I’ve been training people in programming, including in Python, for 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed teaching; it’s an amazing feeling to know that you’re helping people to accomplish things that they couldn’t do before. The fact that I get to travel the world, meeting so many smart and interesting people, and helping them to use Python in new and better ways, is a great part of what I do.
My courses are constantly undergoing improvement and evolution. If you took a course with me last year, the odds are pretty good that I’ve tweaked it in a number of ways — improving the explanations, changing the demos, and streamlining the exercises.
One change that people don’t expect me to make, but which I do every year, is to remove content. That’s right; every year, I cover less material in each of my courses than I did the previous year.
Why would I do that? How can that possibly help?
Because by covering less material, I can give my students more time to truly learn the topics that remain. And when I say “truly learn,” I mean that we not only have more opportunity for questions and discussion, but also for exercises. Many, many exercises.
I find that removing content and adding exercises helps people to learn better. It helps the information to settle into their minds more firmly. It helps the students to truly, deeply understand the points I’m trying to make. And the point of a course isn’t to race through a checklist of topics, being able to say, “I covered them all!” Rather, it’s ensuring that people have learned the most important ideas, so that they can progress on their own. Having 100 topics on your day-long syllabus isn’t really going to help anyone; no human can remember that much.
I also encourage my students to work in pairs when they’re solving exercises. Without fail, those who follow my instructions, and work together with others to solve the problems, learn more and have a deeper understanding of what we’ve done.
About a year ago, I had a thought experiment: What if I were to make a course that was only exercises? That is, I wouldn’t do any teaching up front. Rather, the learning would take place in the exercise, in the collaborative solving of the exercise, and in the follow-up afterwards, including when I solve the problem.
Thus was born Weekly Python Exercise. My goal is to make you a more fluent Python developer, and Weekly Python Exercise represents the best combination of content, exercises, and technologies for accomplishing this task. The first cohort of WPE has been learning since June, and the feedback has largely been very positive. But there’s always room to improve, and so in creating this new, January 2018 cohort, I thought long and hard about how to increase interactions and make it as valuable as possible — within the constraints of online teaching and short, weekly exercises.
I’m very proud of WPE, and I’m excited that dozens of people are going to be joining me for this improved version of Weekly Python Exercise. I can’t think of a better way to help boost your Python career.
What does a $180 subscription to Weekly Python Exercise get you?
Also: If you sign up now, you get free, unlimited access to future cohorts of Weekly Python Exercise. You’ll be invited to join the forums and office hours, and to solve the problems along with everyone else, whenever I next offer this course.
And if it’s not for you? Just let me know, and I’ll refund your money. But I think that you’re going to really love it, and get a lot out of it. You’ll understand how Python works behind the scenes
In 48 hours, this opportunity will go away until I next offer WPE — and I’m not sure when that’ll be. So don’t delay; sign up for Weekly Python Exercise.
Questions or comments? Just watch this video:
“Weekly Python Exercise” starts on January 2nd, and is designed to help intermediate Python developers level up their coding skills. But registration ends on December 20th! What does the course include, how does it work, and what do you get for $180? I explain it all in this video…
More than 20 years of programming in Python, and more than 20 years of teaching Python (and other languages) at companies around the world, have gone into this course. If you want to become a more fluent Python programmer, I’m positive that this course will help.
Not sure? Have questions? Just e-mail me. But don’t wait too long…
A few weeks ago, I asked subscribers to my free, weekly “Better developers” list to send me their Python problems. I got about 20 responses from around the world, some more complex than others. I promised to answer some of them in video.
Why? Because becoming an expert Python developer means understanding, in a deep way, how Python works. The stronger your mental model of Python’s innards, the better you can use the language to solve problems. And watching someone solve problems, or work their way through problems in real life, helps to develop and improve those mental models.
A large proportion of my teaching takes place via exercises. (And in the case of Weekly Python Exercise, it’s the overwhelming majority of the teaching, as the name implies.) But as important as it is for my students to work through the exercises, it’s also important that I walk them through the process I use when solving the exercise. Learning the correct process is more important than getting the answer right to a specific problem, because once you start thinking in the right way, with an improved mental model, you’ll be able to solve new and different problems.
I’m trying something similar here: People ask questions, and I try to answer them. Sometimes, I’ll hit a brick wall, or an unexpected detour, or I’ll just be surprised. Guess what? This happens to all of us, and it’s part of the process of solving problems. But it’s also part of the fun and excitement of development.
With that in mind, I present the first two problems/questions that my readers submitted:
If you like these questions and walkthroughs, then you’ll love Weekly Python Exercise, starting on January 2nd, a year-long course for intermediate Python developers.
