kumar from BHS told the story of a lady who was diagnosed with Tuberculosis a second time in the last 1 year (after taking 6 months of ATT the first time). Her haemoglobin was 6.9, weight was just 35kg, and it seemed like even if she took ATT continuously forever, her body might not have enough strength to protect herself from tuberculosis. In that context he described how the average haemoglobin in men, women, children, everyone in the villages he serves in is about 8-9. For about 5 minutes I could simply not believe that this could be explained by nutritional deficiencies alone.

So I searched online and found out a paper by last years' Economics Nobel Prize winners about fortifying grains to reduce anemia. This study was done between 2002 and 2009. Which means this is a well-known problem. People live in abject poverty and there is absolutely nothing that seems to work.

Our discussion rightly turned to policy changes that maybe required to bring change. Dr Vivek mentioned Aajeevika Bureau as an organization that was working with farmers to help them secure livelihood.

We also talked about community based participatory research which is the idea that any kind of research should begin from the community, be designed and developed by the community, and be owned by the community to be ultimately useful for that community. People from outside have their limitations in understanding what works, and what doesn't. When I was making this point I was imagining Dr Vivek as an insider, and me as an outsider. But then Dr Vivek replied reaffirming the point and considering even himself an outsider. And I had the realization that even being co-located with the community doesn't make you an insider.

Today morning on the bus I was reading Che Guevara's "Global Justice: Liberation and Socialism" and a paragraph stood out at me:

"The way is open to infection by the germs of future corruption if a person thinks that dedicating his or her entire life to the revolution means that, in return, one should not be distracted by such worries as that one's child lacks certain things, that one's children's shoes are worn out, that one's family lacks some necessity.
In our case we have maintained that our children must have, or lack, those things that the children of the ordinary citizen have or lack; our families should understand this and struggle for it to be that way. The revolution is made through human beings, but individuals must forge their revolutionary spirit day by day."

I should probably be reading carefully the Pedagogy of the Oppressed soon. But this paragraph in the context of yesterday's discussion made me think about poverty and the reasons why we are struggling with elimination of poverty.

Two related points.

The "combined total wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19 which was at Rs 24,42,200 crore."

Pirate Praveen had once said this:

"Every privileged person thinks its their god given mission to help the poor and show their kindness. They do not want to acknowledge that their privilege is the result of historic oppression and they are part of the reason why they remain poor. They think poor people needs charity and kindness. What we really need is a conscious collective effort to end systematic oppression of people and that will need questioning of our own roles and privileges. Accepting our role in creating the poor is much harder than feeling good about helping poor."

Putting it all together made me finally understand the problem. The problem is us. The capitalists. The people who believe that a software engineer's time is worth 10 times more than the farmer's. The people who believe that it is okay to accumulate wealth and make profit.

The free market will never pay a farmer well. The free market is stacked against farmers. Why is it that way? Why are things priced based on their demand and supply rather than their intrinsic value?

Because that works well in favour of those few who are privileged to accumulate wealth. For things like food, they won't have to pay a lot. And they can use that money to spend on things like AC cars. They can hire a home-help for 4000 rupees a month and get them to cook for them. They can hire cheap labour and sell the combined thing for much higher value. And they can keep all the profit.

The farmer may spend all their time in the farm. Like a full time employment. But if you can pay not for that time, but for the onions they produce, it may turn out to be much cheaper. Which means you can buy more onions for the same money. And you sell those onions at a higher price. So, your profit increases. While the farmer remains poor.

This is how it works. The entire system of capitalism is based on rich becoming richer and poor becoming poorer. "Specialization" and "rare-resources" are ways to become rich. And once you are rich, you have the license to exploit the poor.

Socialism is where the farmer sets the price. (And not a "free" market). The farmer demands what is their due. The farmer does not have to give up their life to produce a season of crops. The farmer can say their "full time" is equivalent to that of a software engineer. And who would you be to deny?


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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Good Riddance, WhatsApp!

I took the jump. Deleted my WhatsApp account.

Yes, I know. There are too many important groups. There are people who can't use email or other means of communication. Coordination of so many things will become difficult. What harm is there in keeping the account, and not using it? What if there is an emergency?

But, I am sorry. I deleted the account.

