Learn Python like a Google employee

Nick Parlante is a member of the Google developers staff and created a course for other Google employees to learn Python from the beginning. The aim was to help people with basic programming skills in other languages than Python to get into this topic within 2 days. Therefore, this universal course was created together with little coding exercises to make this aim possible. The whole 2-day-training was also recorded on video and published along the text-based course for free. The chapters of this course are set up, basic introduction, strings, lists, sorting, dicts and files, regular expressions and utilities.

I liked taking this course. Before doing it in 2016, I have only worked two times with Python before for projects in my bachelor modules and so I saw myself as a beginner. Going through the chapters I could skip sections I already knew and focus on the things I did not know and the exercises. This is especially good for people like me, who get impatient when confronted with redundant information.

The stated learning goal was to introduce people with little programming experience to python and I achieved this goal. I already had experience in other programming languages, so I knew about the concepts like variables and loops. I just wanted to learn about the python specific things and was able to do this with help of this course.

This course is used internally within Google to introduce Python to people, who have just a little experience in programming. It is created as a 2-day class for employees, but I was able to get through this course in a few hours including the exercises. So yes, the time given sufficed.

The design is kept very simple, straight and clear, which I prefer in generally every area in life. There is a main navigation menu on the left site, which separates the chapters. Next to this, in the center of the screen, there is the content of the chapter, which is scrollable through every section, but instead of scrolling all the way down, you can also use the second navigation panel on the right-hand side, which includes the chapter’s sections and is fixed in the top right corner at all times, even while scrolling. Every element in the content, including texts, pictures and code examples, use easily-readable fonts and colors, which encouraged me to focus on the content. Good job, I think.

The course starts at the total beginning of Python programming. How to install the development environment. I like this, because, if you have never had contact with Python, you need this info and if you already know about this, you can simply skip this chapter. I like it, when courses take you by the hand from the whole beginning, so do not have to search other sources to set up everything. The only negative aspect I see, is that some advanced topics are not covered, so you want to take other advanced courses after this one.

This course is not a full compendium. Reading further about Python after taking this course, I learned there is more to it. But the audience of this course are beginners, who have never heard of Python before. So, with the learning goals fulfilled, the good design and coding examples and even a video version of the whole course, I think I will rate it 9/10.

There is a bulletin board linked from the course to directly ask questions to the Google Developer staff or everyone else, who is willing to answer your Python-themed questions, which is helpful.

Take the course

How to really beat procrastination

This video is the record of a discussion Dr. Tim Pychyl from the Canadian Carleton University held in November 2012 about procrastination and how to help people deal with it. Dr. Pychyl has worked on this topic for over 20 years and published many papers, books, blogs posts, podcasts and videos about this topic. Basically, the summary of the techniques explained in his video is:

1. Procrastination is not a problem of time management, but of managing your emotions. People procrastinate, because they have negative feeling towards task they have to do and postponing these tasks gives them a better feeling for the moment. But eventually procrastination always leads to a negative outcome.
2. The feeling of accomplishment from finishing a task should be used to get even more tasks done.
3. If you do not know where you are in life or where you are going (lack of identity), you are more likely to procrastinate, because you do not have big life goals, which can be separated into smaller tasks towards these goals.
4. You are more likely to get things done, if your motives are intrinsic and not determined by other people or society.
5. If tasks on a to do list are to vague, they are more likely to never get completed. Every task should be broken down to concrete steps.
6. Secret formula: In situation X, do behavior Y to achieve sub goal Z.

Someone recommended this video in the comment section of a post on reddit
and I took a look on it. In the past I read many articles and books about
procrastination and time management, but this 60 minutes video was
honestly offering the best techniques to overcome procrastination I have ever
seen. Very soon after I started watching the video I knew that this man knows
what he is talking about. At first, I watched the whole video and after that I
looked through the single frames again to make screenshots of the
PowerPoint slides included in the video. I also took notes, which I always do
when learning something important for my personal development. Before
watching this video, I was already managing my tasks with Trello and Google
Inbox, which combines emails, tasks and notes. But I realized that some of
my tasks where in fact too vague and for that reason got postponed to later
dates too often. Separating those tasks into smaller pieces and assigning a
sub goal really helped me.

The learning goal was to help students deal with their procrastination
problems. I am a student and it helped me a lot. So yes, I achieved this goal.
Of course, I did not get cured immediately after watching this video, but it is
more of a long-term task for me to change my habits regarding the
postponement of tasks, I should do rather earlier than later. I think, I am on
my way to reach this goal, though.

The platform used here for publishing the video lecture was YouTube, which
is the best video platform I know, because of the speed of the servers, the
quality of the videos, the simple, yet highly functional design and the big
userbase, leading to many comments, of which some a really helpful.
The video itself had not the best quality, but it is also 5 years old, so maybe
the camera used back then was not as fine-grained as todays cameras. I
liked, that the producer of the video put the actual PowerPoint slides inside
the video, so I did not have to try to decipher them from the beamer slides
captured by the camera. I would have liked however to have the complete
PowerPoint file used in the presentation added as a download link in the
description, because it would have saved me the time for taking the
screenshots.

A big issue of most lectures I watched on YouTube is the audio quality. I
once watched a lecture about the PageRank algorithm by an Italian professor
speaking English with a thick accent, where the microphone was cheap and it
made it really hard to understand the topic. This video course however had a
real good audio quality and the professor – being Canadian – had a good
English pronunciation, so there were no problems in understanding his
words.

There is not much to criticize here. The video could have been a little bit
shorter, if the professor would not have included some stories about his
family or former students, but I liked it, because it made the presentation
more personal.

How to overcome chronic procrastination

Adjusting Your Thoughts and Emotions

  • Stop punishing yourself for procrastinating
  • Tackle your most important task for 15 minutes
  • Give yourself a pep talk for motivation
  • Aim for done over perfect
  • Promise yourself you’ll get a reward when it’s done

Changing Your Environment

  • Pick the perfect work space
  • Download an app to avoid phone distraction
  • Use a program or browser add-on to avoid internet distraction
  • Remove your phone from the space if you need to
  • Listen to music without lyrics

Avoiding Procrastination in the Long Term

  • Make a list of how you procrastinate
  • Write a to-do list to set goals
  • Prioritize different goals with set deadlines
  • Avoid multitasking to focus on one goal at a time
  • Get a buddy to keep you honest