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

Ten Quick Tips for Reviewing Lessons

Apr 24, 2019

If you do a degree in English literature, you spend most of your time reading and critiquing other people’s work rather than writing new material yourself. I don’t know what the balance of reading and doings proofs is in Mathematics—I suspect it’s somewhere near 50/50—but if you do a degree in Computer Science, you spend far more time writing software than you do reading it critically.

DataCamp Clarifications

Apr 22, 2019

There has been a lot of discussion online about DataCamp’s mishandling of a sexual assault case since Kara Woo bravely came forward on April 5. I published and updated some thoughts that same day, and summarized my final exchange with the company on April 15. Reading what’s been written since, I would like to clarify that I have not claimed I was fired for my concerns over the company’s mishandling of the assault on Kara. I was quite vocal in my unhappiness regarding that, but as I said on April 5, DataCamp’s stated reason for firing me was poor performance, and I accept that I accomplished less in late 2017 and early 2018 than usual.

Already Mostly There

Apr 22, 2019

I picked up Phillips and Rozworski’s The People’s Republic of Walmart on a whim, then read it in three sittings. Its subtitle says, “How the world’s biggest corporations are laying the foundation for socialism”, and once you scrape away a few clumsy jokes and some repetitive rhetoric, the authors’ thesis is fascinating:


Apr 21, 2019

Q: How many TED speakers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: It’s a really obscure number—you won’t have heard of it.

Leading Questions for Creating a Learning Commons

Apr 20, 2019

DataCamp’s mishandling of a sexual assault case has got people thinking about more accountable alternatives. I don’t think we should try to build a new platform: even a simple one requires a ton of unrewarding work, and while successful platforms are tremendously influential, the vast majority fail to achieve critical mass. A centralized platform is also a single point of failure, socially as well as technically: “too big to fail” often means “too big to leave”, and as my brother used to say, if you can’t afford to walk away, you’re not negotiating—you’re begging.

Learning Curves

Apr 17, 2019

I keeping thinking about the idea of a learning curve, but I only realized this morning that the phrase is a little strange. When we say that something has “a steep learning curve” we mean it’s difficult to master, but if the curve measures learning versus time, then isn’t a steep one good?

What Docs When

Apr 16, 2019

Note: this post updates an earlier one based on feedback from several people. Please keep the comments coming.

An Exchange with DataCamp

Apr 15, 2019

I haven’t spoken publicly about my experience with DataCamp out of respect for Kara Woo’s privacy. Now that she has so bravely come forward, I can say that after I was fired in June 2018, DataCamp offered me the equivalent of a month’s pay if I would sign a separation agreement that included a non-disparagement clause. In the exchange of email that followed I asked on June 22, 2018 for:

The People You Have

Apr 14, 2019

Too often, the defenders of free markets forget that what we really want is free men.
— Michael Crawford

Python Flash Cards

Apr 12, 2019

I’ve never met Eric Matthes, but after spending an hour browsing his Python Flash Cards, I would like to shake his hand. They’re well written, beautifully organized, and packed full of useful information and short examples. I wish there were diagrams to go with the explanations, but even without them, this is a solid teaching resource.