I agree with the responses that suggest you look at the problems you want to
solve and then decide which language, and more importantly which _community_
surrounding a language, is most in tune with solving those problems.

If you are not sure what you want to solve, but just looking for ways to
stay sharp, I have two current favorite ways to do that:

(1) JavaScript is already available to you, very versatile, and a lot of fun
to play with.

JavaScript is built in to every browser. You don't need to have access to a
web server to have a lot of fun with it. There are a ton of books, lots of
websites, and all kinds of small problems you can solve with it. It is the
foundation of client-side computation on the web, a key way that current
websites become more responsive to their users. Add some study of CSS
(cascading style sheets) and you can do miraculous things with JavaScript.
If you go this route, don't be shy of using jQuery from the beginning. It
only makes JavaScript easier to use when manipulating web pages.

(2) Ruby is a blast, and Ruby on Rails is a rocket.

Most server side tools require a whole suite of tools working in concert to
get going. PHP depends on Apache and often on plugins that can take a bit of
tweaking. Ruby, on the other hand, pretty much depends on itself. And Ruby
on Rails gives you a whole web server environment to play with on your own
machine without much hassle. You don't really even need to install a
database to get started, since it can use SQLite. If you get serious, you
can even deploy a Rails app via Heruku for free or cheap. Ruby is, IMHO, a
beautiful syntax and may actually make you smile as you code. Rails made me
laugh out loud as it simplified what I thought of as horribly complex tasks
in other languages and environments, though it also made my head hurt as I
unlearned old habits. If nothing else, you may be entertained while
learning. Give http://tryruby.org 20 minutes for a taste.

These are my current thoughts, very different than what you might have heard
from me a year ago. But really, a lot depends on the problems you are trying
to solve. Think about those for a while and let them lead you.


Eric Celeste / e...@clst.org / http://eric.clst.org / 651-323-2009

On Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 2:24 PM, jenny <jennynotanyd...@gmail.com> wrote:

> A newly-minted library school grad who has up to this point focused my
> studies on Rare Books and Book Arts, I've been interested in getting
> back into some programming--I took two classes in college
> (VisualBASIC), have a smattering of web design and php, MySQL,
> exposure, but I'd like to try my hand at teaching myself a language in
> my free time. My partner is a former dotcom programmer (now studying
> neuroscience) and has offered to assist when needed, so I'm not
> completely on my own (thank goodness).
> My question is, where would you recommend I would begin? What's hot
> right now in the library world? Python, PERL, Ruby? Any advice you'd
> have for a beginner like me or even recommendations for online courses
> would be extremely appreciated
> JC

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