Programming Language for Nephew

mMike01

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Hi, I have a few nephews who I personally feel just waste tons of time and do nothing. So, my one nephew who is 12, i gave him a offer. If he could learn a programming language or something and show me some results in 2 months, i'll give him 100 bucks, if he fails, he owes me twice what i paid for the book.

The question, my initial proposition to him might be unreasonable, he sort of a newbie w/ computers. he can do the basics, web browse, email, play games, install them etc. Is there an easy or very beginner friendly thing he can learn? HTML or something? And if there is something you feel he might be able to learn and handle, any good books recommended to learn from?

Thanks in advance
 

maw

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HTML is not really a programming language, but I think it's a very good way to ease someone into programming. It's quick and easy to pick up, requires almost no tools, and results are immediate. If it sparks enough interest, it can easily lead to the pursuit of more advanced web development which does involving programming.
 

mikeblas

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How are you going to specifically define "show some results"? Sounds like you're on your own journey to learn about management and/or parenting.
 

ambientZ

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Python might be a good language to start with, since it has an interpreter, that as soon as you hit enter on a line of code, you see the results.

It also doesn't have a lot of extra "stuff" you have to worry about before executing a single line of code, like java or c++ does.

Theres a tutorial online for it too.
 

BillLeeLee

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You do need some sort of metric to define this progress.

Are you a programmer yourself? Do you know any languages? If you're not and you don't, then you might be surprised if he only produced a console program while you expected some type of graphical showcase. If you got him a book for, say, C or C++, your nephew would end up likely confused if you just let him loose into the wild, unless you were able to provide him help.

If you want a language that is used for gentle instruction, I have heard Python is sometimes used for the purpose. It doesn't have bizarre syntax or just stuff that looks confusing to an outsider. It also allows you to use a lot of basic constructs fast, and also has modules for stuff like GUIs.

If you want your nephew to just get off his butt and do something with productive merit, I don't see much problem with getting him a book about HTML5 and CSS and see what kind of webpages he can produce. HTML5 can be used to achieve some amazing stuff that typically would be done in Flash.
 

mMike01

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No I am not on some “journey” about management and parenting, but thanks. I have quite a few nieces and nephews (by marriage) spanning from pre-teen to college age even though none have any college aspirations and one by one, I see each one screwing up, big time. Maybe I’m getting old, but I remember when I was there age, I was being productive in some way. They are just lazy, unmotivated, they don’t play outside, etc. I just figured, they like gaming and their computer and and instead of just sitting around napping between AVA rounds, they might be able to get into something like this and actually learn something useful or cool.

Results I guess would be some kind of proof that he is actually reading and practicing the material, such as writing a small simple program for me. I’m also not un-realistic; I know this stuff is tough and confusing which may turn him off to it since I unfortunately cannot give any real guidance on the subject.

I don’t program and I know I’m not going to get some graphical showcase, If he could write a few lines of that did anything like return text or do some math, I’d be happy. HTML5 and CSS seems interesting, I’d just have to find a nice elementary book for him.

But thanks all, lots of good info here and exactly what I was looking for, and thanks for that link to the Hello World book for beginners (which happens to be Python), seems like the perfect material for his age and experience.

Thanks again all for your help and insight, much appreciated.
 

mMike01

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Bill, I missed the first line of your post. You are right, I do need a metric to define progress. Do you have any suggestion? I just figured simple programs or a few successful lines of code might be suffice. I don't think you can just "wing" this stuff, hehe. I might just go through whatever book I decide on first so i know what to look for.
 

BillLeeLee

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Bill, I missed the first line of your post. You are right, I do need a metric to define progress. Do you have any suggestion? I just figured simple programs or a few successful lines of code might be suffice. I don't think you can just "wing" this stuff, hehe. I might just go through whatever book I decide on first so i know what to look for.

Well if you give him two months, that should be more than enough time to get reasonably familiar with -something- and be able to produce some results.

Let's take Python

First you can start with the Python tutorial as ambientZ said.

You can extend that with Google's Code University for Python, which is also a tutorial, and has videos, as well as exercises. Perhaps you just want to know that he picks up some information and can use it, in which case the exercises might be good metrics for you to start with.

