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Python For Dummies

9 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Oct 20, 2006 3:06 AM by Kerim Mansour

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David Goodger

Posts: 48
Nickname: goodger
Registered: Apr, 2004

Python For Dummies (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Sep 20, 2006 10:35 AM
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Summary
The latest book to be published in the "For Dummies" series covers Python. I'm proud to have played a small part in its production.
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On Monday I received my copy of Python For Dummies by Stef & Aahz Maruch. Aahz had asked me to be the technical editor for the book and I was happy to do it, and the book being written so well it was truly a pleasure. As with other books in the "For Dummies" series, this book doesn't treat its readers like dummies but covers the material in an accessible and light-hearted way, geared toward the beginner.

I hope this book exposes many new programmers to the delights of Python, a programming language that's fun to use.

Python For Dummies is available from your local bookseller or online in Canada, in the US, and elsewhere I'm sure.


Lawrence Oluyede

Posts: 6
Nickname: rhymes
Registered: Oct, 2003

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Sep 20, 2006 2:41 PM
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Congratulations!

Eli Courtwright

Posts: 14
Nickname: eliandrewc
Registered: Jan, 2006

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Sep 20, 2006 6:25 PM
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How does this book compare with "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist in Python"?

That book is also written for beginners, and like the "For Dummies" books it doesn't assume a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader.

So what does this book offer that's different/better/more detailed/etc?

David Goodger

Posts: 48
Nickname: goodger
Registered: Apr, 2004

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Sep 20, 2006 8:07 PM
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> How does this book compare with "How to Think Like a
> Computer Scientist in Python"?

I haven't read that book in a while, so I couldn't say.

> That book is also written for beginners, and like the "For
> Dummies" books it doesn't assume a lot of knowledge on the
> part of the reader.
>
> So what does this book offer that's different/better/more
> detailed/etc?

"How to Think Like a Computer Scientist in Python" seems to be out of print (although available online); *that's* a big difference! ;-)

They are two different books by different authors taking different approaches, and may appeal to different readers or to the same readers in different ways. Some people prefer multiple intro books, some are fine with a single intro book, and others don't need a hardcopy book at all.

Variety is the spice of life.

I suggest you visit your local bookseller and give "Python For Dummies" a try and decide for yourself.

Kerim Mansour

Posts: 4
Nickname: todi
Registered: Oct, 2006

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 11, 2006 1:16 AM
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When reading this i actually felt some stinging pain somewhere in my guts.
"xxx for Dummies"....
Now you said:"I hope this book exposes many new programmers to the delights of
Python, a programming language that's fun to use.
"
Frankly a priorii dont see this becoming true because of the simple fact that i dont think programmers read such books !
"Dummies" do, and people that think that a complicated matter can be introduced in a funny way by a 200 page (comic)book where at the end a semiprofessional will evolve out of a novice.

I remember a presentation by Michi Henning concerning programming and the way it is presented through books these days. It was an eye opener.
For me programming in the end is an art, doing it correctly requires skill and many books if not allmost all (knuth, tannenbaum etc. being the exceptions) treat it as if it was some kind of easy toy that anybody can simply play around with and call themselves "programmers".
This is not to say that people shouldnt be able to try it or inform themselves about it. Its just a reminder that progamming is not really something for the average "garbage collector" or "facility cleaner".

Would you trust your life to someone who has only read "Brain surgery in 21 days" ? Or "Brain Surgery for dummies" ? "Nuclear bombs UNLEASHED" ? Hopefully not.

People that are already programmers (remember your statement i quoted above) will not look into a book that explains everything and nothing at the same time from the beginning.

I do not know why people feel the need to make things appear "easier" than they are especially for people that then get caught in the illusion that a book of some 200 pages written in some "funny" language will make them programming pro's.
The only reason i can come up with is "marketing".
So far (my opinion) python avoided that term and the resulting effects on it very well.
Unlike java or ruby.

I hope it continues to stay so.

