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How to get useful answers to your questions

5 years ago I wrote a post called how to ask good questions. I still really like that post, but it’s missing a few of the tactics I use to get useful answers like “interrupt people when they’re going off on an irrelevant tangent”. what can go wrong when asking questions Often when I ask a vague or underspecified question, what happens is one...

Tools to explore BGP

Yesterday there was a big Facebook outage caused by BGP. I’ve been vaguely interested in learning more about BGP for a long time, so I was reading a couple of articles. I got frustrated because none of the articles showed me how I could actually look up information related to BGP on my computer, so I wrote a tweet asking for tools. I got a...

All my zines are now available in print!

Hello! In June I announced that I was releasing 4 zines in print and promised “more zines coming soon”. “Soon” has arrived! You can get any zine you want in print now! I’m doing this now so that you can get zines in the mail in time for Christmas, or any other end-of-year holiday you celebrate :) you can preorder zines today! First the basic...

New tool: an nginx playground

Hello! On Wednesday I was talking to a friend about how it would be cool to have an nginx playground website where you can just paste in an nginx config and test it out. And then I realized it might actually be pretty easy to build, so got excited and started coding and I built it. It’s at https://nginx-playground.wizardzines.com. Here’s a screenshot:...

Teaching by filling in knowledge gaps

Hello! This post (like patterns in confusing explanations) is another one in the “julia attempts to articulate her teaching strategy” series. I’ll start out by talking about a “backwards” approach to learning that I think a lot of you will recognize (do projects first without fully understanding what you’re doing, fill in missing knowledge after),...

Debugging by starting a REPL at a breakpoint is fun

Hello! I was talking to a Python programmer friend yesterday about debugging, and I mentioned that I really like debugging using a REPL. He said he’d never tried it and that it sounded fun, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it. This debugging method doesn’t work in a lot of languages, but it does work in Python and Ruby and kiiiiiind of...

Quadratic algorithms are slow (and hashmaps are fast)

Hello! I was talking to a friend yesterday who was studying for a programming interview and trying to learn some algorithms basics. The topic of quadratic-time vs linear-time algorithms came up, I thought this would be fun to write about here because avoiding quadratic-time algorithms isn’t just important in interviews – it’s sometimes good to...

Patterns in confusing explanations

Hello! Recently I’ve been thinking about why I explain things the way I do. The usual way I write is: Try to learn a topic Read a bunch of explanations that I find confusing Eventually understand the topic Write an explanation that makes sense to me, to help others So why do I find all these explanations so confusing? I decided to try...

Write good examples by starting with real code

When I write about programming, I spend a lot of time trying to come up with good examples. I haven’t seen a lot written about how to make examples, so here’s a little bit about my approach to writing examples! The basic idea here is to start with real code that you wrote and then remove irrelevant details to make it into a self-contained example...

Reasons why bugs might feel "impossible"

Hello! I’m very slowly working on writing a zine about debugging, so I asked on Twitter the other day: If you’ve run into a bug where it felt “impossible” to understand what was happening – what made it feel that way? Of course, bugs always happen for logical reasons, but I’ve definitely run into bugs that felt like they might be impossible...

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