Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mozilla and Me

A few days ago was Mozilla's 15 birthday. Not bad for a company that deals in Open Source software. As a celebration, Mozilla volunteers shared their story with the #webstory tag on twitter. Considering I'm not a big twitter guy, I think a blog post will do.

My first interaction with Mozilla was through Firefox. I was a user since version 1, or even earlier if my memory serves me right. By 2008, when I started university I was already a tried and tested user. However, I had no idea of what Mozilla actually stood for. I then attended a presentation by +Alina Mierlus and +Toni Hermoso Pulido about the Mozilla community and I was hooked. It became my community with the values I supported. Soon enough I started hosting events, became a Mozilla Rep and a small contributor.

My hope is that it won't end here. I have big plans to support Mozilla until the end. I know of no other company that does so much to fight for its users' rights. And I see only good things in Mozilla's future. Stay tuned for more.

Check out 15 awesome Mozilla facts: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/contribute/

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Programming for kids

It's been some time since I registered this blog, but I've never had any time to write even one blog post. Maybe it's time that changed. So I start my first post with my opinion on programming, and the fact that today's children don't learn nearly enough of it.

First of all, let me take you through my own experience. The first time I wrote a program I was maybe 10 years old. I had an interesting piece of hardware, that was marketed as a "Pre-PC". It had a a 40x2 characters black and white display, a keyboard, and a few buttons where you selected your "game". It didn't do that much. But the best part of it was that one game... that I had no idea what it did at first. For every line I wrote, it replied "SYNTAX ERROR".

A few months passed before I picked up the manual, a nice glossy touch to it. That's where I found a 30 page tutorial of BASIC, complete with the ASCII table and a few very interesting snippets. For the next few months, I would spend about 20 minutes every day with it. It was pretty great. But then, at Christmas, a cool PC awaited in my room, so the BASIC stopped.

I hadn't realized how much impact those few minutes had on me. I never did any other form programming until high-school, when we started with Pascal. It was nothing like BASIC, but unlike my classmates, I already had a basic understanding of imperative programming. It was also useful when I did assembly programming, at university. Somehow it was much easier to compare it to BASIC than any other programming language I knew. Constructing loops was something I was already used to, and the goto instruction was like an old friend.

I am still struck by how much influence this had on me and I can't help thinking that if I hadn't stopped programming, I would be a much better software developer today. I'm also thinking about the newer generations, and what an opportunity we have with them.

If you think about what programming was 15-20 years ago, and what it is today, you can only imagine what it's going to look like in another 20 years. But most likely it's going to be completely different than anything that you could think of. Programming languages, artificial intelligence, algorithms, UIs... These kids should start learning now.

Of course, not every kid will grow up to be a programmer. And I don't think that every kid should. But I feel there are absolutely no downsides to knowing how to code.

So, how young should they start? I think as young as 4-5 years old. And not effective programming. Just concepts. Inheritance, recursion, basic design. Programming should be as basic as math. Every child should know how to write a basic app, and implement a simple algorithm. It might give them the edge, and most of all, it might actually make the entire world a lot better.

So, should it be every child? What about the kids that want to be doctors, or actors? I can think of a lot of cases where a doctor might want to write some code. And regarding actors, I think none of them would mind coding instead of waiting tables until they get their big break.

Hope this makes a good point. If so, please teach your kids how to code. It will make the world a lot better.