The idea isn't new. Pirate Praveen doesn't have a Whatsapp account. Prashanth NS doesn't use Whatsapp. Cal Newport advocates digital minimalism. All in all, plenty of people have done well without WhatsApp and actively inhibit WhatsApp usage. But I won't ask you to uninstall WhatsApp just yet. Maybe at the end of this post.

WhatsApp is a good chat app. It has a simple interface. It works consistently in poor connectivity areas. It has various features that make chat easy. It may not be the best. I personally prefer Riot (a client of Matrix protocol) and Telegram for chat. But, WhatsApp still does its job.

Maybe it is chat that I do not like. Synchronous messages create a sense of urgency. The delivered/read ticks on WhatsApp forces me to respond quickly to messages. Maybe I'm not ready for that. Maybe I want to respond to messages when I want to.

Yet I use other chat apps. I use Telegram extensively. I use slack. What's the difference?

Perhaps I should start from the beginning. First, we invented the telephone. We could talk to each other at a distance. That is a definite value addition. You no longer had to travel long distances to talk to people.

Then there was internet. With that came email. The good thing about email was that you could send it across very quickly to large number of people (like mailing lists) and people could skim through many many emails very quickly.

There also was blogging. Blogs are like books. People may read you. People may not read you. A million people may see it. Nobody may see it. Blogs fulfilled the role of people wanting to reach out to the world and influence the world.

Then, there was the mobile phone. And with that came SMS. SMS was sort of like email, and sort of like phone call. It was designed to be short. It was designed to be direct. That allowed for quick, non-distracting, short message updates.

That is the point at which chat apps come to the picture. The biggest feature of a chat app is the group chat. Individual chats are just like SMS, but with pictures and videos they could be called SMS on steroids. But group chats is an entirely different paradigm. Group chats let people talk to multiple people at the same time. Sort of like a broadcast, but multi-way broadcast. That allows quick coordination of large groups.

I almost missed social networks. Social networks are like the sum of all the previous innovations. They combine the intimacy of group chats with an experience similar to walking through a virtual world and influencing a large number of people.

All of these are not without consequences. Firstly, our attention is now deeply fragmented. We have a thousand things we can engage with at any point in time. In the attention economy everyone has to shout louder to be heard. Soon everyone is shouting even more loudly. It becomes like a party floor where nobody can hear nobody else.

Secondly, it is so easy to bombard each other with messages that sooner or later people get strong opinions about things. And that makes for a heavily polarized world because people always tend to have differing opinions.

Thirdly, and most importantly, people are unable to work on hard problems with their mind into it because that requires focus and peaceful mind. I have a very big hunch that this is the biggest reason why economies world over are failing - because people simply aren't productive any more.

All that said, now I can state the reasons why WhatsApp and Facebook (and more recently twitter) are especially to blame.



The way Facebook is designed, you connect to your friends and family. And then you hear from them. Sure you can connect with various organizations, etc. But yet, nobody keeps their connections devoid of family and friends. This "social" prat of the social network makes it a very mediocre place. There is a very good chance that the best people you can listen to on any particular topic is not in your social circles. The best writers, thinkers, or analysts on the planet probably didn't go to the same high school as you did. Therefore, if you wanted to put your attention on the best things on any topic, Facebook is a very bad place.

Similarly, WhatsApp is designed for people who know each other well (well enough to have each others' phone number) to communicate. Even with group chats, you are probably not going to share groups with very smart people. WhatsApp, therefore, has the same pitfall as Facebook. It encourages mediocrity and conformation.

Apps like Telegram and Reddit do not have this problem. (Although the attention economy is still a problem there). And therefore WhatsApp gets an extra negative mark there.

And then, there are all the other reasons. WhatsApp is not free software. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. (And since the last update it clearly shows on the splash screen that it is owned by Facebook). And Facebook is evil in various ways.

Of course this post would be incomplete without me telling how I actually managed to pull this off.

First, I had notifications turned off for WhatsApp through Android settings. It had been that way for months. Essentially, I would see WhatsApp message only when I opened the app.

But, about a month back, right around the time CAA was passed, I started doing another thing. I used a firewall app called NetGuard (which doesn't require root) to block internet to WhatsApp. And I hid the WhatsApp icon in the Niagra launcher I use. And I turned off background data (just an added measure because NetGuard anyhow stops background data). And I changed my WhatsApp status to let people know that I won't be online. And I changed my profile picture with a message that I won't be online. And then I kept silent for days.

