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Transcript for Episode #293:
Learning how to learn as a developer

Recorded on Monday, Oct 19, 2020.

00:00 As software developers, we live in a world of uncertainty and flux, do you need to build a new web app? Well, maybe using Django makes some sense. Since you've been doing that for a long time, there is flask, but it's more mix and match being in microframework. But you've also heard that async and await are game changers and fast API might be the right choice there. Whatever it is, you're building, there's constant pressure to stay on top of a moving target. Learning is not something you do in school and then get a job as a developer. No, it's a constant and critical part of your career. It's why we all need to be good. Very good at it. Matt Harrison is back on talk Python. Talk to us about some tips, tricks, and even science about learning as software developers. This is talk Python to me, Episode 293, recorded October 19 2020.

00:57 Welcome to talk Python to me, a weekly podcast on Python, the language, the libraries, the ecosystem, and the personalities. This is your host, Michael Kennedy, follow me on Twitter, where I'm at m Kennedy, and keep up with the show and listen to past episodes at talk python.fm and follow the show on Twitter via at talk Python. This episode is sponsored by brilliant org and linode. Please check out what they're offering during their segments. It really helps support the show. Matt, welcome back to talk Python to me. Thanks. Thanks for having me on. Hey, it's always great to have you on. It's fine. We're doing a lot of things together. We were in the humble bundle together and done the book together and various things. So nice to have you on the show as a return guest as well. You were on before talking about iconic career advice. Yeah, way. It seems like not that long ago. Right. That's Episode 111. But you were that was May 2017. Means that might as well be 100 years, right? That was when people would go outside. They would be around each other all that crazy stuff. Yeah, that's a whole different decade. And everything's changed since then. It has, but learning and basically the fact that software development means you're constantly learning. I think that's only more true. Yeah, yeah. And I think people, especially for career development, I think people are in today's society, it you've got to do something to sort of level yourself up and stand apart from everyone else, if you want to sort of stick out. Yeah, I think there's these different layers in the software development career, that right, it's easy to kind of get stuck doing the same thing, not really progressing. And the way that technology is moving is if you're not constantly sort of taking even just a little steps to keep your skills fresh to learn the new things. It's almost like you're falling behind. Yeah, yeah. I mean, even I mean, the joke among JavaScript is like, if you're using something that's six months old, you're still but I think there's a lot even going on in the Python world. There's a lot of changes coming up in the Python world, but even like web frameworks, right, you have like fast API. Yeah. And a lot of development that previously was done with tools like Django and flask, are not being done with those tools. It's going to stepwise, right? It's like a discrete function. It's not not as continuous, I guess, not linear. Anyway, it's, you kind of go along, okay. Doing Django and Django. Wait a minute, like Python three is now fully embraced. And now you're doing this other funky API thing. And you've kind of got to go in the step. So I don't know this necessarily constant learning. But viewed from a zoomed out perspective, it looks like that. Yeah, the skill of being able to take something and understand it quickly and adapt it or at least see where it fits in to your problem domain is a very useful skill to have. Absolutely, absolutely. And you're right, everything is changing pretty rapidly in Python right now. And I think that's one of these step functions, right? The last year or two people really have fully embraced the fact like, okay, we actually are past Python two, right. We were supposed to have the big Goodbye, Python two. Thanks. And see you later at pi con this year. And right, it's officially deprecated and unsupported. And it's a big deal. Yeah, yeah. And I'm even seeing stuff where it's like Python three, six is not supported anymore on some of these platforms. And on some of the tools that are Yes, yeah, I've seen three, seven plus required, which is, that's pretty insane. And it's only going to get faster, because recently, they switched from 18 month release cycle to a 12 month release cycle. So that's a 50% increase in you know, frequency of those types of things. Yeah, absolutely. Now, before we move on, uh, for new guests, I asked them how they got in programming, but for returning guests, as usual, ask them you know, what have you been up to lately? What are you doing these days? Yeah, so I run a company called meta snake that does corporate training and consulting. And I've spent a lot of time recently doing a bunch of virtual training. And sort of similar to you. I mean, my content traditionally

