A Non-Programmer Tries to Learn Ruby, Track down a Lost Programmer

I love it when non-nerds dive into nerdery and talk about their experiences as open-mindedly and even-handedly as Lowrey does here.

Annie Lowrey has written a wonderful article about her first attempts at learning a programming language (Ruby, in this case). It’s also a fascinating “outsider” look at the Ruby community and programming in general, and also a chronicle of her attempts to to track down _why, a famous Ruby programmer who committed “infosuicide” (i.e., removing all traces of his existence from the Internet) in 2009.

Slate gives each of its staffers a month per year to undertake an ambitious project, one that attempts to do something new in Internet journalism. Tim Noah explained income inequality. Julia Turner explored the world of road signs. Dahlia Lithwick wrote a chick-lit novel in real time, with the help of her Facebook friends. I decided to try to learn computer programming.
Why? I understand, if imperfectly, the laws that control the physical world around me. Ask me why an apple falls to the Earth or why a cork floats in water or why electrons do not collapse into the nucleus, and I can at least attempt an explanation. But the virtual world I live in is a mystery. Arthur C. Clarke wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” For me, and for most of you, I suspect, the computer is just that: a glowing, magic box. Learning to program would help demystify the technologies I use daily and allow me to even create some humble magic of my own.
But what language to learn? On the recommendation of my software-developer, project-manager, and computer-scientist friends, I decided to start with Ruby, for three reasons.

I love it when non-nerds dive into nerdery and talk about their experiences as open-mindedly and even-handedly as Lowrey does here.


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