The first time I did that, it was in solidarity with the people suffering from internet shutdowns in India. When I logged in after about a week, I noticed that I hadn't missed a lot of important messages at all.

So, I tried it again. This time I did it for two weeks. And this time too, I hadn't missed anything important. My patients could either directly call me or my clinic manager for appointments. My colleagues could message/call/email me any important thing from the WhatsApp groups. And I was insulated from all the "Merry Christmas and Happy New year" gifs.

The only reason I wouldn't go ahead and delete WhatsApp was that I wanted access to the past messages. Or so I thought as you will see in the next paragraph.

Today I thought I would install WhatsApp Business and set up an "auto-respond while away" message for giving people who contact me a fairer warning that I won't be reading their messages. But turns out that feature works only if you turn WhatsApp on and let it receive messages. While trying to switch to WhatsApp Business, I also lost the chat history (because for some reason it restores only from Google Drive backup while switching between WhatsApp and WA Business). And then I realized that I probably don't need access to my chat history.

To sum up, I had enough time away from WhatsApp and I was convinced that WhatsApp was an unnecessary evil and that life without it would be as convenient, if not more. And so I just went into the settings and deleted the account.

Now, nobody can inadvertently wait for a response from me because they won't be able to message me. And I can do my own deep work.


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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Fixing the World is Whose Responsibility?

This week I attended a session on quality improvement in healthcare practice. The definition of quality is subjective. What may appear to be "high-quality" to me, may not stand up to external scrutiny. There could always be room for improvement. But this is not a big problem. Some level of objectivity can be attained in measuring quality by using tools like standards. We can easily figure out areas that are below par and areas that are good enough. Identifying problems and areas to work on is not a problem at all.

The real challenge is in identifying responsibility. Whose responsibility is it to fix the problems? Sometimes fixing a problem is much easier than figuring out who the right person to fix the problem is. Most often it is not. Most often fixing problems require persistent effort and continuous follow-up. It takes time, energy, even money. And depending up on the scale of problems, these things can easily blow up. There are also some problems which have quick-fix solutions that are less sustainable than the proper but energy-intensive solutions.

After some months of joining Vivekananda Memorial Hospital, there was one evening when I was in the reading room. Dr Kumar who is now the CEO of SVYM walked in and asked me how things were. The conversation somehow came to my anger at the medical education system and how there was a lot of corruption in medical colleges. I was furious about my own alma mater and told him how I would never want to step foot in that college again. Dr Kumar, incidentally, had done his post-graduation in the same college and could relate to what I was talking about. But then, he told me the story of how he worked with, through, and for the system and made it better. He told me how he would challenge and oppose, yet be dear to the administrators. He told me how he could improve things at least by a bit while he was working there.

The transformation in my mind was instant (similar to how MAB once made me rethink the way I look at a disinterested audience). I, who was seething with anger at the system, suddenly saw possibilities. I could see the difference between productive contributions and blind criticisms. More importantly, I learned the concept of agency. I was no longer feeling helpless or like a hapless victim of the system. I was feeling like a person who could bring about change but was not yet utilizing my full powers.

The stories of Ananth Kumar, SVYM, Taru Jindal, Lalitha & Regi, and every other inspirational stories I've heard in the recent past demonstrate that simple principle. That if you put energy and effort, things will change. That even one individual matters.

I think the question of whose responsibility is it to fix things can arise of two things. One, the feeling that I cannot fix something because I'm powerless. That is a logic consistently proved wrong by many of these people I mentioned in the previous paragraph. But there is a second, more difficult reason people might choose not to fix problems. That is when I choose to not fix a problem because I don't have the time/energy to because I devote it elsewhere (in a place that I think is more important to focus on and solve problems in).

This second reason, is in my opinion, the bigger problem. This is the reason why even talented people can fail to deliver. Changing the system through innovation or persistence requires dedicated effort. It requires someone to show up regularly and stand up for the cause. It is the same as making a successful startup or raising healthy young children. It requires a lot of smart work. It requires productivity.

