It’s been a bit of a busy week; I’m part of the faculty group that’s teaching the second-year medical school hematology course right now, meaning that I’ve been waking up about an hour and a half earlier than normal, teaching for most of the morning, starting all the other work I have to do around noon, and getting home feeling like I’ve been run through the ringer a little bit. That being said, teaching is a lot of fun, and it’s a hell of a reminder of how much I’ve learned since I was in the same class eight years ago back in New York.

Oddly, my respite from the world of medicine this week has been task-guided learning of a new programming language, Java. Towards the end of last week, Matt got the idea of starting up a Jabber server linked to his übersite MetaFilter, and really wanted people to be able to use their MetaFilter usernames and passwords to log into new service. He decided to try out a server that’s coded entirely in Java and has an open, extensible architecture, and asked me what I knew about getting it to talk to his user database. I started looking into the app, and quickly realized that Java is built from the same elements as are most of the other languages I know well, something that went a long way towards putting to rest my fears about delving whole-hog into the guts of the server. A few hours later, I had put together the code that Matt needed, and early this week, I wrote an plug-in from scratch which allows regular users to see a list of all the active users of the server. And while I wrote the first set of tools — the authentication modules — in response to Matt’s need, the goal of getting my feet wet in Java motivated my development of the plug-in as much as did the development of a useful tool for the MetaFilter community. For me, that’s the best way to start to learn a new technology: realize a need, discover that the technology is the best way to fulfill that need, and jump in.


It’s pretty impressive that the source code is lying around for someone like yourself to whip together a plugin to integrate an IM server into a website so easily. Matt’s idea is rather interesting, and I look forward to seeing the integration in action.

• Posted by: Scott Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] on Jan 25, 2006, 5:07 PM
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