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Anthony Taylor [hacking]

A killer idea for code [education] [programming] [documentation]

You know what I'd like to see? I'd like the various Free software groups (whether they use "open source" or "free software" doesn't matter) get together to produce the greatest educational tool the world has ever seen:

A website dedicated to Free / Open Source code. Not programs. Code.

Right now, there are a few sites out there that have search interfaces to Free software code, such as the most excellent Koders (which is itself ironically proprietary). But, I have found no place specifically dedicated to small code samples, designed specifically for education and discussion.

This is really just one small step in a direction I believe to be essential for the continued development of Free software: widespread computer literacy. Not your base literacy, in which mad, mad MS-Office skillz makes you a computer expert. I am referring to the basic ability to code, and to code well.

In my experience, coders who know the basics of coding are much better programmers than those who have lived entirely in a Visual Studio-like environment. I'm not saying fancy high-level IDEs aren't useful. They are. But a car mechanic equipped with the latest computerized diagnostic tools still needs to understand internal combustion engines to excel at his craft.

My argument isn't against IDEs. It's for computer knowledge. And to that end, I humbly suggest that a high-profile Free (or Open Source) entity might possibly further the cause by creating an education site for Free software; a site suitable for schools and the self-educated, that concentrates on code, code samples, and the art (and science) of programming.

This site doesn't even need to evangelize the freedom of Free code. As people use this resource, many will come to understand the importance of openness and freedom, as it relates to information and code. As they benefit directly from the free transfer of ideas, they will understand there is intrinsic value to the sharing of information and code.

Most importantly, it results in an open education framework, in which the code snippets can be reviewed and criticized, and the educational materials may be periodically revised to match the evolving world. It can become a resource for the experienced programmer looking for the best method to accomplish a specific task. (A recent example from my own world: how do you alter the process name of a running process?)

Finally, a code resource like this would help mitigate the effect of Microsoft's push into secondary and post-secondary education. Not that I'm worried Microsoft may be able to crush Free software. I believe Microsoft's stranglehold on the industry is doomed, though it will take years to sort it all out. Mostly, I'm concerned about the damage they may do in the meantime, to our students, our education system, and to computing in general.

Ultimately, our society requires decent, open education. We can't necessarily fix broken education systems in any particular country, but we can help out in the important area of computer science. All it takes is a dedicated website, and the resources to manage it. I don't have those resources, but there are organizations in the Free / Open Source community who do have sufficient resources.

If there is a site like this, in which the discussion of Free software code snippets as an educational tool is the primary focus, please let me know. If this already exists, it deserves our support.


[Open Resources]( at the Revolution in Education wiki

 [Koders]( searchable source code repository


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