PS: I certainly hope that you have used your skill to correct the wrongs in the book and that it doesnt really deserve the title it has.
I am sorry if i sound so harsh... its just frustrating to see all those kids these days running around with a copy of "such" books thinking they now "know" everything and making the days of such an old guy like me look like hell by the code they "spit out". Just two days ago i had such a "pro" applying for a job. His "technique" consisted of doing nothing else than arranging code snipplets from such books to "solve" problems.

David Goodger

Posts: 48
Nickname: goodger
Registered: Apr, 2004

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 17, 2006 11:34 AM
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Kerim Mansour wrote:
> When reading this i actually felt some stinging pain
> somewhere in my guts.
> "xxx for Dummies"....
> Now you said:"I hope this book exposes many new
> programmers to the delights of
> Python, a programming language that's fun to use."

You misread what I wrote. By "new programmers" here I meant "people
new to programming", "beginning programmers", or "beginners".
Everyone has to start somewhere, and different approaches work for
different people. Scholarly textbooks and reference books don't cut
it for everyone.

> Would you trust your life to someone who has only read
> "Brain surgery in 21 days" ? Or "Brain Surgery for
> dummies" ? "Nuclear bombs UNLEASHED" ? Hopefully not.

Of course not. Nobody who reads "Python for Dummies" or any of the
"For Dummies" books should consider themselves an expert or a
professional on that basis alone. Anyone who did would show themself
to be a fool.

You obviously have a misconception about these books. Have you ever
read one of the "For Dummies" books? They're not really "for
dummies", they're for intelligent people who have little or no
knowledge of a subject but want to get into the meat of it quickly and
efficiently. The title is a tongue-in-cheek "inside joke".
The content tends to be on the light (humorous) side as well, which
offsets the often extremely dry nature of the subject.

When they first came out, I avoided the "For Dummies" books myself.
Heck, I'm not a dummy! But there's so much to know and so little
time. I've read several of these books and so far they've all been
well-written, approachable introductions to their subject. They
provide enough information to get into a subject, often enough to get
the immediate task done, and a good foundation for further study if
necessary.

Choose a subject that you know nothing about but are interested in
learning, and try a "For Dummies" book. You'll probably be pleasantly
surprised.

Kerim Mansour

Posts: 4
Nickname: todi
Registered: Oct, 2006

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 19, 2006 9:14 AM
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> You misread what I wrote. By "new programmers" here I
> meant "people
> new to programming", "beginning programmers", or
> "beginners".
ok, accepted. My second point stands however (and you seem to agree ?): such books dont make someone a programmer.
No offense meant (english is not my native language by the way). There is something going on in the industry and it simply makes me angry.
I actually blogged this at:
http://mansourk.blogspot.com/2006/10/easy-programming-illusion-for-market.html
but perhaps this text from Peter Norvig is more capable of making some of my points:
http://www.norvig.com/21-days.html
I found it two days after my own entry. Funny how google rules our lives ;-)

> Everyone has to start somewhere, and different approaches
> work for
> different people. Scholarly textbooks and reference books
> don't cut
> it for everyone.
I agree to the first sentence, i have problems with the second. I do not know any person that really learned math in its complexity by anything else than a scholarly book.
I think with programming its the same.
Everybody can of course learn to produce a loop, an if-else statement etc. But its not as easy to learn something about algorythms, patterns, paradigmas etc.
My main points are two
a)such books do not add any quality to a persons abilities to program apart of syntax knowledge
b)such books make the profession appear easier than it is.

> Of course not. Nobody who reads "Python for Dummies" or
> any of the
> "For Dummies" books should consider themselves an expert
> or a
> professional on that basis alone. Anyone who did would
> show themself
> to be a fool.
My point is that there ARE too many fools out there and i claim that its the current way programming is presented that make many people think they actually are what they claim !

> You obviously have a misconception about these books.
> Have you ever
> read one of the "For Dummies" books?
Delphi for dummies, some 10 years(?) ago.
It helped me with exactly those things i mentioned above.
Basic syntax, some solutions to "common" problems (io, grafics, gui). Nothing more.