05:00 has been going into large companies and helping their developers level up. And I've repeatedly got requests for sort of one off individuals. And so I'm, I'm building up a library of courses, and been working on stuff that I can satisfy the desires of the one off person rather than, you know, here's a group of 2050 100 200 people who need to level up. Yeah, that's really cool. And we've lived similar lives in a lot of different ways. We'll talk about those, I think through this whole show, the corporate training side is really interesting. It's, I actually have folks who don't know, I did that for like 10 years, traveled around all over the world teaching classes, and it was really fun, I really enjoyed those experiences. And I think those actually reflect a lot on this topic that we're going to talk about here, you know, learning how to learn for developers is you're dropped into these different situations with different teams. One week, it might be I'm working with stockbrokers in New Jersey, the next week, I'm working with a startup in Silicon Valley, or Sydney or something. And it just, you've got to quickly turn around what's relevant and what what you kind of know, to teach them or in context, yeah. And when the whole COVID stuff came out, might Previous to that, like my year was like, scheduled out like traveling here and there going to Dubai, traveling all over the US. And then everything sort of hit a wall. And I wanted to double down on that I'm like, okay, for the next year or so I don't think I'm going to be doing much traveling and teaching from that point of view. And so I wanted to double down on the virtual training, but not only from like, equipment, like investing in computer and webcam and mic, but also investing in understanding how people learn, and what can maximize sort of the throughput of the teaching, and help people be able to grasp it, but apply it and make sure that it's effective learning, not just taking reading slides, per se. Yeah. I mean, that's at the heart of all the various things you mentioned, right? The in person corporate training, the virtual zoom style training, the individual courses, the online aceing courses, like we haven't talked Python, and that you've gotten your own library. Also, it's also worth mentioning that you have a course over at talk Python training that is nice as well, about Python three, and some of the cool features there as well. Yeah, yeah. And I think there's a, I think you'd appreciate this, too. I mean, you've obviously lived it. But there's something to be said for live in person, like just being able to like sit a group down and move them through something. And from my experience, it's hard to beat that sort of live face to face there in front of you. And you can see what's going on. And this whole virtual, having people might have a camera, they might not have bandwidth to have the camera on, it really causes you to change how you teach or, you know, wonder, am I just talking to myself in Yes, room here, right? Or? Absolutely, what's going on? Well, there's a way I think there's a weird psychology around learning. And I think the virtual stuff is a little bit, I think it's the most tricky, I guess, on one hand, you have these cool events where you get together, everybody on the team is in one place, and you commit to spending like four days together eight hours a day, and everyone's paying attention. They're working together, they're working exercises, during the breaks sort of next to each other alongside each other. And there's a certain kind of focus and energy on that. And I think with the online courses, people can decide like, I'm gonna go and focus on this online course, I'm going to spend an hour a day for a week and a half, I'm gonna have this new skill, and they can do that pretty well, as well. But the virtual stuff, I feel like a lot of people don't even necessarily the attendees, but their co workers and stuff don't give it the same separation. They're like, well, he's just in this online class, but hey, just send him a quick message and just distract them this way. Or drip distract her in that way. Or, you know, it's like, Ah, it's really hard to get people to focus in some of the things that we're going to talk about are all about those types of things, right. Yeah, yeah, they're, I think, with work from home seeing being the standard operating procedure these days and constant being on slack. 24 seven, people aren't used to a lot of these things, and there's constant interruptions and focus. And so it can be a challenge learning, I think, your point of for the individual sort of setting aside a goal to learn. They can do that but getting a group together and having them move at a constant pace.

10:00 Somewhat constant pace towards a goal when they've got different distractions and things impacting them. It can be a challenge. Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, let's talk about learning. And I guess it's probably worth mentioning this stuff all applies to developers, but much of your presentation and have we mentioned that this is a course I know, you talked about focusing on it. But the reason I reached out to you is that you announced that you created a course specifically on learning in around like, mostly technical type stuff. I imagine. It's what you had in mind when you're bringing up the points you're talking about. But yeah, tell people real quickly about the course. And we'll talk about some of the takeaways. Sure. Yeah. So like I said, when the cold COVID stuff came up, I doubled down on learning. And, as I mentioned, previously, I've been making my own courses. And so I thought, why not just do a meta course, on learning that is applicable to almost everyone, I think it's applicable to everyone, and talk about some of how your brain works, what's actually going on there. And then some tricks and tips to maximize your learning, and some skills to be able to, I guess, you could say, trick yourself, but enable yourself to be more creative, work harder and be a better learner. Yeah, it's cool. It's a neat topic. And I wouldn't necessarily use the word trick, although I know exactly what you mean. I think it's more like understand the way that learning works for people understand the way the brain works, and then go with the grain instead of do something that's counter to the natural way it might work. Yeah, yeah, I guess hack is more the proper term that people would use these days. Yeah, I guess so. Alright, so let's start at the storage layer. Okay. Memory. Yeah, yeah. And I think the whole story revolves around your brain and how your brain works, right. And so there's, I think there's two main things to look at from your brain, and one is your short term memory, and then your long term memory. And your short term, there's, I'm sure many of the listeners have heard fellow named Miller in the 50s, released a paper called Five plus or minus two is the magic number. And so most people can't keep track of more than five, plus or minus two. So between three and seven things at time, and you sort of see this play out, at least in like two factor authentication, right? many apps or factor authentication. Yeah. And they ask you, they're like, we were going to send you a text, and you were going to give you six digits, right. And I don't have any problem, remembering six digits for the amount of time that takes me to look at my phone or the text message, and then come back to the app and into those six digits, like, I can do that just fine. But if they asked you to, say 12 digits, or 14 digits, it's sort of game over. Right? It's like, uh, okay, I can't really do that. Yeah. And, and so being able to recognize that our brains can only hold a limited amount in it at a time, this is like your working memory or your RAM, makes you realize a few things. I think one of those things is that multitasking, anything that you're trying to multitask is going to take away from the ability of your brain to work on one task deeply because it's got to preserve some of its capabilities to hold. If you're right, you've only got so many slots, like low level slots to put stuff into, and if a few of them are full of other stuff. Yeah, I like your analogy about the two factor auth. Mm hmm. But as you were talking, I was thinking I never remember the six numbers, I have no problem with two factor auth. I remember two sets of three numbers. And I don't know why that is. But anyway, I'm like, Okay, these three and these are and then I just remember, I'm really well, I don't know why it's that was our that's interesting. And that might go into this notion of chunking. So yeah, the idea there is that again, if you only have so much capacity, and maybe your five plus or minus three, Michael Yeah. Well, and I mean, I don't mean, like, I have to go back and look again, like I remember them as two three digit numbers. I don't remember it as a single six. So it's just bizarre. No, but this does relate to that idea of chunking. And the idea there is if you're overloading your brain with so much stuff coming in, one thing that you can do is try and combine things together, right? So instead of six individual numbers, you're basically remembering 200 digit numbers like 277 and 365. Yeah, right. And so exactly, that is a, a trick or a hack or a technique that you can use to work more information into your brain. And then if you sort of build from a low level up, you attack one little idea at a time, and then you tie it into another idea. Those two ideas can become a single chunk, and so your brain isn't worried about it.