There are also some training task ideas here: http://learnpython.pbworks.com/w/page/15956531/FrontPage#Trainingtasks

If he shows a real desire, you can build on top of these even further with:

Now let's look at HTML/CSS/(and javascript and whatever else)

HTML5 is not standard yet, but there is growing browser support for it. Right now Webkit (in new Safari and Chrome, among others) is the furthest along in HTML5 support. It would be a neat thing to learn just because of the cool things you can make with it.

For examples, check these:


Tutorials for HTML5:


Tutorials for CSS:

For this, you might want him to make a webpage, perhaps about the family, or about a hobby? Doesn't have to be extremely fancy, but simple CSS and HTML would suffice.

If he shows interest in this, he can expand on this even further, perhaps he wants to make a slightly fancy photo page, which uses jQuery javascript library along with a module like jQuery colorbox to achieve that 'pop-up window' effect.
 

BillLeeLee

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mMike01

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Thanks a lot Bill, good stuff and I like your ideas about some realistic results. I’ll have to go through these links tonight when I get home from work.

Point taken Whatisname, just not sure how to motivate him to do anything. I can’t even describe to you how lazy this kid and his brother are. I just know they like money. I knew without any motivation he wouldn’t even entertain trying, so I agree, it’s not the best way, but if it at least it will get him to try it with the possibility of him finding it interesting. I would never make him actually pay me back, hehe.

Thanks again.
 

mMike01

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Good points. But atm, they have a natural affinity to doing nothing.

I too like to cook, bake, I tried getting them into that with me at times in the past (no risk/reward, just help me out, etc.) and they just would sit ont he couch. I tried having them help me build computers/upgrade mine, they preferred sitting on the couch.

I should read that reward book you posted too, good stuff. I got 2 one years olds and a two year old. That book could be useful for me in the future.
 

eon

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I'd guess learning programming concepts at a young age can be good for their intellect development, but I wouldnt take it too seriously. Also i think if you just hand him or just about any kid that age a programming book and walk away, they will most likely get frustrated, bored, and quit pretty quickly. I think its best to interactively teach a kid how to program.
 

mikeblas

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No I am not on some “journey” about management and parenting, but thanks.
Of course you are.

Rather than trying to buy his interest in what you think he should do -- something you can't provide guidance for and can't even evaluate -- why not spend some time to get to know him as a person, figure out what makes him motivated, and help him pursue healthy goals in that area?

Until you realize that wagers like this are misguided, you've on a path towards learning something about people in general.
 

DocFaustus

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I view Javascript as pretty much the gateway drug for street programmers. It will expose him to syntax and programming concepts (even OO) without all the rigors of a real language. Let him get some highs on this simple scripting language and soon enough he will be going for the more hardcore languages like C# or Java. From there he will be so strung out he will happily take up any language just to get a fix.

Too strong on the drug metaphors?
 

Khanmots

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Good points. But atm, they have a natural affinity to doing nothing.

What's the "nothing" that they like to do? I think you mentioned that they like gaming? What kind? If they're into RTS a lot of them allow for player-created scripts to mod the AI and such. Perhaps you could point out that this exists and he might be interested in it.

Perhaps programming isn't his thing, but he's visually creative and would like learning to create forum-sigs or participate in fark photoshop contests or whatever with photoshop/gimp?

Basically I'd look to try to take whatever his interests are and find a way to link that to him learning something. I doubt that the "nothing" is really him sitting staring at a blank wall all day :)
 

Khanmots

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I'll also note that a lot of what you may regard as worthless may not be.

I know that I spent a *lot* of time involved with a browser-based text-based multiplayer game back in my first 3-4 years in uni. I was heavily involved in helping run the most successful alliance in it at the time, and it could easily suck 8+ hours a day during a 'war'. My parents regarded it as a complete and utter waste of time.