> The title is a tongue-in-cheek "inside
> joke".
> The content tends to be on the light (humorous) side as
> well, which
> offsets the often extremely dry nature of the subject.
This i understand.
I try it again ...
My point is that actually it IS a subject with a dry nature.
At least for all those that do not have some link to it.
Either you know something about programming and then i think its not problematic to learn something new (no matter the way)... or you dont know anything about it and then the question is what you can learn about it through such a book.
Why is everybody so keen to hide the complexity and nature of the topic ?
Let me ask you again ... do you think there would be a benefit in a book "Brainsurgery in 21 days?"
Which one would that be ?

> They
> provide enough information to get into a subject, often
> enough to get
> the immediate task done, and a good foundation for further
> study if
> necessary.
Sure. I agree that you get the info for some common problems. They tell you how to create windows and arrange buttons and basic actionhandling. Some tips about file io, printing etc.

> Choose a subject that you know nothing about but are
> interested in
> learning, and try a "For Dummies" book. You'll probably
> be pleasantly
> surprised.
I do not want to appear totally stubborn. So i promisse i WILL go to the book store again and read through one.
Since at the moment i am switching to a new programming language anyway (dont know yet which) .. i have nothing to loose.
If you are correct then i guess You did something far better then the guy who edited the delphi for dummies. And i certainly hope so as it will be "python for dummies" i will have a look at.

PS: Again ... no offense meant. Just a bit of frustration on my side.

David Goodger

Posts: 48
Nickname: goodger
Registered: Apr, 2004

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 19, 2006 11:03 AM
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> My second point stands however (and you seem to agree ?): such books
> dont make someone a programmer.

Such books don't make someone an expert, professional programmer,
true. Such books DO introduce the newbie to programming, and may
start them on their way to becoming expert and professional. These
books also help amateurs. Not everyone can or should become a
professional programmer. Lots of people are happy to dabble. Have
you ever heard of "Computer Programming For Everybody" ("CP4E")?

> No offense meant (english is not my native language by the
> way).

None taken.

> There is something going on in the industry and it simply makes me
> angry.

I think you're overreacting and misconstruing the intent of this book.

> Let me ask you again ... do you think there would be a benefit in a
> book "Brainsurgery in 21 days?"

No, and any such book published would be criminally irresponsible.
But "Neurology for Dummies" might get somebody interested enough in
the subject to enroll in medical school.

If every book published was aimed at professionals only,
what a boring world it would be.

>> Choose a subject that you know nothing about but are interested in
>> learning, and try a "For Dummies" book. You'll probably be
>> pleasantly surprised.

> I do not want to appear totally stubborn. So i promisse i WILL go to
> the book store again and read through one.

If you are already an experienced programmer, I would not recommend a
"For Dummies" programming book.
Instead, choose a subject that you know absolutely nothing about.
These books are for beginners.

nes

Posts: 137
Nickname: nn
Registered: Jul, 2004

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 19, 2006 2:33 PM
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I don’t know what your problem is Kerim. Brain surgery is very different from programming. There is nothing wrong with beginning programmers. I programmed as a kid on my home computer and had lots of fun. Will you tell me that it is somehow immoral to write bad programs for entertainment at home? Also, there are Excel spreadsheets that are a mess. Should we ban Excel too?

Granted, if you are programming professionally you should probably study more than what a 21-days book can teach you. The problem is people in the industry that pretend 21 days is enough to become an expert, but that is hardly the fault of books. And again it depends on the scale. I can fix a 20 line python script written by a beginner no matter how badly programmed without much problem. I absolutely don’t want to work on a 2000 line project architected by a beginner. As long as the skill set matches the project, people should leverage technology they have available. Python is a good language to write small useful scripts without the need of always going for a fully architected project.

Kerim Mansour

Posts: 4
Nickname: todi
Registered: Oct, 2006

Re: Python For Dummies Posted: Oct 20, 2006 3:06 AM
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<<<<Such books don't make someone an expert, professional programmer,
true. Such books DO introduce the newbie to programming, and may
start them on their way to becoming expert and professional. These
books also help amateurs. Not everyone can or should become a
professional programmer. Lots of people are happy to dabble.>>>>
I agree here. The question is if readers of such books see it the same way.
What do you think of such a title: "Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional". Do you think this is a fair statement to make in a title ?
BTW: Concerning more or less funny intros i found Hetlands one to be very good (despite the title ;-) ): http://hetland.org/python/instant-python.php Got me going in 10 minutes with a small test and made me interested enough to put it on my list of potential new languages to learn.

