No newsletter this month. I was visiting family last week, and only got back yesterday, and I also wanted to finally get a long blog post out, and now I can’t be bothered to write anything else.
Anyway the post is here: Hacker News folk wisdom on visual programming. I’m not completely sure why I wrote 9000 words analysing a bunch of HN comments, but after I quit my job this just came out for some reason. I’m currently interested in writing as a technology after reading Ong’s Orality and Literacy and some other things, and this is my convoluted way of exploring what text does:
I’m curious about formal and technical languages more generally: how do we use the properties of text in other fields of mathematics, or in programming? What is text good at, and what is it bad at? Comment threads on visual programming turn out to be a surprisingly good place to explore this question. If something’s easy in text but difficult in a specific visual programming tool, you can guarantee that someone will turn up to complain about it. Some of these complaints are fairly superficial, but some get into some fairly deep properties of text: linearity, information density, an alphabet of discrete symbols. And conversely, enthusiasm for a particular visual feature can be a good indicator of what text is poor at.
I also wrote two other shorter things:
A speedrun on abacus schools. These were a kind of practical school in medieval Italy that helped to push forward the development of algebra. I find them interesting as an example of innovative work on the edges of academia.
Crackpot time 3: speculations will turn out well? A review of the last few years of attempting to do physics in my spare time.
Anyway that’s all for now. Not sure exactly what I’ll do next month, but I’ll probably fiddle around with Ghost a bit to see if I want to move my blog from Wordpress, and I’ll write a real newsletter too. See you then.