[Taxacom] Author Stats

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Apr 19 01:40:15 CDT 2013

Thanks, Bob -- good post!  I agree, of course.  I was in high school a
couple decades after you, but even then (early 1980's) it was unusual to
find a high school with a computer lab and a class in computer programming.
I was lucky to be in one of those unusual schools (same school, as it
happens, that Barack Obama went too -- I wonder if he & I learned to program
with the same keyboard, or loaded and saved our programs using the same
cassette tape player?)

Anyway, more fundamental than computer programming is basic logic --
something they used to teach as regularly as they used to teach Latin.  Now
they teach logic about as frequently as they teach, well.... Latin.  The
foundation of good software coding is basic logic (e.g., lots of
if/then/else, nested loops, and similar kinds of thinking).  A mastery of
basic logical principals is the first step.  Another invaluable guide for me
was "Code Complete".  After High school, I had no formal training in
software development (and if you look at my code, it shows....), but that
book has helped shape my approach to writing code more than any other.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au]
> Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:10 PM
> Cc: Richard Pyle
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Author Stats
> Rich Pyle wrote:
> "Many in the biodiversity informatics community are way (WAY) ahead of us
> in their ability to do this sort of thing. But it's become increasingly
clear to me
> that there is a bit of a disconnect between the developers (who know how
> easy it is to make small but interesting services of this sort on top of a
> designed data model and n-tier service architecture -- but who don't know
> what kinds of services people want); and the end-users (taxonomists,
> biologists, and others who know what they want, but don't know where on
> the web to get it)."
> There's a broader disconnect into which this one fits. The number of
> computer users in the biological community vastly exceeds the number of
> people in that community who understand what software is and can do, and
> that number vastly exceeds the number of people who can program.
> I'm very lucky. My high school had an IBM computer in 1961 (that isn't a
> typing error, I really mean 52 years ago) and everyone in my math classes
> a go at simple FORTRAN instructions. If you fast-forward 5 decades you
> expect a lot from those beginnings, but you'd be disappointed. The stats
> seen suggest that only 1 in 10 schools in the USA teaches programming
> today. The proportion is even lower here in Australia.
> There are movements I know about in the UK, the USA and Australia to get
> programming into schools. A recent and very bright entrant into the
> business is http://www.code.org , but you can find a lot more on the Web.
> So why am I, and Rich Pyle, and others on this list lucky? Because
> developers can help end-users get information through Web portals, we can
> write a few lines of code ourselves that allow us to extract what we need
> from huge masses of raw data, like the CSV files you can now download from
> BISON. We don't need fancy (or expensive) software to do this, or a pretty
> GUI. Manipulating biodiversity data isn't rocket science, really and
> One path to making better use of biodiversity information is to
> with developers to make it easy for the vast majority of users to ask
> questions and get answers through a Web portal. Another is to teach
> and tomorrow's biologists how to use code to handle the data themselves,
> discover and investigate patterns which they can then report to the
> computer-shy majority. It would be nice if there were more of that
> going on.
> --
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and School of Agricultural Science,
> University of Tasmania Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania,
> Australia 7316
> Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

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