Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson

Years ago, I lost my temper while arguing with my brother, and said, "Jeff, I could teach you everything I know and you'd still be an idiot." Please keep that in mind as you read this site...

Co-founder of Software Carpentry
Editor and author of books on computing and teaching
(and for children)
Ph.D. in Computer Science
Parent, spouse, and proud Canadian

Writing Fiction

Oct 19, 2018

My first two books were on parallel programming. A few hundred people bought each, but they were quickly out of date. More people read Beautiful Code and its successors, but again, their content aged quickly. This is one of the reasons I write fiction: I still hope I can create something that won’t be out of date the day after it’s finished and forgotten the day after that.

Four Forms of Documentation

Oct 18, 2018

A colleague recently pointed me at this article by Daniele Procida that divides software documentation into four categories:

Flake and Collins, Mark and Jack and Tobi

Oct 6, 2018

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, watching helplessly as reactionaries give a perjuring rage-baby a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford’s courage was humbling and inspiring, and for a brief time it seemed there was a chance that Senators Flake and Collins might do more than wring their hands before falling into line and voting to show women exactly why so many have stayed silent for so long. In the end, though, they lacked Prof. Ford’s integrity, or (so far as I can tell) any integrity at all.

Teaching Ethics

Sep 18, 2018

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the excellent book What Works for Women at Work and said that it would be required reading if I ever taught another undergraduate software engineering class. I later tweeted:

Ten Simple Rules for Creating an Effective Lesson

Sep 16, 2018

I am putting together a short guide to creating effective lessons, and would be grateful for feedback. If you are comfortable with LaTeX and GitHub, you can read the source at and submit issues or pull requests. If you prefer PDFs and email, you can download the current rough draft and send me comments.

What Works for Women at Work

Sep 16, 2018

I never got more than a couple of dozen pages into Sandberg’s Lean In, but I’ve just finished Williams and Dempsey’s What Works for Women at Work and loved it. Drawing on a ton of research and interviews, they put forward four concrete patterns, quoted below:

Analyze That!

Sep 5, 2018

We are conducting a study to find out what questions people who teach computing would most like researchers to answer. If you teach programming, web design, or anything else that involves writing code of any kind, in classrooms or otherwise, at any level, we would like to invite you to take part.

Two Courses

Sep 4, 2018

Toby Hodges and I are pleased to announce the release of Version 0.2 (ish) of JavaScript versus Data Science. It’s still point-form notes, and there are still a lot of gaps and FIXMEs, but we hope it’s enough to give an idea of what we think researchers who already know a bit of Python or R ought to know about JavaScript. We would be very grateful for your feedback.

Joining RStudio

Sep 4, 2018

Today is my daughter’s first day at her new school—she’s very excited. Coincidentally, today is also my first day as a full-time member of staff at RStudio, where I will be a data scientist and professional educator, and I’m very excited too :-)

High and Low, One by One or All Together

Aug 31, 2018

Thinking some more about my last post, I’ve realized why I am so often frustrated with academia: it’s high church and I’m low church. The terms were first used in the 1600s and 1700s as the Anglican Church was trying to figure itself out; both take scipture and salvation seriously, but adherents of the former emphasize formality and tradition while those in the latter camp are much less concerned with ritual and the authority of clergy. Research universities are one of the few high church institutions left in Western society; while I am not religious, I am definitely low church.