Let me start with an assertion of fact: there is a growing form of participatory/passive entertainment in which people watch other people live-stream/live-play video games. You may have heard of something called Twitch.tv, one of the biggest streaming platforms, or a little tournament called “DOTA 2: The international” that gave out ten million dollars last summer, with the matches streamed online for viewers who could not attend in person. (If you haven’t, there’s a documentary called Free to Play that’s worth a watch.)

I’m starting with this assertion because I don’t want to argue about whether eSports is a valid form of entertainment or not — you may be shaking your head and thinking that you’d rather play the games than watch other people play them, or that the joy in watching other people play comes from viewing impressive acts of physical achievement, and I get that, I do — I’ve run this gamut myself and where I land is that live-gaming is *as fun to watch, if not more fun, than, say, football.*

YEAH, I said it. Shagbark agrees with me.


So let’s accept that social video for gamers is a thing and consider its more studious, less sexy sibling: live coding. This weekend a link started showing up in my social media feeds declaring that watching people code is the next big thing in live streaming video. This quote especially stood out to me:

“As the learn to code movements gain more steam and coding becomes even more popular, these sorts of streams could become an interesting mashup of entertainment and learning opportunities.”

This idea resonates with me in the same way that the idea of peer-programming immediately horrified me (although they aren’t really that far apart). As I’ve been learning, one of the most useful learning tools has been watching instructors and TAs work through a problem while I watch. From a teaching perspective, it makes all kinds of sense. “Modeling” is an important part of any successful lesson plan, that’s the part where the teacher works the problem and talks through his/her thinking process while doing it (usually followed by “ok now *we* do it and then *you* do it”).

*Sidenote: not to knock any of the generous people who have volunteered their time to help me to learn, but I find the approach above to be 100% more effective than someone standing over my shoulder and telling me what to do before I’ve seen it done at least once. Especially when peppered with “see? do you understand? … do you get it?” I’d rather just watch you do it, then repeat back to you what I saw and what I think the steps are, then try it myself. But that’s how *I* learn best.

Back when I was first messing with Python, my friend Carl sent me info about the NYC-based Hacker School, including this video of one of the instructors live-coding a space invaders game. I watched the whole 30 minutes totally fascinated.

Does that make you want to go code something? It does for me!

My takeaway is to add some time to my learning schedule to watch other people code, and identify some good resources for this. Here’s some places to start:

  • Watch People Code — lists currently active live streams
  • Toplap — haven’t explored much, but what a pretty site. May be more experimental/artsy than your straight coding videos. Dang, lookit this Livecoding for Ferguson video, a work in progress slicing Jay Nixon’s words to music:

What do you think? Will you be making time in your learning schedule to watch other people code? Seen any great videos? Link ’em in the comments!