[racket] Where to learn advanced programming skills?

From: Joe Gilray (jgilray at gmail.com)
Date: Wed Jul 24 13:29:38 EDT 2013

Hi Ben,

If you want to practice and need some fun problems to work on, I recommend
going to projecteuler.net and solving problem #1.  Then read the forum to
see how others solved it.  Solve problem #2... rinse and repeat.

By the time you get to problem #60 you will have built a little toolbox of
reusable functions (admittedly mostly in the number-theory area) and been
exposed to many different ways to solve problems and many different
programming languages.


On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 10:34 PM, Ben Duan <yfefyf at gmail.com> wrote:

> Neil,
> Thank you very much for your explanation of the terminologies and your
> suggestions.
> Sadly, I’m just the person who has little practical programming
> experience. I started learning programming seriously about a year ago. As
> I’m not coding for a living, I don’t have to write much code. And every
> time when I encountered some problems while coding, I thought that maybe I
> hadn’t got enough knowledge to start real coding, and a new book might
> solve my problems. So I just stopped coding and started a new book. Then I
> ended up spending much more time reading than practicing.
> Recently I realized that I was wrong, and started doing some small
> projects.
> But I have a question here. If I hadn’t read these books, I would be just
> doing the ‘rote practice’ you’ve mentioned, and write FORTRAN code for
> every programming language because that’s how I was introduced into
> programming. Then how can I know whether or not I could improve on some
> aspect if I don’t keep reading and learning?
> Thanks and regards,
> Ben
> On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM, Neil Van Dyke <neil at neilvandyke.org>wrote:
>> Ben Duan wrote at 07/21/2013 10:25 PM:
>>  In this mailing list, I can always find some concepts which are not
>>> familiar to me. For example `monad' and `parameterize'. I don't know how to
>>> learn about these kind of advanced programming skills systematically. So
>>> I'm asking for your suggestions on where I can go next.
>> "Monad" is a concept from pure functional programming that is almost
>> never used in Racket (although people have implemented monads using Scheme
>> and Racket).  If and when you decide you want to learn pure functional
>> programming, I suspect you'd take a detour from Racket at that time, and
>> spend at least a couple months working through a book and language designed
>> specifically for functional programming, like Haskell.
>> "Parameterize" is both a generic term you'll find in discussions of many
>> languages, and "parameterize" is also the name of a special syntactic form
>> in Racket that has very narrow meaning, compared to the generic meaning.
>>  Here's one practical view of Racket parameters, being imprecise with
>> terminology... A Racket parameter, in the sense of "make-parameter" and
>> "parameterize" (you can look them up in the searchable Racket
>> documentation) is a way to implement a mutable variable that is global
>> and/or has dynamically-scoped bindings.  Changes to these variables can be
>> scoped dynamically within a "parameterize" context, and also scoped within
>> threads.  Use parameters for mutable global state that you don't want to
>> keep passing around as arguments between procedures, and for
>> thread-specific state that you don't want to keep passing around.  Use
>> "parameterize" when you want to establish a new dynamic scope for a mutable
>> variable, such as for thread-local state, or if you with to temporarily
>> override a value within the same thread.
>>> I have read some commonly recommended books like:
>> You've read a lot already.  I don't know how much practical programming
>> experience you have, but this reminds me to make a suggestion for anyone
>> reading this email who is learning programming and doing a lot of reading...
>> If someone has access to a computer, then my suggestion at this point is
>> make sure that they are spending more time practicing programming than they
>> are spending on reading.
>> By reading books and doing problem sets only, and reasoning about
>> programming in their head atop that, then someone might be able to
>> understand programming theory as a mathematician might.  But if they want
>> intuition and insight into how to build and evolve sustainable systems in
>> the real world, then I'm not aware of any substitute for practical
>> experience in programming.
>> Also, when you're getting programming experience, my suggestion is *not*
>> to do it as rote practice, like trying to master just the mechanics of
>> playing a particular piece on a musical instrument.  Instead, I suggest
>> doing programming as experiments in method, like a creative performer or an
>> innovative composer, and pick up experience with the rote mechanics along
>> the way.  You will wind up with mistakes, but you will learn from them, and
>> you will also wind up with wins you would not have if you did not
>> experiment.  Programming has a lot less material available to learn via
>> books than, say, medicine does, and you can experiment without killing any
>> patients (just delete the patient's file, quietly, and no one need know).
>>  This is all hand-wavy, but I think it's a way to think about programming
>> that results in a greater mental toolbox.  It beats treating programming
>> like a clerical skill, or pretending that programming is understood by
>> anyone better than it is.
>> Neil V.
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