It all should start from the realization that every great person who has walked on this planet has had only 24 hours in their day - the same number of hours everyone else has in their day. What really matters is how much we can draw out of those hours. And for various reasons, not everyone is equally privileged to draw the same value from their days.

But what is really worth thinking about, is whether we are drawing the maximum value we can. Because if you can find a way to cut the cruft and get more work done, you might find just enough time to fix the world too.


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Monday, December 9, 2019

How to Travel In Bangalore - Get A BMTC Bus Pass

I've now spent more than an year using the public transport in Bangalore and made the best investment only this month. That is the BMTC bus pass.

Previously my commute was fully reliant on metro, but recently I joined MetaString foundation where I have to take the road to reach. There is a direct airport bus from where I stay to the office. The BMTC app gives a fair sense of where the buses are and how quickly I have to run to catch them. But giving 80 rupees in change every time I take a ticket was a pain. And unlike the metro, BMTC hasn't introduced smart cards yet. That's where the passes come in.

There are three classes of bus pass. The cheapest ones are 1050 including tax and lets you ply only in ordinary buses (non-AC). The next slab is 2363 which allows you to travel in volvo buses as well, but doesn't let you get on Vayu Vajra (airport bus). For the last category there is a 3570 rupees pass that lets you "yelli bekadru odaadubodu" (run around anywhere). But even that gold pass won't let you go in Bangalore Rounds bus (I have never seen a Bangalore Rounds bus). On the other hand, gold pass gives you a travel insurance which covers accidents.

I got my gold pass from Majestic (Kempegowda Bus station). But just getting the pass is not enough. You also have to get a BMTC id card. The ID card can be obtained on the other side of the bus pass issuing window of Majestic. You have to give a stamp size photo, your address, and phone number here which they enter sloppily in a register. The ID card has to match the pass and that's how they ensure that two people don't use the same pass.

The biggest advantage the bus pass provides me (even though it makes no economic sense for me who don't go to the airport every day) is the mobility. WIth the bus pass you can get on any bus and travel for any distance. This lets you make on-the-fly (pun intended) decisions about changing route/direction/bus. If there are better buses starting from the next stop, you can get on in any bus in the current stop, get down at the next stop, and switch to the better bus.

Additionally, the conductor can no longer make you feel guilty about not having change.

And above all, you save the environment. Less the Uber, less the traffic, less the pollution, faster the buses.

PS: I also got a new wirless keyboard. I'm now composing this blog post from a Vayu Vajra bus through my phone.

PPS: Also checkout "moovit" app which is a citizen app for travel information.


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Friday, October 25, 2019

Permanent Record (Book Review)

You could call it an autobiography of Edward Snowden or you could call it a manifesto for democratic citizenship. You would be right either way. This book is a how-to guide for becoming a hacker (in the realest sense of the word), a good parent, and a good lover.
 
A fair bit of caution advised though. The book will leave you paranoid. Once you realize the perverse amount of surveillance that you are subjected to without your knowledge, it becomes surveillance with your knowledge, and I don't know which is better.

I had once written a blog post titled "When Doing Good is Bad For You" from my own experience. In that I talk about how social revolutionists will perpetually face the dilemma of not doing anything versus fighting the system and putting themselves at risk in the hope of being able to improve the system. I have seen many others face the same dilemma. Edward Snowden also faces the same dilemma and we know what path he chose.
 

But till I read this book, I could not make that connection. That Ed Snowden is a human just like you and me. That he went through situations just like you and me. That the choices he had to make are the choices that confront us all similarly. That we are all perfectly capable human beings who can do great things.

It also gave me another realization. That the democracies we live in are very far away from ideal democracies. And that forgetting this can have real life consequences. And that despite all that it is necessary to continue the fight.


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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Practical Career Guide for First Benchers

This is partly a response to "All That Glitters" by an IITian and partly a message to my brother who is an IITian.

Although I used to sit mostly on the back bench during school, I fit the first bencher stereotype more - good scores, liked by teachers, great expectations. I currently have a career tragectory that I am happy in. It hasn't stood the test of time and that is a caveat, but otherwise I'm perfectly qualified to write this guide.

The problem

 

What to do in life?

The dilemma is faced by every first bencher just after their schooling and throughout their college years. For me it extended till about an year after that.