<< Have
you ever heard of "Computer Programming For Everybody" ("CP4E")?>>
Nope, reading through an essay at the moment.

<<
I think you're overreacting and misconstruing the intent of this book.>>
This perticular book ? Might be. I havent read it afterall. I generally have problems with the way programming is presented. This one just "pulled the trigger" so to speak.

<<<<No, and any such book published would be criminally irresponsible.
But "Neurology for Dummies" might get somebody interested enough in
the subject to enroll in medical school.>>>>
Sure enough. The problem arises when they call or even only think themselves (to be) "neurologes".

<<If every book published was aimed at professionals only,
what a boring world it would be.>>
You misunderstood me here. I dont think every book should be aimed at professionals. I think books should mention the complexity of a subject fairly. That doesnt contradict the idea that they can be "easy" or that they introduce something in a funny way. It only means that if something IS complex, then people should know it and not live with the image it is a piece of cake.


> I don’t know what your problem is Kerim. Brain surgery is
> very different from programming.
Surely it is but what aspect are you speaking about exactly ?

>There is nothing wrong
> with beginning programmers.
Of course not ! Afterall i havent seen someone who didnt start from zero ;-)

> I programmed as a kid on my
> home computer and had lots of fun.
Me too

> Will you tell me that
> it is somehow immoral to write bad programs for
> entertainment at home?
No surely not. Its only bad to write bad programs for companies or in a team.

>Also, there are Excel spreadsheets
> that are a mess. Should we ban Excel too?
The analogy is false. I dont want to ban python. Actually i dont want to "ban" anything. I have a strong dislike for restrictions of freedom.
But lets stay with your example.
Who do you think makes bad excel sheets and why ?
My mother made bad excel sheets. Really bad. Not that she even saw it herself. Afterall she had read lots of books on the topic. She couldnt be wrong when doing what they said.

> Granted, if you are programming professionally you should
> probably study more than what a 21-days book can teach
> you. The problem is people in the industry that pretend 21
> days is enough to become an expert, but that is hardly the
> fault of books.
I dispute exactly the last sentence.
I have never seen anybody complain if lets say a painter takes a day to paint your house !
Nobody expects him to do it in 30 minutes.
I have seen many people (including many friends and neighbours that have no clue about computers) that complain if you cant repair their pc, fix or implement a program for them in 30 minutes.
I claim that there is an understanding in the public that more or less says "computers and computing are totally easy". I claim that this is caused by marketing and part of that marketing are books that through their very title or writing spread this impression.
I might err concerning this or that particular book and i do NOT want to claim that the book we talk about is bad (i havent read it after all). I only ranted a bit about the general problems i have with the situation at hand.

Now you state:
> And again it depends on the scale. I can
> fix a 20 line python script written by a beginner no
> matter how badly programmed without much problem. I
> absolutely don’t want to work on a 2000 line project
> architected by a beginner. As long as the skill set
> matches the project, people should leverage technology
> they have available. Python is a good language to write
> small useful scripts without the need of always going for
> a fully architected project.
Its not about python.
Let me say something about myself.
I currently work in a java project involving 3200 java sourcefiles (not counting libs, properties, c-bindings etc.)
I am not worried about a beginner as long as he is "visible" as such, not only for me but also for himself. The first thing i do when a topic arises which i dont know anything about is to shout "newbie HERE!" I am worried about folks that actually believe the idea that after a lecture of 200-500 pages they are "equal".

I think its a matter of perspective really.
I am sceptical about the message that such books transmit, especially given the relation of "its so easy" books versus "moderate" books. I dont want to ban them, i just wished there would be more awareness of the potential problems and that people know its NOT easy and fast to deliver good quality. I see it every day when i look at projects with fluctuation in the amount of people "programming".

You seem to emphasize the potential positive effect, being an increase in interest for "put the name of a language here".

I think BOTH is true, but while your point is taken for granted everywhere, mine is simply not "popular" enough to make it into the books.

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