17th level Hacker

Programming Education, Open Source Style

OSNews has a review of the book “Code Reading: An Open Source Perspective”. It looks like it could be pretty interesting. There’s a lot of great code out there now, produced by thousands and thousands of open source projects. I don’t think it can be stressed enough that the benefit of open source lies not only in the working projects that they produce, but in the millions of lines of working examples that programmers can pull from. This really lies at the heart of the explosive growth of open source, and is one of the major underpinnings of the GPL mindset. Open code begets open code because every project provides a base for new efforts to build on top of.

Traditional computer science and software engineering would have one believe that reuse is supposed to happen at the module, library, and object levels for maximum efficiency. But forcing reuse to happen at that level and only at that level is unnecessarily restrictive. The ability to peek under the covers and see how something should be done, and occasionally exercising the ability to just rip the whole thing to shreds and start over, has allowed the open source community to evolve much faster than the proprietary product market was ever able to. I think that it has and will continue to contribute to the education of new programmers. Students are no longer forced to accept what they’re being told. They can go out and look at successful implementations and find out what really works in practice. Institutions attempting to teach computer science and software engineering would do best to accept this and work with it.