The Invent with Python Blog

Writings from the author of Automate the Boring Stuff.

I Want To Help Everyone And I Will Fail

Tue 15 November 2022    Al Sweigart

I like to program computers. An army of a million file clerks wouldn't be as productive as my laptop running the right code. And my house only has one bathroom so the line would be quite long too.

I like to teach other people to program. As productive as I can be with a computer, I can write a book that enables thousands of others to become equally productive. It's a lot of work to write one of my books, but once done it costs me about $15 a month in web hosting fees to share it with thousands of people, anywhere in the world.

And my readers can contact me. You can contact me. My email address is [email protected].

And readers do contact me. A lot. Currently I have 1,254 unread messages, some going back years. I get emails that only say, "My program doesn't work." I've written a blog post on how to effectively ask for programming help, and sometimes I'm so busy all I can do is just reply with a link to it.

Sometimes readers ask more than just a question, but are basically asking me to write software for them. Sometimes readers ask me how they can "learn programming" and if I could be their tutor. The answer can literally fill several books, and I have written these books. I reply telling them that I'm unfortunately too busy to provide individual help. (At least, unless they're willing to pay me several thousand U.S. dollars. I assume they aren't able to do that, so I don't mention it.)

The thing is, though, I want to write that software with them. I want to provide them with individual tutoring over Zoom. I want to provide a five-page response to their question and give them advice. I want to help everyone and I will fail to do so.

I'm getting older. I started writing programming books in 2009. There's no way I could reach as many people except by writing books and putting them for free online. I'm one person, and I make a much better author than classroom instructor or remote tutor. (I always support teachers and teachers unions because no book or online course could ever substitute them.)

I can't even tell the readers who email me this; likely you've found this because I sent you a link to this instead of typing it up again. Or maybe you've emailed someone else entirely, and they've pointed you to this blog post. I've found that writing a public blog post instead of an individual reply email is much more effective. Still, my blog post drafts folder has over a hundred blog posts I've started but haven't finished.

I hope you're not offended by my lack of individual response. I want to encourage you that, no matter what current frustration or confusion you're experiencing at this point in your programming journey, others have experienced it too and have successfully moved on to the next challenge. I may not have enough time to help you in particular, but I have an unlimited amount of sincerity in my belief in you.

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry for the delay in my response. I'm afraid that my schedule is too busy to provide individual guidance, but I wish you good luck and hope you keep up your efforts.

Learn to program for free with my books for beginners:

Sign up for my "Automate the Boring Stuff with Python" online course with this discount link.

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