Then, after I spent a week or two exchanging emails with the associate dean of engineering I had my dad out-of-the-blue apologize to me. Evidently it took him years in the work-force before he understood what the office-style politics that I was so blithely playing with the dean were, much less be able to apply them. (On a side-note, the prof that I had for senior design that year no longer teaches it, and the way group-member participation was tracked was completely revamped)

That said, not every worthless activity has hidden worth like this, but there can be a lot that do. You might try to find 'hidden' skills that are being taught and maybe talk with him about how they can be useful in the real world.
 

mMike01

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Mikeblas,
Maybe you should learn a lesson about assuming you know anything about someone and his family based on a 2 paragraph forum post, especially since I’ve known him all his life and have vested a lot of time, money and energy to all the things he’s ever shown interferes in to the best of my abilities since his home life has always been quite unstable. I know exactly what his interested are, and if I had the money he’d be in MMA or some martial art class, and if I didn’t have twin one year olds and a 2 year old at home, he’d be in them and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can’t afford that but I can afford a 30 dollar book.

Really don’t’ care if he like it, doesn’t like it or whatever, I simply just wanted him to try it instead of moping around all day doing nothing but napping and watching tv, I wouldn’t be mad if at him or disappointed he couldn’t do it or ultimately didn’t like and he knows that. The initial monetary thing was just for initial motivation. I agree, it might not be the right way to go about it, but I needed something for him to even entertain the idea of trying it. I landed on programming or something computer based because it can pose an intellectual challenge and is pretty cool stuff at the same time.

But again, thanks all for the input, links, references and criticizing it will give me something to think about. I know the simple question of a good starter book went off on a tangent, but it's all been helpful.
 

Whatsisname

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While we don't know everything about you and your family, there are some things that are damn near universal to human beings. We know they breathe air, need food, and you all probably pick your nose when noones looking.

And, based on how you presented your challenge to your nephew, and your method of incentivizing his learning, and from seeing other people doing similar things, and getting the same results, we can reach rather accurate conclusions about where you are headed. And we know that because you, and your nephews, are human beings, and for the most part, the ways we all function, think, and behave, are the same as everyone else.

Mikeblas,
Maybe you should learn a lesson about assuming you know anything about someone and his family based on a 2 paragraph forum post, especially since I’ve known him all his life and have vested a lot of time, money and energy to all the things he’s ever shown interferes in to the best of my abilities since his home life has always been quite unstable. I know exactly what his interested are, and if I had the money he’d be in MMA or some martial art class, and if I didn’t have twin one year olds and a 2 year old at home, he’d be in them and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can’t afford that but I can afford a 30 dollar book.
 

O2Flow

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Mikeblas,
Maybe you should learn a lesson about assuming you know anything about someone and his family based on a 2 paragraph forum post, especially since I’ve known him all his life and have vested a lot of time, money and energy to all the things he’s ever shown interferes in to the best of my abilities since his home life has always been quite unstable. I know exactly what his interested are, and if I had the money he’d be in MMA or some martial art class, and if I didn’t have twin one year olds and a 2 year old at home, he’d be in them and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can’t afford that but I can afford a 30 dollar book.

Really don’t’ care if he like it, doesn’t like it or whatever, I simply just wanted him to try it instead of moping around all day doing nothing but napping and watching tv, I wouldn’t be mad if at him or disappointed he couldn’t do it or ultimately didn’t like and he knows that. The initial monetary thing was just for initial motivation. I agree, it might not be the right way to go about it, but I needed something for him to even entertain the idea of trying it. I landed on programming or something computer based because it can pose an intellectual challenge and is pretty cool stuff at the same time.

But again, thanks all for the input, links, references and criticizing it will give me something to think about. I know the simple question of a good starter book went off on a tangent, but it's all been helpful.

Kids don't like reading physical books about HTML.

I did, but then again I was a bookworm. As said before, HTML is instant results, which is what this kid is probably used to having grown up digital. If I were you I would tell him you'll buy him a lawnmower to make $ mowing lawns if he can build a webpage for "the business" himself first. Just give him some online tutorials from w3schools.

It's like, what $75 for a used self propelled lawnmower? Marketing+business skills+simple HTML skills all rolled into 1 thing. Gets him outside, exercise, tan, spending money for MMA stuff.

IMHO any 12yr old kid who won't mow lawns for money has some problems.

EDIT: If he sucks at doing the webpage then teach him how to fix the lawnmower and speak Spanish. :D
 

mikeblas

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Mikeblas,
Maybe you should learn a lesson about assuming you know anything about someone and his family based on a 2 paragraph forum post, especially since I’ve known him all his life and have vested a lot of time, money and energy to all the things he’s ever shown interferes in to the best of my abilities since his home life has always been quite unstable.
I have made no such assumption. I'm going on only what you've told us. I'm sorry if you disagree, but I'm just trying to save you time, and save your nephew some trauma.