And if you have Python questions you’d like me to answer, join my list and ask away! If I choose your question, I’ll give you a coupon for 30% off any of my books or courses.
When I started to program in Python more than 20 years ago, there weren’t a lot of resources out there. Sure, there were a handful of books, and a few Web sites, and (of course) forums and mailing lists. But that was about it.
Nowadays, Python is white-hot, with companies, universities, and individuals learning the language. Whether you’re a data scientist, Web developer, system administrator, test author, or hobbyist, you’re probably learning Python. Not surprisingly, there are oodles of books, courses, and resources for people learning the language.
And then? Well, then you’re on your own.
The problem is that there aren’t a lot of resources for intermediate-level Python developers to improve their fluency with the language. Sure, you can read through Stack Overflow and Reddit, as well as read blogs and watch conference videos. But given how much is out there for beginners, you would think that there would be something to help people who have already taken a Python course, and who are ready for the next stage.
The good news: I’m here to help.
More specifically: My course, Weekly Python Exercise, is just what the doctor ordered. WPE makes you a more fluent, more knowledgeable Python developer by forcing you to learn and practice your skills every week.
Every Tuesday, you’ll receive a new Python programming challenge. These challenges are designed to be relatively short and small, taking less than an hour of your time. The following Monday, you’ll receive my suggested answer, along with a description of why I chose to solve the problem in the way I did.
Along the way, you’ll learn about — or improve your understanding of — such topics as:
Most importantly, you’ll be solving these problems along with other developers from around the world. You’ll be able to participate in a forum, in which you can discuss possible solutions. Such interactions are the key to effective, deep learning, and I’m going to do my best to encourage active participation and discussion in our forum.
Moreover, I’ll offer live, online office hours every few weeks. This will give you a chance to ask me about the exercise questions, as well as the solutions. It’s your chance to discuss the exercises in greater depth.
I’m also going to include several multi-week projects, in which successive exercises build on previous ones. This will allow us to build larger projects, while remaining within the constraints of simple, weekly exercises.
This is the second time I’m offering Weekly Python Exercise. I’ve incorporated many suggestions I received from the first set of participants, making this the best way I can think of to improve your Python skills. I’ve improved the exercises, improved the social interactions, and made myself more available to discuss the questions (and answers) with all of the participants.
If you have a good knowledge of Python but want to make it even better, then Weekly Python Exercise is for you. But — and here’s the most important thing — the next cohort will be starting on January 2nd. After that, registration for WPE will be closed.
If you want to level up your Python, now is the time to sign up. I’m not sure when I’m next going to offer WPE, which means that once the course starts, you won’t be able to join.
If you have read a Python book, or taken a Python class, and want to know how to really “get” Python, look no further: Weekly Python Exercise is coming.
Wondering if WPE is for you? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org., and I’ll personally read (and respond to) your question.
If you’re on the fence, and want to sample WPE, you can just enter your e-mail address below, and receive (free of charge) two exercises from the most recent cohort:
In 1995, just before moving to Israel, I was working for Time Warner in New York City. One day, I received email from a company called SSC, publishers of numerous “cheat sheets” for Linux users and programmers. They were about to publish a quick-reference guide for GNU Emacs, and since I was the maintainer of the Emacs FAQ, they wanted my input and thoughts.
I gave them my feedback, and the people at SSC were so thankful for my help that they offered to give me, free of charge, any 10 items from their online catalog. In this way, I got a bunch of quick-reference cards, as well as several issues of the then-new publication, Linux Journal.
I had been using Unix since 1988, and had just started to use this new, open-source version. (I ordered a distribution Linux from a small company in Connecticut known as “Red Hat,” which made for a fairly straightforward installation on a PC. And by “fairly straightforward,” I mean that it only took a few days of configuration to get X Windows to work on my hardware.) So I was excited to read through Linux Journal. I loved what I read, and was in awe of the knowledgeable columnists they had.
In one of those issues was an ad, saying that the magazine would soon be starting a spinoff known as “Websmith,” all about a new phenomenon known as the “World Wide Web.”
Now, I loved to write: I had edited the student newspaper while studying at MIT, and I had always thought that it would be fun to write a column. So I e-mailed the editor of Websmith, asking if they would be interested in having me write a column about CGI programming — which was then the latest and greatest way to create what we now call “dynamic Web content.” After all, I had been doing Web development since early 1993, back when I set up one of the first 100 sites in the world; I figured that my technical and writing experience could be of help.
The editor said “yes,” and my column — which he called “At the Forge,” fitting in with Websmith’s blacksmith theme — was off to the races.