15:00 Two ideas at that point, it's only worried about one idea. And so this allows you, as you master a subject to be able to take a very complex subject, but treat it as a single chunk in your mind that in your mind has all these connections with that, and then maybe apply that mastery to something out or take that experience and sort of unwrap that on to something else into perhaps something very novel. Yeah, and I think this is really, really important for developers who have a lot of experience and can take, here's my old experience, I might not be using the same toolkits, I might not be using the same technology now. But hopefully, I can apply what I've learned to this new domain or new problem set, you know, what comes to mind, I know we're talking about low level short term memory. So it's not exactly the same thing. But this idea of chunking. And knowledge, one of the things that comes to mind really clearly for me here is design patterns in the sort of loose sense, right? Like, if you study like software patterns, and stuff, you can, instead of thinking of all the details of what that pattern might do, its positives, its negatives, you can just think of it as the one little block that you have to put in your mind, right, like a single thing. You could say, well, I'm thinking of that we use this idea, we have one variable, but there's only one and it's shared everywhere. And that'll make it a little harder for testing. But it'll also make it easier for other parts to act like, that's complicated, but single thing. Got it. Yeah. What's next? If you have a common vernacular, and a common description of these things, you know, this is the visitor pattern and Singleton pattern, right. And again, it takes some learning to sort of break that apart. But once you've digested that, yeah, then you have a single concept of Singleton, right, that you can just talk about, and it makes it very easy. And then if you're trying to solve a problem get is one, it takes up a smaller bit of your short term memory to, I would imagine, like that's a piece of the puzzle that you can just hold in your head. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, very good example.

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17:59 Okay, so that's like the L two cache or something. What about the disk? Yeah. So then we have the long term memory. And there are a couple different facets of that that I think are relevant to our audience. One is the capacity, how much information can you hold, another is actually accessing it. So this is very similar to like your disk drive or whatnot. But the part that may be not so familiar, or similar to the disk drive is the fact that this long term memory is mutable, which is a little bit different. And again, scientists aren't 100% clear on this, but they know that there's basically a network of information that's stored in your brain. And what the science is telling us is that the more you access something, the stronger that memory becomes, but also the memory can change. And there are various examples of memories changing over time. So that's pretty nervous, to be honest, right? I mean, I'm not debating whether it's true, but you feel like your memories are their fact. Right? Yeah, yeah, you think that but every time like you share a memory, you're going to recall some part of it, you might embellish a little bit more of it. And as you keep sharing that, like, the embellished part becomes more real to you. And at some point, it is the memory. Yeah, some interesting things like the capacity of memory of our brains is actually pretty big. I think one report I read said that we can store 3 million TV shows in our brain, right. And so that seems very, very large. Right? But I mean, so it seems like there's more than enough capacity. So what's going on there? Why can't I always recall these other aspects? Why can I recall all 3 million shows? Right? I mean, I've I've already watched the office once. Why do you have to watch it again? Yeah. And the issue there is another aspect of our brain in that we forget things. So we have the capacity, but there's this retrieval mechanism, and that allows us to access things but it also prevents us from

20:00 from accessing things, or if we have these memories stored in that it sort of weakens the connections there, such that we don't remember it. And that's actually a good thing. And that if you had to keep all of these two factor numbers that you've ever entered into your apps in your brain, and they're always, you know, 568 2027, right, that would be a little bit crazy. And so the notion that we can forget things is actually a good thing. Yeah. Or even if you somehow had to remember the equivalent of every frame of what your eyes have seen, as you sample the world, that would be insane, right? Yeah. Yeah, what would you even do with it, it would almost all look the same, and so on. And my drive you crazy, if you had your mind completely, equally full of all of these ideas all at the same time, you just couldn't focus on anything. Yeah. And there's a physiological aspect to that as well is that your brain uses energy right to do its work for the brain. And so the evolutionary response is for your brain to be lazy, and to not consume that amount of energy. And so rather than constantly thinking about things, and having things at the forefront of your mind, it's going to be a little bit more relaxed and not bring those to you. So forgiving is actually good. And that brings us to something that probably a lot of your listeners are aware of, which is that memory decay curve. So generally, what happens is that after you learn something, he remember it for the first day or so. And then after the first day or so, if you haven't done anything with it, it sort of just kind of goes away very quickly. So there's a quick drop off, and then it sort of slides into sort of levels out. But this is good for two factor stuff. It's not so good for our tests that we're going to have in a month or so if we learned the information today, and then it just goes away. Yeah, absolutely. So what are some of the things we can do to help improve our long term memory or even short term memory? So short term I, like we mentioned the ability to chunk ideas together into a coherent, bigger chunks is good. So that gives us the common vernacular, like you said, a great example of that is design patterns. long term memory, like there are various tricks that you'll hear I've been one of those is the memory palace. Right? And so if I want to what would be an example, an example might be like, I want to remember your name, Michael, right. And if I met at a conference, or some, you know, for some reason, I'm on a zoom and your names not there, and I want to remember your name, then, then I can use something like a memory palace. And it turns out that different parts of our brain are, remember different aspects. And so you might have had an experience where you heard a song and the song brought back a bunch of memories. Right, right. Put in a place where Oh, yeah, I remember when I did that, and it was all connected to the song. Yeah, you can feel the sun, you can see whatever you was there. It's incredible how that works. Yeah. And so your brain stores like verbal information in one place. It stores visuals and sounds and smells, even smells can bring back ideas. And so one thing that you can do is you can again, this is sort of a hack, but this has memory idea of a memory palace, and that your brain is very good at remembering visual things, maybe not so much verbal things like maybe it's hard to remember Michael. So how do I remember Michael? And so an example of using this memory palace is saying, Okay, let's say I'm going to think of my room or my house. And I'm going to sort of put things that I want to remember in my house. So I want to remember, Michael, Michael starts with M. And so I'm going to think of Michael in the master bedroom. And then what else could be in the master bedroom? Well, maybe what reminds me of Michael Well, I'm a child of the 80s. So nightrider reminds me of Michael. So maybe I remember. Oh, yeah, the black car, right, with the red swoosh going back and forth. And maybe I like embellish it a lot, right? So I think of like rubber burning out or something or like making rear rear rear rear with the sounds that get made. And I try and tile this. And then I like, put you in the car, right. And so here's Michael. He's driving kid in the master bedroom. And so now instead of I think, what was his name, I think of Oh, we're in the master bedroom. He's driving the car. It's kid. It's Michael. Yeah, Michael. Yeah. And this is actually the technique that like the master, there's competitions where people memorize a deck of cards in some amount of time. And so if you want to have better retrieval, this is one way to do that. Is this memory palace? Well, I think that's super interesting. I love that example, as well. That was cool. I think sort of highlight something for me that I at least personally, it's been really important is if I can connect a story with information, it's so much more powerful and memorable. Yeah, right. And even like the podcast itself, it's sort of like my desire to have that.