I know exactly what his interested are, and if I had the money he’d be in MMA or some martial art class, and if I didn’t have twin one year olds and a 2 year old at home, he’d be in them and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can’t afford that but I can afford a 30 dollar book.
There are lots of books on the martial arts, and many of them cost $30 or less.

Really don’t’ care if he like it, doesn’t like it or whatever,
It's very much obvious that you don't care about his interests.

Since he probably isn't motivated because you haven't helped engage him, he'll game you by insisting that he's made progress and that you must pay him. After all, it's easy to be interested in the money rather than the study, and game you to get directly to the money. When you don't pay up, he'll feel betrayed and lied to. Or, he'll at least tell you as much, and pull your feelings into acquiescing on the bargain. I would have thought the way this plays out to failure for both of you and your relationship would've been obvious, but I've gone and explained it.

If you're the adult in charge, why not turn off the TV or limit access to it?
 

mMike01

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I appreciate your concern about wasting my time, I do and I get you don't agree with my reward method, hey I'm a parent in training since I've had my 3 boys 2.5 years ago, before that i only had nieces and nephews and have been the cool uncle and before that the Aunt's fun boyfriend.

It's just a line like this: "why not spend some time to get to know him as a person, figure out what makes him motivated, and help him pursue healthy goals in that area?"

That bothered me, here you made an assumption about my involvement with these kids. I assure you I know them extremely well and over the past 12 years all I've done is vested tons of time and money in there interests as well as teaching and such when their parents wouldn't and still won't. I'm the one who bought all their skateboard equipment when I saw they had interest, i'm the one up at night stenciling and cutting out skull and crossbones in the griptape, i'm the one showing them how to do kickflips in my driveway (unbelievably, at 30 i can still do that stuff), this is just one example over the many years i've known him and supported what they like. Also, you have no clue about their home life, etc and causes of their motivational problems like I do. It's just complicated and something know one here would be able to make determinations on unless you were here.

Also, I guarantee the whole playing out like you had is not how it would play out, you just don't know us our relationship and personalities to come up with scenarios, feeling of betrayal, etc.

I know the whole "Really don’t’ care if he like it, doesn’t like it or whatever" sounded bad, but what I meant was, he knows I wouldn't push him against his will to do something he didn't like after he tried it and that I respect his decision to not pursue the activity any further.

I hear you though, and after all this I'm gonna abandon the risk reward thing with him and try a new way to maybe interest him in this subject.

Cmon man, book karate, I'd laugh at someone trying to intimidate me by telling me that they were a blackbelt in book karate and he knows that's pretty cheesy too. Plus I think he needs a class, something structured for that, I've tried the fitness thing with him at my house, trying to get him to regularly do push-ups, sit-ups, some weights with me, didn't work.

I really don't want to argue with you, and now that I read what you wrote in the comfort of my own home, it wasn't as bad as I took it when I read it quickly at work earlier. I appreciate the attempt at insight, even if you were off the mark on some things because you don't know us, but I get the point.

And hey, I'm only ultimately his uncle, if he wants to watch tv and nap at my house, what am I gonna do, he'll just call his dad to pick him up and do it at home.
 

mikeblas

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It's just a line like this: "why not spend some time to get to know him as a person, figure out what makes him motivated, and help him pursue healthy goals in that area?"

That bothered me, here you made an assumption about my involvement with these kids.
No, I didn't. You told me that you were using money to motivate him. That's the wrong way to motivate someone, particularly in this context. If you really know all about him, why have you so often failed to stimulate his interest and engage his sustained involvement?

Also, I guarantee the whole playing out like you had is not how it would play out, you just don't know us our relationship and personalities to come up with scenarios, feeling of betrayal, etc.
Then, how would it play out? I'm particularly curious to learn about this, since you don't have the background to determine how much effort he's put into his end of the bargain, or to determine an appropriate goal for the available time.