Image by moritz320 from Pixabay


It is a dilemma because there is choice overload and there is opportunity cost. There are virtually an infinite choices on what to do in life, especially so for the first bencher. The "back bencher" has it easy because a lot of choices are eliminated by steep barriers and therefore their options become simpler. But the first bencher knows nothing called impossible. They feel that they can do anything if they put their mind to it. And so they have all the options they can think of.

But the opportunity cost is real. No matter how productive you are, you can't sleep 8 hours in 4 hours. There is an opportunity cost to every damn thing. And that's where the crux of the problem lies.

What to choose to do in the limited time alive? What things to prioritize? Happiness? Sure. But what brings about happiness? Does money bring happiness? Does autonomy, creativity, and intellectual satisfaction bring happiness? Does good relationships bring happiness? Can one not have all these? What if I do what everyone else is doing for a while and figure out in some time? What if I get stuck in that rat race? What is the meaning of life?

Existential crisis apparently is sort of depression.

Potential solution

I'm very wary of prescribing one size fits all solutions. There is one approach I have followed in my life which I've found to work very well for me. I call it "being ambidextrous".

The fundamental tenet of this approach is to shun exclusionary thinking. Exclusionary thinking is when you think "if I take up a 9-4 job, I can't become an entrepreneur", "if I get married, I can't do adventures", or "if I become a doctor, I can't become an engineer". There is always a way to pursue two or more interests together.

The challenge is in finding that way. Sometimes it is hard and will involve moving geographies, spending money, losing sleep, etc. But once you find a way to follow your heart in all directions your heart wants to go, you will have a happy heart.

Should I not make money?

There are a few basic things you need in life
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • WiFi
You really need to take care of this. And that involves making some money. But the money required for meeting these basic needs is trivial to make for first benchers.

Then there are some other needs which also require money
  • Friends & Family
  • Health
  • Entertainment
  • Transport
These are some areas where frugality really helps. With good accounting of income and expenses, careful planning, and hard work the money required to take care of these can be kept low. When you don't need a lot of money, you don't have to make a lot of money.

What about ambition?

There are two ways to look at this. One is that ambition is bad/unnecessary. That success is hyperromanticized. In this outlook, you try to make time for simple things in life. You call ambition as society's unreasonable expectations from you.

The other is that ambition is helpful. That it gives a direction in life. That it gives meaning to life.

But do you notice the circular reference in that latter approach? How do you choose your ambition?

Here also being ambidextrous has helped me. It is important not to go too much behind meaning. It is also useful to have a few ambitions. Maybe a better word is goals. Not all goals need to be achieved. Goalposts can be shifted. In fact, if you grow up, you're bound to realize some of your goalposts were wrong.

Footnote

I've had two mentors tell me that confusion is a sign of thinking mind. So if you're confused, that's a good thing. Another thing is that the confusion never ends. Mid-life crisis occurs at all ages and at all junctures in life. The approach to deal with this that I suggest above is greatly influenced by Zen Habits.


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    Friday, July 12, 2019

    How Did I Become A Programmer?

    Arya asked me from Germany, "How did you start with programming? Maybe write a blog about it? Your learning strategies".

    To those of you who know me as a doctor, I'm a professional programmer who can work on any part of the stack (and even off the stack), and a free software advocate. To those of you know me as a programmer, I'm a professional modern medicine practitioner who can manage any kind of illness (including emergencies in the appropriate setting). To those of you who do not know me, I do much more than what I just described.

    But how does one become a doctor and a programmer? As it takes indeed some explaining to do, the suggestion to write blog was excellent and here it is.

    I have written about my privileges previously. So I won't repeat that. But it is important to know that some of the things I'm going to describe maybe either much easier for you or much more difficult for you depending on where you are in your life. In other words, your mileage may vary. But do read on, as there are some common principles which should apply to everyone.

    Start early
    I started in fifth standard, I think. With a simple programming language called MS Logo. I didn't know what a programming language was back then. All I was doing was moving a small turtle move on the screen and draw shapes. But the only way to move that turtle was by writing commands.

    FD 50

    The turtle would move forward 50 steps

    LT 90

    The turtle would turn left

    FD 50

    Another 50 steps forward, but this time to the left of your screen

    You could write this 4 times each and get a square.