20:00 exist? Yeah, for the Python world, right is like, it's not just that I want to learn the API of fast API, or I want to learn how requests works. No, I want to hear how Kenneth writes, create requests. And why did he do it? What was his motivation? And what is he like seen it? Like just the stories around that? Just make it stick? Yeah. Why does Sebastian do this and not that fast API? And then it's, those stories just make remembering things, especially technical things just so much more real to me. Yeah, even math and chemistry and so on. And you've probably experienced that a lot going to conferences or whatnot, where people would come up to you and like, they feel like you they know, you're like, Oh, I remember that story that you told such and such. Yeah, it just, there's something about a story. And our brains being able to capture all of this associations with that, rather than just information. And so that this goes both ways. It goes into that idea of the memory palace, right? I think it's an external memory palace, you're not constructing it, but it's kind of there. It's made for you. It's made for you in the story. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so that's sort of the introduction to the brain that we've got short term memory, we've got long term memory, our brain forgets things, as we bring things back, we enhance those. And you can do things like if I'm in a different location, if I'm studying in different location than I learned, my brain is going to now associate this new location with the information, and that strengthens the information as well. So very, very interesting. Do you try to go when you're learning, especially when you're learning something, or you're researching or working on something? Do you try to work in different locations? You know, sans COVID, right? Like, forget that you can't go anywhere. But imagine like, for me, I go to coffee shops, and libraries and parks, and just to try to mix up the environment a little bit. Yeah. And so I've seen both takes on this one is having a dedicated environment that's like, no distractions, when I'm in this environment. That's my work environment. But also, the research tells us that if you can mix up the environment, the mixing up is actually good. Because those different environmental factors, it's strengthen the memory or the idea in your brain. Yeah. Let's talk about distractions for a little bit. Okay, it's probably a good idea to have like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all those things like every website, I've visited popping up notifications all the time. Yeah, outlook is really good as well, to have a pop up for every email. Yeah, I mean, one thing that is not good for work. And a lot of what we do are a lot of knowledge work is pretty intensive. And I think a lot of people are drawn to software, because it requires them to be creative, and be able to create things sort of on their own. I mean, I think that's one of the things that drew me initially is that you're basically given like, here's a whiteboard, you can do whatever you want with it, right? The idea of creativity, but constantly being pinged with Slack, or notifications, or social media, these things. I mean, these are engineered, and they're engineered, knowing how we work to interrupt us and to get us addicted to them. Right. But that constant interruption is actually very detrimental to our learning. Yeah, I think a lot of deep technical work, not just programming, but especially programming is we have to construct the thing that we're trying to invent. We're trying to create the software or algorithm or whatever, we got to build it in our mind and hold it in our mind and then, like, get it out into into software, or into some kind of theory or something. And so it's, it's only for a while existing in the mind. And if it gets shaken out of your conscious for a moment, right, you've got to put it back in. And if it doesn't, if you forget, some of it are kind of falls apart. They radically it's bad. Yeah, the idea that people are can multitask is sort of a lie. And anyone who's claiming that, I don't know what they're trying to sell you, but they're just people just aren't as productive when they're trying to multitask. Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends on what you're, if you're multitasking, making flipping hamburgers, and making the fries, like probably you can do that just fine. Right? But if you're trying to multitask, yeah, optimizing an algorithm with like chatting on Twitter is probably not the best. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, on that maybe we could talk a little bit about what I've have listed as sort of the four parts of creativity or work and sort of jump into that topic a little bit. Yeah, absolutely. Let's do let me though ask you what do you do for your interest before we move on? What do you do for your like notifications and like your phone? Is there anything that you do to make it less of an interruption for you? Yeah, so I basically turned off all notifications except for email on my phone. I probably should turn off email, but I also try when I'm on

