Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson

Head of Instructor Training at DataCamp

Co-founder of Software Carpentry

Editor of Beautiful Code, Making Software, and
The Architecture of Open Source Applications

Occasional children's author

Ph.D. in Computer Science

Parent, spouse, and proud Canadian


Freakonomics, But For Good

Nov 17, 2017

Freakonomics was a fun read, but it was also very effective propaganda for neoliberal economics. Rather than saying, “Believe what I believe!” it said, “Let me tell you a story.” That story just happened to contain a message about how the authors look at the world, in the same way that the legends and parables of old just happened to teach listeners right from wrong: by example rather than by hectoring, and so effectively that by the time the second book made misleading claims about climate change, a large chunk of the readership was ready and willing to be swayed.

Not on the Shelves: 20th Anniversary Edition

Nov 11, 2017

Twenty years after writing the first version, I have posted yet another update to my list of unwritten books. If anything on this list already exists, I’d be grateful for pointers. And if you’re interested in writing any of them yourself, please let me know: I’d be very happy to be your first reader.

Remembrance Day

Nov 11, 2017

Today is November 11th. Every year, on this day, we pause for a moment to remember those who fought so that we don’t have to. Every year, on this day, we take a moment to remember those who gave what was asked, when it was asked, so that we could say what we want, love who we want, vote how we want, and be who we want without worrying about a boot at the door in the middle of the night and what comes after. They were not always good, and their cause was not always just, but our world would be a worse place without their sacrifice.

Teaching Tech Together Meetup on Nov 14

Nov 5, 2017

We’re holding another meetup on Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017 for people interested in teaching tech skills both inside and outside traditional classrooms. The event is free, and you can get tickets here. We had a really good turnout last time, and look forward to seeing you and your friends next week.

For Everyone

Nov 5, 2017

When Brent Gorda and I started Software Carpentry back in 1998, we weren’t trying to change the world: we just wanted to pay our bills. In the years since, though, science has slowly started to acknowledge how deeply unfair it is to women, people of color, and many others, and I’d like to think that Software Carpentry has been on the right side of this fight.

Books for Programmers

Nov 4, 2017

I used to review books about programming for Doctor Dobb’s Journal. Over the last decade, though, I have belatedly realized that programmers can’t understand what they ought to build without reading other things as well. The books below have helped me understand just how intellectually impoverished Silicon Valley’s worldview is; if you find them useful, I’d appreciate suggestions for additions.

I'm Probably Wrong Again

Nov 1, 2017

A couple of years ago, I helped run a Software Carpentry instructor training class in Florida. Part-way through the second day, one of the participants asked me if their team should use Python or R for a project. Condensed, my reply was that Python was a general-purpose language that had some good numerical libraries, while R was “just” a statistical tool that people had started using for other things.

Making Maintainable Lessons

Oct 21, 2017

Good courses take a lot of effort to build, but building them is only half the battle. By the end of this year, DataCamp will offer more than a hundred courses. Putting it another way, we will have more than a hundred combinations of data, code, and explanation to maintain. To manage all of this, we are borrowing ideas from open source software development, article curation on Wikipedia, Software Carpentry, and other sources.

Change Strategies

Oct 21, 2017

I read Borrego and Henderson's paper on getting people and institutions to adopt better teaching techniques for the third time this week, and once again came away with new ideas about what I've been doing and what might work better. The heart of the paper is this table, which presents a framework for thinking about how to get teachers and institutions to actually make changes. (My apologies for the crappy formatting: trying to rotate text 90 degrees with HTML and CSS is enough to drive me back to Microsoft Word.)