Thursday, October 17, 2002

Programming is Not Shameful

I was leafing through the extensive collection of books on Macromedia Flash programming at SoftPro this weekend, and was struck by a simple observation. There are thick books and thin books. There are elementary books and comprehensive books, There are colorful books with edgy page designs and plain books with a animals on their covers. There are books for animators, books for game designers, books for XML integrators, books for college students.

There are no books that assume their reader has even a basic college background in computer science. None even take advantage of the possibility that some readers might know something about programming languages.

This is silly. Flash is a professional tool. Surely, some professionals have taken a few decent courses.

I haven't: the last computer science course I took was in 6th grade. This used to be common, and I know a few other computer scientists who've done this. But none are younger than I; I think it would be difficult to pull this off nowadays.

Now, it's possible to explain Flash without assuming any background, but it wastes a lot of time. Jargon has a purpose, Is ActionScript call-by-reference, or call-by-value? You can just tell me, or you can spend 10 pages explaining stuff we all learned sophomore year, Does array assignment do a deep copy, or a shallow copy? Is garbage reference-counted, or what?

Yes, it's nice not to assume that you remember Programming 171. But lots of people have taken the courses or read the books; why waste our time?