[TOS] First draft of textbook: introductory chapter (foreword?)

Greg DeKoenigsberg gdk at redhat.com
Fri Sep 4 18:16:05 UTC 2009

On Fri, 4 Sep 2009, Matthew Jadud wrote:

> 2009/9/4 Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com>:
>> In March 2006, David A. Patterson wrote an article for entitled "Computer
>> science education in the 21st century". In this article -- which, sadly, you
>> cannot read unless you are an ACM member -- he advocated a few fundamental
> A student membership is $40, roughly. While I am generally down on
> content behind walls, the ACM has done a better job than most in
> making their content accessible. Maybe someday it will be completely
> free.
> In the meantime, could we use the book as an opportunity to get the
> ACM to release the article under the CC? Would that be a productive
> conversation to have with someone in the ACM? Wearing my "Random J.
> Reader" hat, I don't know what your beef is with the ACM, what the ACM
> is, why you have to highlight it in the first sentence of the book,
> etc.

Fair enough, and it's probably inappropriate in this context -- it's copy 
I wrote for another reason and repurposed.  I'll pull that comment either 
way.  Still, if you can get this article released under some shareable 
license, that would be brilliant.

> I might be able to do the digging on that, if it doesn't fit on
> someone elses. Regardless, I'd stick to a positive/constructive tone.
>> David A. Patterson was, at the time, the president of the Association for
>> Computer Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing
> Perhaps start here. Introduce David first, as it also introduces the
> ACM. Then go into the material for the first paragrah.
> David A. Patterson was, at the time, the president of the Association
> for Computing Machinery... In 2023, he wrote an article...
>> We've spent a lot of time over the past few years talking to computer
>> science professors. Mostly we've asked lots of questions -- actually, the
>> same ones over and over.
> This is where we establish the audience. Is your audience strictly CS
> profs? What if I'm CSE? (I suppose the title catches that.) Is the
> book going to be of broader interest (eg. to people involved in open
> documentation efforts)?

Good catch.  Should I say "CS and CSE"?

> Just checking, really. Mostly, I am noting this was the callout of the 
> audience.
>> are well-intentioned, but bound by circumstances that make it frustratingly
>> difficult to introduce students to open source development.
>> So why bother?
> There's a bit of a jump here. But, for the intro, that's probably fine.
>> The answer is simple: the skills required to succeed in an open source
>> software project are the exact same skills required to succeed in any large
>> software project.  The biggest difference is that, with just a bit of
> Actually, the skills are those that are required to succeed in any
> large project that involves a high degree of communication. But, that
> might be the meta-takeaway.
>> Our hope is that this textbook helps to provide that guidance to a whole
>> generation of students.
> I was part of a group that wrote a book called "Studying Programming."
> It wasn't about learning to program in Language X---instead, it was a
> book about how to go about the activity of learning to program,
> regardless of language. Is this a textbook about how to do the
> detailed steps of each thing in the outline, or is it more about the
> processes? I'm just wondering about the word "textbook." Not a
> fully-formed/well-formed thought, either...
> They're not ineffective. They're very effective. Just not for what you
> want them to be effective for.
> They meet ABET guidelines. They don't get you in trouble. They, in a
> word, "work." I don't know if you've so firmly established the context
> yet that you can claim that the practice of most every reader who
> picks up your book is "ineffective."
>> it's the "Capstone Project".  Whatever it's called, the purpose of this Big
>> Project is to expose students to "real" software engineering practices.
> Perhaps just drop "real". " to expose students to software engineering
> practices."

This is, perhaps, a bold statement to make, and I will clarify it.  But 
what *is* clear is that what "works" for the professor in the context of 
ABET certification DOES NOT WORK to make the student any more skilled, 
confident, or employable, and I think it's a crucially important point to 
make.  In many ways, I think it's THE point of this entire exercise.

If we need to make this point via reference to research, then we should 
cite the research -- but it's

> I like where the rest of this section goes, though.
>> This textbook exists because professors asked for it, but the textbook's
>> fundamental approach -- teaching the basic skills of open source development
>> incrementally, through real involvement in meaningful projects -- should
>> make it suitable for self-learners as well.  In either case, the student
>> should follow three principles to get the most value out of this textbook.
> This might address my questions from above.
>> Enough of the pep talk.  It's time to get started.
> Nice.
> That's some feedback, at a variety of levels. Is this the right space
> for this, or should I constrain feedback to the talk page on FLOSS
> manuals? For today, I'll make the (possible) mistake of spamming the
> list.

I'll respond on-list with my answer.  :)

For now, there's not a ton of traffic on this list, and I'm happy to 
create list traffic with the end of accomplishing the goals of TOS.  I 
like making this a place where we collaborate to Get Things Done.  I also 
believe that this goal is sufficiently relevant to warrant the attention 
of everyone on the list.

If we hear a bunch of people disagreeing, then perhaps we can reconsider.

Thanks for the feedback, Matt.  Exactly what I was hoping for.


Computer Science professors should be teaching open source.
Help make it happen.   Visit http://teachingopensource.org.

More information about the tos mailing list