1. Flatiron Day 2

    It’s day 2 and I’m already thinking about my computer differently. As Avi says, for us it will become more of a tool to build things and less of a device to consume media (he doesn’t like iPads either!).

    After going over some more Git stuff in the morning, today’s lecture and the focus of the exercise following it was about BASH and setting up our “development environment.” I had been looking forward to this— it’s like that part in a video game where you get to upgrade all your stuff. Except it’s even cooler because upgrading this kind of software involves typing things like “rvm install 2.0.0” into the terminal and then having a budget little ascii progress bar fill up like in The Matrix.

    We went through a long list, checking versions of Ruby, Ruby Version Manager (RVM), Git, Xcode, etc. We also edited some git config files like .gitconfig and .gitignore— it amounted to a good amount of work in the terminal, which helped me get more comfortable using it.

    Thankfully I had a done a fair chunk of this upgrading work last week, as well as a little last night. I even upgraded to OS X Mavericks to make everything a little easier. So I got to get to the more superficial, fun personalizations a little earlier than some other students. This mostly consisted of customizing the look and feel of my terminal window via my BASH profile and my terminal preferences. (Here’s Treehouse’s intro to the console if you’re interested in learning more.)

    Here’s a screenshot of what my terminal looks like now (I was going for a sort-of Hemingway theme I think).

    If you look at the first two lines, that’s what my prompt looks like now. The first line gives the time is 24-hour format, then in bold navy-blue it displays whatever folder I’m currently in (in this case, I was in my “code” folder). The second line is where I type my command, and I have it start with a red cross (Farewell to Arms I guess). For that first prompt in the screenshot above I typed “cd test”, which means that’s I’m telling the computer to open the “test” folder that’s inside the “code” folder (“cd” stands for change directory”). I hit enter, we moved to the test folder, and then the terminal asks me what I want to do next.

    But notice this next prompt now has an orange “dev” in brackets. This is because the test folder is being watched by Git, my awesome robot secretary (the code folder, unlike the test folder, is NOT being watched by Git). I edited my terminal window so that Git can tell me right in the prompt that, hey, you’re currently operating in a branch called “dev”.

    At that point I went to my open Sublime Text 2 and changed a file inside the “test” folder called index.html. I then went back to the terminal and ran a command called “git status”, which is the equivalent of saying “Hey Git, anything new?” And Git’s like, “Yeah man, somebody changed this file called index.html. Do you want to add this change to my ‘dev’ file cabinet, or did you just screw up again?” (Oh Git.)

    In the subsequent prompt, you can see there’s an asterisk next to the word dev. That’s another function I added to my BASH profile. Now, next to the branch name (in this case, “dev”), it puts an asterisk whenever something has been changed in that branch. So even if I hadn’t used the “git status” command to ask Git if there was anything new in the “test” folder, the word “dev” would have had an asterisk next to it regardless. Sweet, right? Gotta make things your own, you know?

    I also downloaded the free version of Alfred, a productivity app for OS X that is supposed to be an improvement over Mac’s Spotlight. We’ll see if I end up using it (Avi and some of the T.A. swear by it).

    After that I set up an Octopress blog, a blogging platform apparently favored by developers. You use Git Hub to publish new posts, which is kind of cool but also kind of clunky. Also, if I were to use it I’d have to customize the theme just right. So I think I’m just going to stick with this Tumblr for now at least. I’ll tag all of these Flatiron updates with “programming blog” so you can easily filter for just them going forward. I also added a button to the menu on my Tumblr theme.

    Also, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about any of this stuff (to the best of my ability).

    Tomorrow is the first day with Ruby, so it should be a good one. But man, today I am really happy. My brain hurts in a good way and this stuff is really fun.

     


  2. Flatiron 004 Day 1

    What a luxury it is to be a student again! It’s amazing to raise your hand, ask a question, and get a definite answer. Hell, even when our T.A.s (T.A.s!) gave us cryptic answers to our questions, I was ecstatic.

    Day one at the Flatiron School was all about Git and Github. From the minute we got in (9 am) we worked on creating little student profiles and a a group index page just like this one. We were provided with the CSS and HTML templates— the real assignment was merging all of our individual copies of index.html together. To do this we used Git and Github.

    I knew day one would be big on Git, so I concentrated on doing the pre-work related to it thoroughly. But actually using it to collaborate with two other people (strangers this morning), was a different ballgame.