    But soon you will feel like you are writing too many commands and that sometimes these are repetitive. For example, drawing the square above required the same two steps (FD 50 and LT 90) four times in a row. What if you could tell turtle to repeat the same?

    REPEAT 4 [FD 50 LT 90]

    That would make a square in logo! And that is what a loop is (pun not intended).

    Loops are the biggest fundamental concept in programming. If you can understand a loop, you can understand the entirety of programming. That means, if you could read the above section and make sense of it, you have everything that is required to become a programmer. Only time and effort can hold you back now.

    But there is so much more about it, right?

    True.

    Let's not digress. Where did we stop? Logo. Check this article/tutorial on logo. Don't try to run it or anything. Just go through the entirety of it. When you see the complex fructals that gets drawn towards the end of the page, you should be able to realize another big and fundamental truth about computers or programming - you can make the computer do anything, but only if you tell it exactly how to do it.

    Well, that is what programming is, you see. Telling computer every single step of what needs to be done. The computer is insanely smart and insanely dumb at the same time. It can do anything and everything, but you have to tell it how to do it. And you have to tell it every single step of how to do it.

    Imagine you are teaching the computer how to make tea. Let us have an imaginary conversation with the computer on how to make tea.

    You: Make tea
    Computer: How?
    You: Heat water. Then put tea dust. Then put milk. Then put sugar. Then stir. Then pour to cup.
    Computer: How to heat water?
    You: Take water in a vessel. Then keep the vessel on the stove. Then switch on the stove. Then wait till the bubbles start coming in the water.
    Computer: How to take water in vessel?
    You: Move vessel under the tap. Switch on the tap. Wait till the vessel is filled half. Switch off the tap.
    Computer: How to move vessel under the tap?
    You: Find out where the vessel is. Pick it up by the handle. Find out where the tap is. Move till there. Keep the vessel perpendicularly under the tap with empty side up.
    ...

    You get the point, right? If we go down this route till the level of physics, we will have made an electronic teapot. It will unfortunately not be able to make coffee though.

    But that is all there is. Break down a problem into individual single steps till the point where a computer can natively "understand" what you mean to say. CPU is a rock that we tricked into thinking. It only "understands" electricity. All that we see in the computer world is manipulation of this electricity into configurations that we want it to be in.

    But, that's so deep? How can we break down everything to such great level of detail? Is it even humanely possible? That brings us to the second fundamental tenet about computers - you build on the work of others.

    You literally cannot build a computer all alone. There are thousands of parts to a computer which were made through even larger pathways that are possible only due to the combined human investment of effort in the past thousands of years. If you could take all the knowledge that exists in world today and go back a 1000 years, it would still be impossible to build a computer.

    You build on the work of others. That's what you do in programming. People have built operating systems, libraries, applications, programming languages. There already is a lot of what you want to do out there in the world. Instead of trying to figure out everything by yourself, you build on others' work.

    Even learning. People write about what they have learned. You can then use their learning as your learning. The programming world is an excellent model of co-evolution. A communist utopia.

    You want to build a website? There are libraries and frameworks available for that.
    You want to build a business? There are e-commerce frameworks.
    You want to write a blog? There are blogging software.
    What about that teapot? Well, you can build on existing work for that too.

    There is one thing, though. You can't learn programming without doing programming. It is like cycling in that sense. You have to start slow, fall a lot of times. But once you get a hang of it, you can keep improving till you start doing tricks that make you look like a pro.

    One approach that has helped me a lot is not giving up. Every programming task appears daunting in the beginning. But once you break it down into smaller steps and start working on each piece, you feel a bit more confident. And then you inevitably run into trouble. But there are literally thousands of resources on the internet to help you.

    Understanding what exactly your problem is, and then looking for solutions to that problem helps. At this point, I will be less of a hacker, if I don't link to ESR's article on how to become a hacker, instead choosing to repeat what has already been accomplished. While you are at it, also learn how to ask smart questions.

    Still feel like you need a prescription? Here you go:
    Set up linux on your computer.
    Pick up python or javascript.
    Find out a problem you want to solve, and use python or javascript to solve that.
    Keep repeating.
    Pick up other technologies on the way.
    Don't leave anything as "I don't know that, it is not for me", instead tell "I don't know it yet, so I should learn it now".


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