20:00 working on something and I want to be focused on something, I'll put my phone in a different location, right. So it's not even there to distract me. And, or I mean, and it might just be putting it behind me putting it on the desk on side, just so it's not in my side. Like, I look at my phone like, Oh, I need to check it, right. I mean, there's sort of a response mechanism there. Yeah, it needs my attention. It's suddenly Yeah, yeah. For me, I turn off basically all desktop notifications, like I've no social media pop up, I've zero email pop ups. Yeah, only pop ups on my computer, I believe, are around calendar, because I need those, like, in 10 minutes, you got to do this. I don't care if it interrupts you, you got a meeting. But other than that, like, I've turned them all off, I should be better at my phone, honestly, that you've got a good example there. But on the computer, it's like, yeah, or if Slack, I realized a lot of people do work through slack. But like, I don't install the slack app, if I need to use Slack, then sort of have a certain time when I can check into slack. I think a lot of people's work environments are sort of stifling them as far as their work in that. We always want you to be available. And I think that's not a good thing in that once. And I think most people realize this as if you're working on something hard, it takes time to get into that, like you said, and if you have this idea in your mind, and now you finally are working on it, and then all of a sudden, bam, slack comes in or whatever notification pops up. And like, Oh, I need to deal with that. Because we've been conditioned that anytime something comes up on slack or whatever notification. That's the highest priority, when in fact, it's not the highest priority. And it's actually slowing us down and making us less productive to have those notifications there. Yeah, I feel like systems like Slack, or teams, or whatever. I really dislike them. I mean, I think they're neat for communities. I don't know why people think they're amazing for work, because they're just so many micro interruptions constantly. And then the fact like if somebody sends me an email, okay, I've got my email is a mess. And if anyone out there is waiting for response from me I've been working on I'm sorry, but at least it stays in my inbox, like slack is a little bit like Twitter that the stuff flies by. And if I don't get on it, I'm going to miss it. So it's like Twitter that you can't ignore. Yeah, to me. And it's just it sort of brings together a lot of these I know, it's great that you can just jump on and quickly get something from somebody, but what have you done to that somebody by trying to quickly just get that response? Right, it feels like we're just gonna bring everyone down in sort of their, their deep work so that we can have faster response time, which it depends on what kind of work you're doing. But I don't know that that's a good trade off. Yeah. So I mean, to put it into like computer terms, like constantly context switching, right. If you never are able to work on it, you're just constantly context switching, not the scheduler you want on your computer. Exactly.

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20:00 Alright, so I derailed your four parts that creativity by I didn't want to get off this distractions because this is like a huge deal, I think. Yeah, it is a huge deal. And I think a lot of companies in the name of culture and have done a disservice and that it actually impacts them the wrong way. Yeah, I want to be clear, I think there's a place for those types of things. I think it makes sense to say, let's set this up. So when we were ready, we could come and be part of this like group or this community and we can contribute to it and it it creates this need. But I don't know that should be the primary way to just constantly ping everybody all the time. Like that just seems super detrimental. So not that it's purely bad. I just think it's like a used for the wrong thing a lot of times, yeah. And so to be fair, like my take on it would be like if you had email and you're like saying I'm going to limit email, and we're going to check email sometime in the month.

20:00 And some time in the afternoon, right? And then yeah, you can expect that you will get an email response. And you know, it's for something important that day, but it's not necessarily going to be 10 minutes after you ask, right? And some companies just have that same culture of I need a response right away. But it's just an email, right, which actually is worse. So I don't know, I guess it's there should really just be some time for deep work. While we're on this, before we move on, how do you feel about Slack, not slack, the app, which we were just talking about, but slack as in like, I need to make sure that there's 10% of my time where I'm not required to be absolutely generating. So closing JIRA tickets or working on this thing during the sprint, but like, 10% of my time, where if I find this to be interesting, or I need to try two ways of doing things like that kind of slack. Yeah. And like I said, the brain when it's working, when it's working hard, it, it requires energy, right. And so there's only a limited amount of, quote, deep work that we can do in a day. And so the slack is actually good. And there is an effect. And this is actually part of this creativity or learning process, which is called the incubation effect. Yeah. And so, a lot of times, you'll work on something, and you'll get to an impasse. And a lot of people, at least I've seen when they get to an impasse that's like, okay, now it's time to double down. I just got to keep working on it. All right. Now, I'm really going to bang my head against this problem. Yeah, yeah, I'm going to show how smart I am. And I'm going to do that. And your brain has a great way of like, making connections and rearranging your thoughts when you allow it. And so there's this effect called the zeigarnik. effect, zeigarnik. I'm probably pronouncing that wrong. But the study came out that a waitress could remember orders better if the orders were not complete. But as soon as the orders were complete, they forgot them. And so if you want to sort of apply this technique you can in that, as soon as you get to an impasse, rather than powering through it, stop and let your brain relax, go on a walk. I mean, my experience has been a lot of times I've woken up, like in the middle of the night or in the morning, and I'm like, Oh, I know what that bug is. Right? Yeah. And yeah, your brain has that ability. It's I solved it in the shower sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so you can power through it right, and stay up all night and try and power through it. Or you can go on a walk or go to sleep. Another common thing. And as much as we talked about, like, Don't interrupt people, but rubber ducky is a similar thing, where, if you can and rubber ducking for those who don't know it, there's a book called pragmatic programmers that suggest you have a rubber duck sitting at your desk. And then when you get to a problem or an impasse, what you do is you pick up the duck and you literally talk to the duck and you explain what's going on. And because you're using a different part of your brain, like you're vocalizing it, and you're explaining it actually makes these different connections in your brain. And a lot of times if you haven't heard of rubber ducky, but you've probably heard of like, going over to a colleague and explaining to them your issue, and then like in the middle of explaining to me like, Oh, nevermind, I figured it out. Right. Yeah, exactly. So these are all examples of what you would say Slack, or the literature called incubation, where literally giving yourself that ability to have breaks is super useful. And if you look at a bunch of studies about super creative people, a lot of them they go on a walk in the forest every day, right or Yeah, yeah, they're productive. like Einstein talked about that quite a bit, I think. Yeah. But they also have downtime. Yep. I saw on Twitter, someone posted a message, somebody's learning to code system. Like, I know, I've been told, or I heard that I'm supposed to take a break when I'm learning to code. So what schedule should I set myself on? Do I take a break every 30 minutes, every 45 minutes. And to me, I thought that was really interesting. I didn't know this person. I really feel like get involved because my inbox already needs a lot of responses. I don't need to start more threads. But to me, it feels like it's completely the wrong trigger. Like time shouldn't be the trigger. It should be. I'm gonna sit here I'm gonna work and if you're just really like suppose you're studying object or new program, and you're making connections, and it's working well, like just keep going. Yeah, right. If like, you're just really on fire, just keep going. But although you know, if you're stuck, and it's super frustrated, you can't make then you take the breaks. I mean, put aside whether you should take a break from typing for RSI issues, right? Like, but for learning issues. It feels to me like more like this. This incubation should be the thing that tells you to take a break, not the every 27 minutes. I'm on a schedule to walk for three. Yeah, and some of that might be like pomodoro. Yeah, the notion of the Pomodoro, which I think is great for people who have like, I just need to do this and I know I'm going to get distracted. So I'm going to set a timer and work on it for 25 minutes, right? Yeah, I've a lot of times used a different biological technique and that is