    Git is a version control software. I think of it as an awesome secretary who can travel backward and forward in time through a project’s history. You tell Git to watch a certain project folder, and it will take “snapshots” of your files whenever you want. You can also make new branches for your project— an example being if you wanted to add social media buttons to your website, you’d start a “social media buttons” branch. What’s nice about the branches is that you can keep a safe, deployment-ready copy saved in the “master” branch, while you go play in the “social media buttons” branch.

    Alt text

    If you screw up you can revert to previous changes or scrap the branch all together— and your master branch isn’t affected. If you like your branch, you can merge it with the “master” branch.

    Here are a few intros to Git if you’re interested in going beyond my shitty explanation: Atlassian, git-scm.

    Collaborating with multiple people working on copies of the same file (index.html in our case) at the same time (as we did today) inevitably leads to merge conflicts, i.e. situations where Git can’t figure out who’s version you actually want to save. Today we did a lot of learn-by-doing managing and resolving these version conflicts.

    After lunch, Avi Flombaum, our Dean, had us all introduce ourselves and then gave a general talk about programming and what we were here to do. He reminded us that learning new things can get frustrating, because the path from not knowing something to knowing that thing is really just a constantly-confusing struggle. And I certainly struggled at times today to understand parts of Git. But like I said, it’s a privilege to be a student again— it’s just a matter of remembering what it’s like to be confused most of the time.

     

  3. newsweek:

    On March 28, 2011, a man who calls himself Kurt J. Mac loaded a new game of Minecraft. As the landscape filled in around his character, Mac surveyed the blocky, pixellated trees, the cloud-draped, mountains, and the waddling sheep. Then he started walking. His goal for the day was simple: to reach the end of the universe. Nearly three years later, Mac, who is now thirty-one, is still walking. He has trekked more than seven hundred virtual kilometres in a hundred and eighty hours.

    At his current pace, Mac will not reach the edge of the world, which is now nearly twelve thousand kilometres away, for another twenty-two years. In the four years since its initial release, Minecraft has become a phenomenon that is played by more than forty million people around the world, on computers, smartphones, and video-game consoles.

    It is primarily a game about human expression: a giant, Lego-style construction set in which every object can be broken down into its constituent elements and rebuilt in the shape of a house, an airship, a skyscraper, or whatever else a player can create.

    (via A Journey to the End of the World (of Minecraft) : The New Yorker)

    Brave new world.

    (via npr)

     


  4. A Social Media Editor Begins Learning to Code, or My First Few Weeks Away from Tweetdeck

    On Wednesday, January 8th I packed up my things and left my first real job.

    Two years earlier I had started as an intern at Newsweek & The Daily Beast, eventually becoming the deputy social media editor. 28 months and tens of thousands of tweets later, I willingly sent in my resignation letter.

    A few days later I had already un-followed nearly 200 accounts on Twitter, disconnected The Daily Beast’s official Twitter accounts from my phone and my TweetDeck, and cleaned up my Chrome Bookmark Bar. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been looking forward to this digital cleanse (sorry to all you horse-race political reporters who have one fewer follower).

    Working at Newsweek & The Daily Beast was an incredible experience, especially during the 2012 election, and I am unquestionably a smarter, stronger person than I was when I left my parents house to go to that interview in 2011.

    But in some ways it feels like I’m leaving at a time when the future of the “social media editor” at news websites seems uncertain. As more and more reporters and editors join and learn to use Twitter, writing good tweets and Facebook updates will become less of a valuable skill. Covering breaking news live with social media tools will also become a more common skill (or at least it will at successful publishers).

    Also, as Facebook referrals become a higher percentage of total site traffic, editors are becoming more dependent on Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm: essentially a blackbox of code that determines what appears in users’ feeds whose whims social media editors can only guess at. (To get an idea of how sensitive some publishers are to the algorithm, read Charlie Warzel’s piece about how worried they are about whether or not a recent boost in Facebook referrals will soon end.) Not to mention that social media editors have little to do with organic social referrals— i.e. people who come to the publisher’s site via a friend’s post on Facebook or Twitter, rather than one posted from one of the organization’s accounts.

    I still think Twitter is fun, but some folks say it’s becoming less of a new source and more of a crappy cocktail party.

    Journalism in general seems to be going through some rather unsightly growing pains as it continues to adapt to new technology available to both journalists and readers. Without a universal metric for “engagement,” editors will keep chase page-views because that’s what advertisers want to see. Content management systems (CMSs) continue to be years behind the current needs of most organizations, meanwhile the ever-multiplying Upworthys, Viral Novas, and other narrative-porn-pushers of the web are making Buzzfeed’s listicles seem respectable. Not to say there’s no hope for news online. But for now I’m taking a break.

