Know-How

From Hobbies to Trade Skills to Artistic Expression, developed knowledge and improved craft is the mark of accomplishment — Coding is no different.

– Darius Dunlap

I wish schools still had Shop, and Band, and Art. I believe there is a kind of mental development that’s missing without them. And I believe that these kinds of classes — focused on doing and making — support and expand the skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, problem solving, and other key skills we all want kids to develop.

These days there is a lot of talk about “Learning to Code.” And that would be great, except for this aura of magic around it. Because learning to code is really a lot like learning carpentry, or photography, or learning to cook. The basics are pretty simple, though that is not evident to the uninitiated. And full expertise is a lifetime pursuit. And most of us are content with a modest competence.

Learning to code is easier than it has ever been. Not because it’s become simpler, but because the tools have become better, specifically in that they allow you to do something useful more easily and with less knowledge and skill.

Photography is undergoing and transformation in a similar way. It’s not that the pictures we take with our phones and fancy digital cameras are better than film for the expert photographer, but that these new tools provide immediacy. You can take a picture and instantly see it. You can learn from every photograph taken, right there, right then, and take another and another until you get the photo you want. You take more photos, too. Your photography improves at a pace and in ways that would have required much more patience, organization, focus, and effort a couple decades ago when the turn-around was so much slower.

Deep expertise still takes years, but the basics are more accessible than ever.

It’s the same for coding.

Mastering coding, or more properly Software Engineering and Computer Science, is not something every needs to do. it’s probably not something every could do, even if they tried. It’s a deep field and the complexity of the most advanced techniques are beyond those without an aptitude. At the very highest level, it requires not just superior mathematics and problem solving, but also philosophy and compassion — designing systems requires thinking beyond the immediate technical problem to understand how the system fits into the world and how people are going to use it. The people who can do all of this well are rare.

But for the rest of us, our needs are simpler. We can create something that solves a straightforward problem, using the excellent tools developed over the last several decades, and never have to think about the mathematics of drawing the curve at the corner of our icon or the physics of making our animation look natural, or the details of setting up a server and keeping it reliable and secure.

So “Learning to Code” is a lot like learning to cook. It doesn’t mean we will all become master chefs with Michelin-rated restaurants. But it does mean we can learn to make a good loaf of hand-made bread from natural starter that’s better than what you can get off the shelf at the grocers.

Most importantly, learning to code, like taking shop or joining the band in high school, helps you get better at other things. It helps you solve problems in other domains, and it develops your mind.

Love and Fear


Yesterday I was cleaning up around the house and enjoying the latest Tim Ferris Show, What I learned in 2016, and right in the beginning was reminded of Oprah’s idea that there are only two emotions, Love and Fear.

We push back from this sort of idea. It’s too simple, we say. “I’m not afraid of anything”, we say. But as Tim Ferris says in his rapid-fire style:

Continue reading “Love and Fear”

30 Years

June 20th, 1986 I started a new adventure at a new job and in a place that would become home.

Continue reading “30 Years”

The Square Peg Foundation Journey

I wrote a short thing about our long journey together creating and building Square Peg Foundation. It’s over on the Square Peg blog:

A Journey, Together

 

A New Beginning…

I’ve occasionally thought about grabbing this domain, dariusdunlap.com, for some time. As I was getting some new things setup on my various blogs, I realized that now was the time.

More will appear here over the coming days, including some of the archives from my old consulting business website and other stuff.

I’m working to articulate what this will be. I’m learning toward making my professional presence here, and so limiting it a bit. We’ll see.

For now, welcome!

Feed That Wolf

The One You Feed is a show I often listen to on my hikes or while doing chores around the house.  It starts with the parable of the two wolves. You know the one. They have great guests and it’s always an interesting conversation.

The guest this week is our friend Kristin Neff, who my wife and I met because of our work at Square Peg Foundation — especially with Autism.

Continue reading “Feed That Wolf”

You are not your depression

Conversations on depression have been flowing around the tech community for the last few months. It’s important, and many people have written about their experiences. There is some wonderful, helpful, and deeply personal insights out there.

Continue reading “You are not your depression”

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To Make a Great Product, Be Present and Self-Aware

A key principle when thinking about a product is to understand, deeply, the needs of the user of the product. What job are they hiring it to do? Why – What are they trying to accomplish?

But this is difficult – and not just because it takes long hours and many cycles of iterative improvement. It’s not just that the things people tell us about what they want are wrong, or at best incomplete. It’s not just that it’s difficult to simultaneously have deep belief in your insight and also question every assumption.

It’s difficult because we get in our own way. 

We have difficulty sorting out our own motivations, dealing with our own emotional responses, and knowing our own mind. So how can we really understand someone else? At the same time, we also tend to attribute motivations and meaning to the actions of other people —as if we know what they are thinking. 

Look at your personal life. Have you ever been accused of some transgression that all turned out to be a misunderstanding? Now, be honest, have you ever made that sort of assumption about someone else, later to find out that you were wrong? 

These emotional examples just highlight a more pervasive problem. Our minds tend to make a leap of meaning, a shortcut of sorts, to help us understand the world around us.  We tell ourselves stories about things that happen around us that build our concept of how things work. This skill is useful. But we also tend to stick to stories that reinforce our ideas about the world. We resist, and explain away, anything new or different —especially if it challenges our core ideas. 

“If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies behind it: the contrarian truth.”

– Peter Thiel, Zero to One

We can never perfectly understand the motivations, aspirations, emotions and thoughts of other people. We can probably never perfectly understand our own. But by working at it, we can grow and become better at it. We can see our own thoughts as just thoughts. We can turn them over, examine them, think about alternatives, and decide what to think. 

This is the beginning. It’s not about having a formula for success, but rather a skill of being present and self-aware so that we can make better use of any idea, method, formula, or framework. It’s not about being perfect. Just notice that you are making assumptions or assigning motivation, and come back to self-awareness. 

Be Present. Be Self-Aware. Innovate. 

Square Peg Ranch On TV

For the next few months, our work at Square Peg Ranch is featured on America’s Best Racing and Fox Sports. The first short video in the series was shown today during the horse racing coverage of the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, NJ. Joell and I watched at a local pizza place with some of our families. 

You can watch an extended version of this first video on the America’s Best Racing Website. 

In the video you’ll see several of our kids featured, plus Davis Finch, our Grantwriter who also keeps our horse and lesson records — tracking everything that goes on with the horses, including all training, exercise, injuries, medications and preventive care. (For more information about Square Peg Foundation and our work at Square Peg Ranch, check out our website, SquarePegFoundation.org or reach out directly to me.)

The team at Fox Sports and America’s Best Racing have done a really beautiful job on this video. They were a joy to work with and we’re eagerly looking forward to seeing the rest of the series!

The President interviewed by a comedian in a garage.

Marc Maron scored a real coup for his show WTF, with the President of the United States sitting down with him in his garage in Pasadena to have a very human and personal conversation with him. It’s an excellent listen.