Let's be Wizards!
December 11, 2017 11:59 AM   Subscribe

So you want to be a wizard? (PDF) Julia Evans (aka @b0rk, possibly MeFi’s own?) is a programmer, debugger, ‘zine author, speaker, and prolific blogger. Julia does a great job of pulling back the curtain on how computers work at a lower level than most people (including many in tech!) are familiar with, and by doing so is introducing systems programming to a much wider audience in an enthusiastic and approachable way.

In addition to her published work, you can see some of her talks: If ’zines are more your style, you can browse and learn about: Finally, if you just want the code you can check out some of her projects, including: She is an alumnus of the Recurse Center, which is awesome and deserves a FPP of it's very own someday!
posted by yeahwhatever (14 comments total) 159 users marked this as a favorite
Nice! The one on tcpdump is just what I need to address my last AskMe question!
posted by exogenous at 12:15 PM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Extra fitting that the example is for askme, then!
posted by flaterik at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Julia's work is always a great reminder that you can explain complicated things in a way that anyone can understand.

I've used it as inspiration to improve my technical documentation at work and used some of her techniques to explain computing and networking to my kids at home- thank you Julia!!
posted by AaronRaphael at 12:33 PM on December 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

After reading some of her stuff, I am quite pleased. She has mastered the "rubber duck" technique.
posted by Samizdata at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2017

I work with a lot of systems programmers, and like most groups of people who have been doing the same thing for a long time I guess, they're all pretty jaded. I really like how energetic and excited Julia is.
posted by miyabo at 1:02 PM on December 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Every time I read some of her stuff I recapture some of the excitement and enthusiasm I had when I was learning some of this stuff for the first time! And usually learn a bunch of new stuff too! Thank you, Julia!
posted by grouse at 1:26 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Somehow I follower her on twitter, she's the best kind of nerd!
posted by sammyo at 1:46 PM on December 11, 2017

I also follow her on Twitter. I really appreciate her enthusiasm, especially since an awful lot of tech people have this world-weary everything-sucks voice. (I'm assuming that most of it's exaggerated, because why would you even bother writing about this stuff if you weren't enthusiastic about it, but it still gets really tiring after a while.)

Also, the mnemonic "tuna please" made netstat useful to me. (I.e. most of the time when you use netstat, you want the options '-tunapl'.)
posted by suetanvil at 2:45 PM on December 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

This is delightful and informative. Thank you, yeahwhatever.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:00 PM on December 11, 2017

Amazingly good.
posted by teh_boy at 3:49 AM on December 12, 2017

I have literally written hundreds of words about Why Julia Evans's Blog Is So Great, and about the countercultural aesthetic and values of !!Con, a conference she co-organizes -- I have all sorts of hand-waving feelings and thoughts about her work and The New Sincerity and valuing subjectivity and Carol Dweck's growth vs. fixed mindset research ("Now I know those things! I learned them.") and how the Recurse Center encourages playful curiosity and disaggregates safety from comfort. (I met Julia because we were in the same RC batch.) Always glad to see more people discover and enjoy her work and find it inspiring.

A few of her posts that are a bit meta, on the stuff she makes:

"advice" for aspiring tech bloggers
Why cute drawings?
Blogging principles I use
How to teach technical concepts with cartoons

Evans's work reminds me: I once interviewed Alton Brown, and he said the biggest compliment he ever got on Good Eats was: "Other food shows make me want to eat. Yours makes me want to cook."
posted by brainwane at 6:31 AM on December 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

A math and computer teacher in high school had a similar approach to teaching. He wrote his own hand drawn and typed calculus books and communicated visually and with humor about abstract, complex and seemingly-daunting like programming and math. I think there was a major strain of that in the Unix and academic computing cultures of the 70s that we've sort of lost. As I came up through high school and college I really absorbed the idea that programming and using Linux/Unix, and the early open source community, was an essentially cultural enterprise with history, jargon, norms, legends, metaphors and symbols, stories, quirkiness and humor and humanity and that the best thing about it was teaching each other.

Also Ted Nelson's books e.g. Computer Lib.
posted by thefool at 8:19 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Julia Evans is a great force in the world, encouraging a type of enthusiastic and creative approach to systems programming that, like miyabo mentions above, is rare in a culture that seems to prize grizzled disenchantedness above all else. The only thing that gets me about her writing is how job-focused it is; so many of her posts lead off with something like “so here’s this problem that came up at work,” and I wish her sort of subversiveness would extend to exceeding the bounds of commercial applicability. As it is, it feels like it feeds into the unspoken assumption that enthusiasts of our stripe are always looking to apply our enthusiasm in the service of capital, but I think we can offer so much more. Anyway, she’s great, I just feel my anxiety heighten whenever a commercial application is cited as the seed for whatever topic she’s exploring at the time.
posted by invitapriore at 12:05 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to highlight Julia's new blog post on how profilers work. I like how this one is very detailed and technical. I like how a lot of her work is very friendly and high level and approachable but I also admire how she'll bust out some low level details like this every once in awhile, too.
posted by Nelson at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

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