    So what is next for me? As I tweeted earlier this month, I will be attending the Flatiron School in Manhattan this spring to learn how to code. I want to make things that are more permanent than a tweet or Tumblr post or even an online news article.

    The 12-week web development course focuses on a programming language called Ruby and one of its associated web frameworks, Ruby on Rails. While I’ve used HTML, CSS, and Javascript before, including at The Daily Beast, Ruby will be completely new to me. (For a fun, non-technical introduction, check out Annie Lowrey on the disappearance of _why.)

    The class itself doesn’t start until February 3rd, so this month I’ve been working my way through what Flatiron calls "pre-work": some basic foundational work, from HTML to Git to basic Ruby and Rails, that will help everyone be on more-or-less the same page come day one. It’s nice to work on my own schedule again— I’ve been naturally sleeping in and staying up pretty late. At first I was a little anxious about this, but I quickly learned to embrace a college-like work/sleep schedule.

    What’s this “pre-work” like so far? It’s been a lot of advanced CSS and, more recently, an introduction to Ruby (I’ll be drilling in a basic Git workflow and hopefully setting up Rails this upcoming week). For the Treehouse and Code School courses that Flatiron recommends, it’s watching short videos and then taking little quizzes (both services are about $25 per month for all-you-watch). Code Academy’s lessons (which are free!) are just text and coding exercises.

    When I need a break I try to see people in real life (rules are important). I’ve read a few books. I played Gears of War 2 from beginning to end over three weekdays. When I’m not watching instructional videos, I’ve found that Grateful Dead has been a pleasant, don’t-freak-out coding soundtrack for me. From time to time I check Twitter, a community I interacted with almost constantly for two years, to get a feel for what’s going on. But generally, for the first time in two years, I’ve kept TweetDeck closed, unconcerned with keeping track of all of Twitter’s wonderful inside jokes, or being up-to-speed on what today’s big outrage is.

    It’s been nice.

    I’ll try to blog more going forward— the school encourages it. Not sure if I’ll stick with this Tumblr, or even the Tumblr platform I once loved so much. Whatever I decide, I’ll be sure to let you know.

     

  5. Recent longreads of note! 

    Work

    Money

    Growing Up 

    Death

    Books 

    I read more books than usual these past few months. Some highlights:

    • Ali and Nino by Kurban Said — Oh just a wonderful, practical love story. Azerbaijan’s Gatsby. LAND OF MY FATHERS… MY FATHERS CAN HAVE IT.
    • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adele Waldman — I think I had a little too much fun reading this one. Modern dating in New York, except everyone is based on real people your cool New York friends see at New York literary parties. Actually it kind of makes me want to give up. 
    • Tenth of December by George Saunders — Eh. Reads just like a short story collection from a New England creative writing professor, which is exactly what it is. There are a few fun ones and some decent insights into class in modern America. 
    • Don’t Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli — I got this one from The Atlantic’s list of books their staff read this year. I was expecting something different, but it kind of worked. 
     

  6. nedhepburn:

    beca:

    God, I love the Internet.

    This is. 

    (Source: iraffiruse)

     

  7. ecaloshay:

    atsween:

    mikerastiello:

    “That’s it. That’s my Dad.”

    I love John Schneider. I watched Dukes of Hazard in syndication when I was 3 or 4 (I loved that car), but I really know him as Jonathan Kent on Smallville.

    You guys know I love Superman, and Superman is the person he is because of his parents. John Schneider was a great Pa Kent.

    Reading the story that went along with these photos broke my heart.

    Read the story and see the other photographs here.

    (photo by Jeremy Cowart)

    Read the story.

    Very sad.

    (via chrismohney)

     

  8. New Orleans is fun.

    (Source: beyonce, via fuckyesbeyonce)

     

  9. macedonianmess:

    da crew

    (Source: anothermag.com)

     

  10. nypl:

    The New York Times says on today’s front page, “A Taste of Winter: A schoolteacher in Harlem led her charges to the library on Friday in a light snowfall. Rain is forecast for New York on Saturday.” It certainly is raining today, but we hear these children enjoyed the Harlem Library so much yesterday listening to stories and creating crafts, why not visit your favorite branch today or even tomorrow?