20:00 Have a large cup of water and just drink it. And then when nature called, like, Okay, it's time for a break, right? Yeah, exactly. That's pretty good. But I agree with you like the notion that like, I need to take a break every 30 minutes or 40 minutes, you're reading too much into like, the optimal standing desk sitting split there, right? I mean, I think if you're having deep work, and you feel like you're in a flow and time just going by, like, I wouldn't interrupt that just for the sake of like, interrupting it. Right? Exactly. You have some of the absolute best times I've learned stuff. And this could be programming, or it could be just studying chemistry, or math, or whatever it was I was doing is that time where you're, you're focused on something and you're working out, you're like, how is it dark? Like, yeah, and why am I so hungry all of a sudden, like, you know, you just got into it, and you were just consumed in that world. And then something broke out of it. Right? Like, it's that deep flow sort of feeling. And that's magical. So to me, it seems like that seems if that's going don't mess with that. Don't interrupt that. I mean, if it's going well Don't interrupt that. But to come up with arbitrary, you have to do this, and you have to take breaks every 26 minutes and 15 seconds. Seems like they're missing something. Yeah. Yeah. I only they can only express so much in a tweet. But that's what that was what I

20:00 i've been accused of not having a nuanced tweet myself. But it's a tweet, I'm sorry.

20:00 So let's talk about some some things that people can do for like when they're studying, and they're learning something new, some of the techniques and tips for making stuff stick? Sure, yeah. One that the research was pointing me out, which I wish I would have known earlier, at least when I was in college, was the notion of a bunch of studies have been done that show that if you actually read or take a quiz or a test before you've even done any studying of it, the person who does that is going to learn better than the person who doesn't do that. And basically, it's the notion that your brain can make these spots and sort of say, Okay, I'm going to be learning about whatever subject object are in your programming. And so I'm just going to sort of have some buckets that are ready when this knowledge sort of drops in, and it will make the connections for them. So it's sort of like seeding seeding your brain with information. Yeah, it seems to me like that sort of goes along with the reticular activating system, where that weird phenomena where like, if you are shopping for a new car, and you decide I want this kind of car, all of a sudden, that cars everywhere, yeah, or we just got a puppy. And now all of a sudden, like, you notice all the dogs, dogs, I just like notice all I'm like, oh, there's a dog Parker, look at that. And look at this dog and look at those dogs are friendly. Like, I mean, I didn't hate dogs. I didn't like focus all over that. And it seems like the quiz is like, hey, these are the things we need your mind that laser focus in on, if it happens to find it in the world. Yeah, yeah. So that's one that I think is very applicable to students, I'm trying to figure out how to like in my courses, I can do sort of quizzes beforehand. For people who are independently studying, I'd be curious as to how people can apply that. Another probably the most powerful tip is this notion of spaced repetition. And remember that there's that forgetting curve, or basically, after two days, we've forgotten 80% of what we learned. So if you can review your material within the one to two day timeframe, you can basically go back up to understanding the material. But what happens with the curve is that the forgetting curve slows down. So now you're not going to forget it all. In two days, you might forget it in like four or five days, or maybe a little bit longer than that. And so if you can revisit that material, you can keep it in your brain. And basically, every time you're accessing it in your brain, it's making stronger connections. So it's easier for your brain to retrieve that. But also, like we sort of hinted at before, if you can mix it up, whereas you're studying in different place, or maybe. And one of the studies I said even said like you should have music going on, and you should change the music and having that background is just going to tie a different sensory portion of your brain to the information. So this is probably the most powerful thing that students or people who want to retain information can do. And there's various tools like Anki to basically do this for you. Or if you look at like Duolingo those sorts of apps are basically Yeah, they've got a little schedule, they ping you It's time to do your practice of this, your basic verbs in whatever in French or whatever you're learning. Yeah, so that's something that I think a lot of people can do one sort of, I guess, power tip on top of that, rather than just rereading your notes like if you've done it, something that's better than reading your notes is rewriting your notes.

