A future without linters

I have a vision of a wonderful future. A future without arguments about camelCase and snake_case. A future without debates over tabs and spaces. A future without forcing people to write code in a style they dislike. A future without linters. “Impossible!” I hear from the balcony, and to which I respond: it isn’t. I spent last week in LA at RubyConf (which was great! The talks will all be posted in the next few weeks, and you should check them out), and there was a surprising amount of talk about linters — prompted in large part by the release of Standard, a gem that provides a recommended set of rules for the RuboCop linter.

Judging expertise

One of the reasons researchers focus on experts instead of expertise is that it seems easier to find the one than the other — you can look to community-acclamation, or to the gold medalists, or to people with 2500+ Elo ratings and pick out “experts,” but expertise itself is harder to see — you can’t just rely on outcomes, because expertise is just one of the factors that influence performance.

Building Reg Watch

North Carolina has a complicated history with voter rights. In 2016 alone, some 60,000 voters were denied a regular ballot because of problems with the voter rolls — and as political engagement and enthusiasm to vote is increasing around the country, we’re going to need tools to help make sure that everyone who is eligible and wants to vote, can. Several months ago, Ragtag was approached by Insightus, a NC-based nonprofit, to help build such a tool — and as of this week, Reg Watch is live.

TMTOWTDI and expertise

One of the guiding principles of the Perl programming language is TMTOWTDI — there’s more than one way to do it (where “it” is “pretty much anything you want to use Perl to do”). Interestingly, for most (interesting) domains, this is true of expertise, as well. Wait for it… I’m still defining expertise as the set of acquired traits that contribute to success in some endeavor — but for whatever domain you’re looking at, there are often multiple strategies that can work.

Everyday expertise

The Winter Olympics are on! We’re in the first week of watching athletes who’ve spent years honing their skills and now get to amaze us with their spins, speed, and grace. Sports are a fantastic domain for researching and talking about expertise, with the direct observation of expert performance, the long history of deliberate practice, and the sheer excellence people can demonstrate. That’s not what this post is about.

My January in reading and podcasts

I had so much fun doing my Reading and Podcast years in review for 2017 that I’ve decided to do more frequent look-backs this year. I don’t know that I’ll post them every month, but I thought I’d kick it off with a post even if it’s mostly for me later on. Reading Starting with reading: I finished 14 books in January, split evenly between fiction and non-fiction. Given that my “official” goal for the year is 52 books, I’m doing pretty well on that front.

The continuity of expertise

One of the (many) things that makes research on the highest levels of expertise challenging is that — by definition — there aren’t that many people at the highest levels of expertise. One way around this obstacle is to try to actually study those people — the Olympians, the chess Grandmasters, the international orchestral soloists, etc. Depending on the domain, that’s either difficult or impossible, so most research ends up taking the second option: they study people with less expertise.

Expertise and attention

So, my last few posts started to describe a theory of expertise as something like: the set of factors acquired over time that help someone achieve success in a domain (see this and this for some background), and specifically the (picture my hands waving madly now) “mental” ones. I think it’s time to say (just a bit) more about that. As of right now I think of expertise as some mix of: representational knowledge (facts, etc.

My 2017 in podcasts

I had a lot of fun doing my post about my reading for the past year , so I figured I’d take a shot at doing something similar for my podcast listening. The data’s a little bit trickier to figure out for podcast hosts than it is for authors, but here’s a shot at it. The numbers I listened to around 1680 hours of content in 2017, spread across 1890 episodes of 107 distinct shows.

My 2017 in reading

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts — three years, to be exact — but I had a few goals going into this year that I wanted to look back on. Goals I aimed to read at least 26 works of fiction and 26 works of non-fiction this year; it’s a good bit under my past goals, but given my secondary goal I wanted to avoid stressing about quantity.