I know the whole "Really don’t’ care if he like it, doesn’t like it or whatever" sounded bad, but what I meant was, he knows I wouldn't push him against his will to do something he didn't like after he tried it and that I respect his decision to not pursue the activity any further.
Yeah; it not only sounded bad, but it sounds like the opposite of what you claim it meant.

I hear you though, and after all this I'm gonna abandon the risk reward thing with him and try a new way to maybe interest him in this subject.
I think that's for the better.

Cmon man, book karate, I'd laugh at someone trying to intimidate me by telling me that they were a blackbelt in book karate and he knows that's pretty cheesy too.
But telling someone that they're a three-month, hundred-dollar expert in object oriented design and analysis isn't just as laughable?
 

mMike01

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I know exactly why they have motivational problems, their home life, most likely depression. And before you come at me something about that, my wife is a licensed counselor with her masters, been in the business for a while. She's bent over backward talking with her brother, getting them into counseling programs, counselors coming to my house to meet with them and their dad, but there is only so much we can do as outsiders when their dad and them feel they don't need the help and stuff. They will do it for a few weeks then start missing appointments then get dropped. And now, we have Identical 1 yr old boys and a 2 year old boy, we are spread thin, but we still do our best to attempt to keep them on the straight and not get into trouble, drop out of school.

I seriously can't get into all this personal stuff, it's too much crap and me and the wife have been the only stability these kids ever had.

I don't know, I agreed with you ultimately about a reward system, but at the time I was discussing with him things he'd like when he was over my house, what do you do when everything you suggest is greeted with a "no", so I went what if I give you 100 bucks, he was like yes. I'm at the point where just getting him to read 10 pages of something would make me happy. It was sort of like, hey,creating webpages and programming are pretty cool let me just get him to at least look at it and maybe, you never know, he may just find out he likes it. This is how I ended up here looking for something easy and reasonable for him to learn, I wasn't going to drop a VB book on his lap and say give me something in 3 months.

Your right, I can't measure his progress, but I ultimately planned on doing what he was doing on my own so i knew if he was learning anything and he knows I'd call him on it if he was BSing me. Also so I could help him along the way.

No, I had no delusions or expectations and he didn't either, that he'd be some expert after 3 months and 100 bucks. At this point, If he came over and wrote in front of me a few lines of code that returned "hello world", i think i'd be happy because I knew he at least opened the book.
 

maw

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I don't understand all the flak over this. The OP isn't "forcing" his nephew to do something, and this isn't a project management problem that needs milestones and progress reports. He's just offering him a challenge designed to motivate him, to get him to hopefully recognize the merits of building and creating something on his own.

It's just like when I told my daughter if she cleans her room for a week, she'll get a new fish. Well, she did, and got her new fish; but the more important point is that she now recognizes and appreciates the advantages of keeping her room clean, and now she does it all the time without any need for rewards.
 

mikeblas

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Indeed, mMike01 is trying to motivate his nephew, but is ill-equipped to evaluate the results, has not defined a particular goal, and is using a dubious incentive. Your example with your daughter is starkly different in that it has none of those flaws.
 

jimmyb

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Many engineers are motivated to work primarily by money. I don't think this is that bad of an idea; it sounds like you're not pressuring him. He might find that he enjoys it.
 

eon

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Many engineers are motivated to work primarily by money. I don't think this is that bad of an idea; it sounds like you're not pressuring him. He might find that he enjoys it.
yes programming can be fun but just handing a programming book to a kid that age will likely not be fun for them
 

jimmyb

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Yeah probably not; in my experience most people find programming boring. That's why it's good that the OP doesn't have an unrealistic expectation of how much he'll enjoy it.
 

syneris

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C# and XNA. If just plain programming isn't exciting then why not see about programming games? XNA makes it a lot easier and with only a dozen or so lines of simple code you can have a sprite moving around the screen. He'll actually be able to show you his progress interactively. As a bonus incentive, It can lead to Xbox 360 deployment.

Visual Studio 2008 Express and XNA game studio are free. A $30 Xbox controller for windows (not the one for the 360 itself) might increase the fun factor and is practically the same code in XNA as the keyboard. Paint.net is a free and easy to use software that could help with making art (or just get/use free images from the internet). There are lots of books out for XNA 3.0/3.1, but many free learning resources available online as well.
 
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