Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

You can subscribe to this site via RSS (the humanity!) or .

Playing Catch Up

Okay, this is one of those posts where I give lots of reasons why I haven’t posted in a while and throw a bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about out at once. So sorry about that . . .

First off, if you’re in New York City next Friday, February 22nd, you should come out for my birthday. Here are the details:

Date: Friday, February 22nd
Time: 6:30pm – Whenever (optional 2 hour, $20 open bar starts at 7pm)
Location: Antarctica Bar, 287 Hudson St (right below Spring Street)

It’s always a good time and everyone is invited. Bring your friends and have them bring their friends.

Second, part of the reason I’ve not been writing much is that I’ve been teaching myself PHP. After I built How Much Does it Buy I got real excited. It was the first time I had actually built something by myself, from scratch, in PHP. After that small win I decided to try something a bit more tricky and build a little backend to approve submissions from others. I think that’s finally done and you can try it out (and see what others have submitted).

After that I decided to get started on another idea I’ve been cooking up for a while with some friends and have managed to build out the entire backend. Needless to say, I’m quite excited about it and it’s been taking up quite a bit of time. All the work and progress got me thinking about why I was more successful learning PHP this time (I’ve tried to learn it in the past a few times, including once or twice from books). In reflection, I think what happened here may actually be a fairly straightforward educational framework (though one quite different from the current system):

  1. Get a small win (in this case it was programming the not-so-complex HowMuchDoesitBuy.com).
  2. Take those learnings and go back to figure out the basics as needed using a project as your curriculum (as I am building out this new site I constantly refer to Google for answers to my PHP questions).

What struck me about this was how different it was from the way school works. In language classes, for instance, you classically learn a ton of syntax and basics before you actually learn how to talk. Or, as Robert Frank writes in the Economic Naturalist,

“Knowing about the pluperfect subjunctive is not a bad thing. But if learning to speak a new language is your goal, the time and effort required to learn the explicit technical details of this tense would be far better spent in other ways. Courses that focus most of their energy on such details are no fun for students, and they’re also astonishingly ineffective.”

As a side note, Good Magazine had quite an interesting article on how the Mormon’s teach language this way.

Anyway, I’m not sure where all this goes, but I find it interesting.

Think that’s it. I’m off to Austin this weekend (and plan to stop by likemind Austin). If you’re around you should come.

February 14, 2008