Episode 06

“Symbolic & Observational Thinking” with Yulia Startsev

For this episode, I had the honour to sit with Yulia, who works on Firefox’s Developer Tools at Mozilla and is also Co-Chair of Ecma’s TC39 in 2019.
We talk about symbolic and observational thinking, what it is, how it relates to software development and how it can shape the way we think about learning and teaching.

I got to meet Yulia at the SoCraTes conference in the summer of 2018, where she hosted a session on symbolic drawing. And while I didn’t really get what the session was about when I participated in it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I thought, that Yulia would be an amazing guest on this podcast. Thankfully she agreed to have a chat, and I couldn’t be happier in how it turned out.

Yulia is such a thoughtful person, who presents her thinking with an amazing eloquence, that it was a real joy listening to her explain complex concepts, and being able to talk to her about it.

As you can see in all the links and notes below, we touch upon a lot of topics in this episode, and Yulia delivers so many great quotes along the way, that they’re too much to list them all.

However three of them really struck a chord with me. The first quote is

“Coding is pre-dominantly a social activity”

It sums up perfectly, why I consider the way social interactions are conducted in a team or organization much more critical to an organization’s success, than the choice of technology in that organization.

The second quote which will stay with me for a long time is

“One of the main purposes of debugging tools is an educational purpose. […] Debugging tools help us understand where we haven’t fully understood something.”

This is so well put, and helps reinforce the thought, that coding or software development is much more about learning, than we usually realize. For me this goes so well with Jessica Kerr’s post/talk on symmathesy (which in more than one way, is a great further read after listening to this episode).

Stop assuming about what you see and start looking at what you see.

And finally, a piece of advice disguised in a quote. If you don’t know what it means, you’ll find it explained in the episode. 😉



cto.coffee - Episode 06 - “Symbolic & Observational Thinking” with Yulia Startsev or listen to the episode on Spotify.

This episode was recorded on 07-Nov-2018.

Show Notes

You can find Yulia on Twitter as @ioctaptceb

~2min - SoCraTes Conference

~18min - “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”, Ludwig Wittgenstein

~12min - Property-based Testing: There’s a great introduction to Property based testing with the help of a little Javascript

~19min - JS Better Errors

~20min - The book Getting Clojure by Russ Olsen

~21min - Rails Girls’ Bentobox exercise

~22min - Felienne Hermans’ talk “How does code sound?”

~25min Compassionate Coding

~26min - Mikhail Bakhtin and his Carnivalesque concept

The intro/outro music in the podcast was made with Sonic Pi from this code.

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