Websmith didn’t survive for very long; it seems that the World Wide Web wasn’t interesting or big enough to support a business. (Who knows? Maybe that’ll change some day.) But some of us who were writing for Websmith discovered that our columns and articles were simply incorporated into Linux Journal’s next issue, continuing from there.
In other words: I was suddenly and unexpectedly a Linux Journal columnist — a position that I have held, continuously and proudly, since 1996.
It’s thus extremely sad for me to know that Linux Journal is no more. The magazine’s publisher, Carlie Fairchild, announced the magazine’s closure to the staff and writers earlier this week, and is telling subscribers today.
Just to put things in perspective: Before I met my wife, before my children were born, before I started my 11-year-long PhD program, I was writing for Linux Journal.
For as long as we have been married, my wife has heard the following, typically several times each month, each time with increased urgency: “I have to work on the column, which was due a few days ago. My editor is going to kill me.”
Ditto for my children, whose definition of “deadline” has definitely been affected — for the worse — by my monthly worrying, complaining, and late-night writing.
But I’m not complaining. Writing for Linux Journal for so long has been a defining part of me, and my career, for a very, very long time.
Thanks to LJ, I have had a chance to write, which I so love to do. I have learned a huge amount through my writing, because each column required that I spend time learning before I could teach.
Thanks to LJ, I’ve even gotten some clients, who contacted me as a result of my articles.
Thanks to LJ, my wife and I were invited to visit Alaska and the Caribbean, when I was a featured speaker with “Geek Cruises.”
Thanks to LJ, I got many free books and other resources, was invited to speak at conferences, and was (much to my pleasant surprise) recognized at technical conferences, even when I didn’t speak there.
And of course, thanks to LJ, I’ve gotten to work with some amazing people. I’ve worked with a variety of editors, the most recent being Jill Franklin, all of whom were talented, helpful, and tolerant of my flexible interpretation of deadlines. They all gave me total freedom to write about whatever topic I wanted, whenever I wanted. I got to explore all sorts of great topics that were of interest to me, and to my clients, and (I believe) to my readers.
I received e-mail from people all around the world who read my columns, which was deeply satisfying and gratifying. At conferences, people would see my name badge and tell me that they had been reading my columns for many years. Even now, as I publish a weekly newsletter for programmers, I often get messages from people saying that they read my column in Linux Journal, and are happy to reconnect with me.
The publishing industry is changing, and that reality is hitting publishers big and small. Indeed, earlier this week, Time Inc. (yes, where I worked when SSC first contacted me) sold itself to another company. The combination of publishing economics, along with the plethora of free, online content for open-source enthusiasts, makes it hard to produce a profitable magazine with top-notch technical content.
Consider the world in 1996: Linux was an oddball operating system, supported by no major manufacturers and seen as a hacker’s plaything. Perl and Python were used by lots of individuals, but not for too many serious applications. MySQL was free, but wasn’t open source, and there weren’t any open-source options for people who wanted to use a database. And of course, Web applications were in their infancy; my “form-mail” program, which was used by countless sites to send e-mail (before it was taken and modified for the worse by Matt’s Script Archive) remained cutting edge for quite some time.
Things have changed a great deal since then. My phone uses Android, a form of Linux. When the flight attendant reboots the in-flight entertainment system, I see that it’s running Linux, as well. My 14-year-old daughter is learning Python. Companies from Apple to IBM, Cisco to PayPal, Ericsson to VMWare, in the US, Europe, Israel, and China, ask me to teach Python and Git to their employees. Who knew that the technologies I learned, and learned to love, so many years ago, would be so dominant in the world today?
And thus, while Linux Journal might have failed as a business, it succeeded in its mission: To spread the word of Linux and open-source software, to help people to understand, implement, and use open-source technology, and to bring these technologies into the mainstream as a legitimate alternative to the then-dominant commercial offerings.
To my many readers: Thanks for your support over the years. (And you can keep getting weekly writing from me via my “Better developers” newsletter.)
To the amazing staff at Linux Journal, over many years and in many iterations: Thanks for putting up with my delays, and for doing such a great job with my text. I can’t imagine how they edited a magazine with such in-depth technical content, but they did, and did it well.
To my family: Thanks for putting up with my loud, monthly stresses, including the many times in which I wondered, out loud, how they could possibly think to have a columnist who cannot get his software to work.
Oh, and to the three (!) journalists who e-mailed me in the last 10 days, asking to whom they could pitch stories for Linux Journal: Sorry, folks. You’re a bit too late.
RIP, Linux Journal. It has been a fun, wild ride.