20:00 quizzing yourself on the information. And so you can reread. And that's sort of the minimum thing to help you. But if you can quiz yourself quizzing is forcing you to, instead of just like putting it in the brain, it's forcing you to extract what you have in there. Again, strengthening those connections in your brain. rewriting them is, again, pulling information out, and then putting it back in. And it might be put in slightly differently. If you rewrite or force yourself to do these sorts of activities, to embody team think about taking notes as a non student. I mean, suppose I want to learn a fast API, and I'm going through the tutorials, and I'm doing stuff. Yeah. It's not something that I really do a lot. I do it during conferences and talks and stuff like that. But if I'm sort of just full, or even during, like an online course, but if it's just full free forum, I'm like, Oh, I'm on the website, just learning how this thing's working. Yeah, it's not some idea. Should I? That's a good point. I. So I mean, a lot of my training is around data science and machine learning type stuff. And I tell a lot of people on like, like, for example, the pandas API, the pandas API, is super powerful. It's also super huge and can be super confusing. And it violates our Miller's seven plus or minus two, all over the place. Yeah, definitely tell us. And so I tell people, okay, don't memorize it. Because I think it's basically humanly impossible to do that, even with chunking. But also, don't use the website to go look it up, if you. So Jupiter has a great ability to pull up the documentation. pandas documentation is actually really good. And so rather than disrupting your flow, if you can master being able to access the documentation in your environment, be that pi charm, or Jupiter, or VS code, or whatever you're using, you're not going to interrupt your flow as much, you're going to be a lot more productive. And you're not going to have the temptation to like, Oh, I might as well check Twitter while I'm at a different web browser. Right?

20:00 Right. But I do think if you're just learning something new, like say you wanted to learn about, like deep learning or something, and you go off and read a book on deep learning. And if you didn't take any notes, and you never typed in any code, it's gonna follow that forgetting curve. And you're gonna, two days later, you're going to forget most of what you read a week later. I mean, it's basically like, yeah, you read it, but it's all gone. Yeah, yeah, I find those that kind of step back learning is great for the big picture, kind of want to know, what could you possibly do with say, tensor flow? Or Yeah, what was the basic science around, say, the Higgs boson, but you couldn't do a line of science by that kind of radio? Right? So I guess it also depends on your goal, right? Yeah. And there are the ability to make connections, right? Where if you are, you know, a lot of data scientists are experts in their domain. And so they might be whatever, an oil and gas expert, but then they read about deep learning. And then they can do this what's called interleaving. Where, okay, they're learning about something new, but they're applying it to their area of expertise. Like, oh, yeah, I can use this to do this right now. And so right, right, I see where I would use this, like that sort of aha moment. Yeah. Yeah. So very useful, right, for picking up something new. And discoveries, right. I mean, a lot of sort of the advancements in society come from people who aren't in like the automotive industry, right? I mean, you sort of look at like, Elon Musk is not a car person, per se. Right, but can push things from, I think, from being an outsider and having more of a tech background is Yeah, adapting things, and can have huge impacts that way. And so if you're an expert in something else, cross pollinating those ideas with new ideas can be super powerful. Yeah, I definitely agree on that. One more study. Tip trick, I guess, I like to throw out there that I think both of our kids have experienced is like, there's different. You mentioned songs before, right. And one of the things that blows my mind constantly is how well you can remember lyrics. And the stories that are communicated through song like I can hear a song from the 80s or 90s. I could hear like, three nights ago to the song that it starts like this, right? I can't do that for any book I've ever read. Or any lecture I've ever written. Not even close, right? Yeah. And probably the most insanely interesting one is the Hamilton Hamilton the musical. Yeah. Which is like an hour and a half musical, but it's done as a rap about the founding fathers of America, which it's got a lot of detail like, you know, it's got huge detail. It also has a moat. I don't know about you, but like, for me, it's very emotional. And I'm not like a rap person at all, but I'm like, I get

20:00 Yeah, chills, like listening to certain songs I'm like, so there's, your brain is able to capture them like, oh, when I watched Hamilton, not only did I learn all this information, but I also felt this way, I felt sadness, or I felt happiness or pride or like, all of these different feelings that go into making that and like to your point, like, you hear three notes, and you're like, you know, like, five paragraphs of lyrics or whatever from that. It's so crazy. It's so crazy. And so, Hamilton's interesting is not that super applicable. I really love the musical, but I think it's incredibly well done. But the reason I brought it up is when my daughter was studying biology, like the mitochondria or cell cycles are so I went into a room and she was like, watching this rap. I can't find it again, I found an example. It's not the same one. But they're like these teachers who are doing, like, not terrible rap songs about like these technical subjects like biology and other stuff. And, you know, if someone's out there trying to learn I would, I would give that a shot. Like, it seems so effective, so weirdly effective. Maybe Maybe you should partner with lindman. Well, on a Python course. Yeah. Does. Is that rap style? What's the sir? I don't know. Lin Manuel Miranda, the guy who wrote Hamilton? Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah, well, then we definitely should partner with the mana rap core. Like if we could do it as a Broadway musical thing. How popular Python be? I know. Yeah. That is super interesting. Could you encapsulate whatever course the new features of Python three into a wrap? I bet you could. You could if you were skilled in both programming, and I just partner with simics. Right. Maybe he could do it.

