Monday, January 3, 2011


First, note that my former employer has a new look to its monthly newsletter, Software Engineering Tech Trends. I've always appreciated the articles (and wrote two), but now that I live in an area without many local user groups, I count on SETT when planning my study path.

January's article is a fantastic example. Your friend and mine, Mario Aquino, introduces us to koans, covering exercise packages in Ruby, Javascript, and Clojure (see comments for Groovy resources, Editor).

The Javascript example is especially easy to start and work with. A browser and a text-editor: it could scarcely be easier!

This is neat stuff. Read Mario's article for the full scoop on about martial arts training and Eastern philosophies. I'm definitely a newbie, but so far, I've noticed:

Testing as a contract

The koan style appears to embrace the view that testing is a useful prism for viewing an object. In normal software testing, the object is software, but here the focus is understanding. Despite a different focus, the tests as a concrete contract.

Not that we needed more evidence of being in a post documentation-centric era (post to follow?!), yet here it is.


Both the interactivity and the sense of Zen paradox reminds me of early text-based adventure games, such as Zork. It would take serious work and creativity, but I envision a learning app that combines the spirit of the koans with a sense of an adventure game. Potentially a great way to introduce kids into programming (or to their 2nd language etc).


Most of all, this stuff is outright fun. It's a potent combination of learning along with the electrochemical reward for passing tests. That's some mojo right there. What's not to love?

1 comment:

Mario said...

Thanks for the post, Michael! One thing Dave Klein pointed me to was a Groovy Koans project on GitHub. There are projects like these for lots of languages. It really is a great learning device.