20:00 He's the developers, developers, developers. Ah, all right. Well, I think that's just another interesting thing. It's not super practical, because like, there has to exist one of these like, songs about a topic, which is not that common. But yeah, yeah. I mean, if a song similarly, my kids, they love this song about the elements of the periodic table. And they know the elements of the periodic table, because there's a YouTube song that goes over it, I find it pretty annoying. But if you can leverage things like that, that's awesome. Yeah. Yeah, that's super awesome. All right, what, uh, put a bow on it got some takeaways for us here. Yeah. So the, I guess, main ideas is understand how your brain works and the pros and cons to that, and then leverage those things. So if you can get that big picture, if you can get a final exam beforehand, or for work, you need to make a new system that does this. And this, your brains going to be percolating on that idea. And then you just need to sort of fill in the gaps where you can, they're using different parts of your brain, we've talked about that, like with music, but also, if you have issues, rubber, ducking them, telling them to someone else, those can be super useful. Space repetition, super powerful for remembering things. I mean, I'm a big one of just taking care of your body, going on walks, not trying to always be at 100% all the time. And again, the science is proving that this incubation effect is super powerful, and allows us our brain is probably more powerful than we think can do things sort of behind the scenes without us forced to do things. Yeah, I agree with that one as well. Yeah, yeah. So I think one more that I haven't really been able to get into. But the course talks about that is the idea of interleaving. And switching things up. So if you're just doing math, and you're always doing addition, everything's going to look like an addition problem. But if you can mix it up, you know, when to use addition, you know, when to use subtraction, maybe applied to programming, I would say that I see a lot is a lot of people that I teach in Python, they're like, Okay, why did you write a function there? Why didn't you put that in a class, right? And people who come to Python from Java or C sharp, are always thinking in terms of classes everywhere, right? Yeah. And Python is a multi paradigmatic language, you can write it in a imperative style, you can write in an object oriented style, you can even do functional programming with Python. And so if you don't know about those different styles of programming, you only know about object oriented programming, you're always going to be looking to make classes, which Python can do, right, but it might not be the most effective way to do it. So mixing things up learning being able to be cross pollinated, that can be useful as well. Super cool. Well, this is really interesting. And hopefully, it helps some folks learn all the new things that we have to keep learning continuously as software developers, I mean, you made the joke about JavaScript. And I think that's actually like a legitimate criticism. But in the broader scale, you we have to keep learning, right? If you don't like learning, that's just not the place to be. So being better at that is certainly a good skill to have. Yeah, yeah. And as a teacher, I feel it's my duty to be able to help people learn and maximise on those as well. So I think it goes both ways. Yeah. So you want to give away a copy of your course. Yeah.

20:00 Yeah, let's give away a copy of my course. And yeah, so I'll pick I'll just if people are on the mailing list for the podcasts, which is just been a friend of the show, so they go to talk python.fm slash friends, they go there long as they're on that mailing list, I'm going to randomly pick one like the week after the show drops and all that it up. And then I'll do one more on my store, which is Matt Harrison podia.com, I'll do a coupon for 20% off anything in the store. So we'll leave that coupon for a week after this goes live. So use the code talk Python 20, all uppercase talk python 20. And you'll get 20% off anything in the store. And I'll have a link to that in the show notes in the progress bar. Cool. All right. Last question. I know you've written one or two books, or 15 or 20, or whatever it is now like, are you working on any new books? Are you willing to mention, um, what books I I am even refreshing some of them. I saw you talk about like your Python notebook or something like that. Yeah, yeah. So Python three, nine came out. And so I did do a tiny Python three, nine notebook. And so that's actually on Amazon right now, if you want a physical version, but there's a version of that in GitHub if you want. So I point that to a lot of my students is just a reference for the syntax of Python. Three, nine. So yeah, that's most recent. I mean, I got plans for some other one, but nothing concrete right now. Yeah. I'm sure. Like, we've got 1000 projects on a list that you want to get to. Yeah, too much time too much distractions? Yeah, absolutely. All right. Before you out of here, I'm going to ask you the two questions. Again, favorite editor if you're gonna write some code these days. Yeah, I mean, I'm still using Emacs. And I live in Emacs most days. So Alright, cool. And notable PPI package that you've run across lately, one that I'm really wanting to look into that I haven't really used in anger disgust, but I'm very interested in is streamlet. Yeah, which is for basically making dashboards in Python. Very easy. So a lot of the people in my classes are doing analysis. And Jupiter is one way to share that analysis. But having a dashboard that's a little bit more dumbed down, per se, or not requiring people to execute cells can be super powerful. So I'm really interested to check out streamline. Yeah, I had Adrian from streamlet on the show a while ago, and it looks just super cool. Yeah. So another one sort of in that realm I'll throw out there for people that that you think would be relevant for you, Matt is the language server protocol integration for Jupiter lab, which gives you like better autocomplete, jumped in F definition, automatic code completion, rename, refactor stuff, all that to Jupiter notebooks. That's a pretty neat one. That sounds cool as well. Yeah, I know that Emacs has some LSP integrations as well. So I think it's cool that Microsoft and others or palantir are working on that and sharing that with others. Absolutely. All right. Well, it's been great to have you here. And congrats on the new course. I think it's gonna help people get a little bit more out of the time we put into new subjects, which is every day all day as developers. Yeah, yeah. Check out the course if you're interested. And if you have feedback, or I'd love to hear other people's ideas and techniques and tools they use as well. So cool. All right. Well, nice chat with you, as always, see you later. See, Mike. Thanks, Mike.

20:00 This has been another episode of talk Python. To me. Our guests in this episode was Matt Harrison, and it's been brought to you by brilliant org and linode brilliant.org encourages you to level up your analytical skills and knowledge. Visit talk python.fm slash brilliant and get brilliant premium to learn something new every day.

20:00 Simplify your infrastructure and cut your cob bills in half with linode. Linux virtual machines develop, deploy and scale your modern applications faster and easier. Visit talk Python FM slash linode. And click the Create free account button to get started. Want to level up your Python. If you're just getting started, try my Python jumpstart by building 10 apps course. Or if you're looking for something more advanced, check out our new async course the digs into all the different types of async programming you can do in Python. And of course, if you're interested in more than one of these, be sure to check out our everything bundle. It's like a subscription that never expires. Be sure to subscribe to the show, open your favorite pod catcher and search for Python. We should be right at the top. You can also find the iTunes feed at slash iTunes. The Google Play feed is slash play in the direct RSS feed at slash RSS on talk python.fm. This is your host Michael Kennedy. Thanks so much for listening. I really appreciate it. Get out there and write some Python code

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