Fresh links for July 27th through August 31st

Fresh links for May 16th through May 17th

  • Ravelry API – Wait, what? How did I miss this. Ravelry has an API now, and they've been using it internally since Feb 2012, so it isn't just an unloved add-on. (You probably can't follow the link, which is to the Rav API forum, unless you're a member. But anyone who might be interested in this probably is already, so…)
  • Our real first gay president – Newsweek says Obama's the US's "first gay president", ignoring James Buchanan, who was openly gay in the 19th century. This article has some great context and thoughts on the ideology of progress. "Remembering that James Buchanan was homosexual complexifies our national narrative, to be sure, but it is a complexity that we need."
  • The world’s hottest digital markets: a music map – Interesting… this map is trying to show you digital music services' market share worldwide, but it also lets you see which digital music services are available in which countries.
  • Welcome to Life « Tom Scott – A science fiction story about what you see when you die. Or: the Singularity, ruined by lawyers.
  • The Bombay Royale – Karle Pyar Karle – Check out The Bombay Royale. They're a Melbourne band (including some recent graduates from my school) who play surf/disco/funk/Bollywood fusion, and apparently they've got a gig at the HiFi Bar on Swanston Street this Saturday. I'm planning on going.

Knitting as programming

I’ve seen a few people, over the years, compare knitting to programming. It usually goes something like this:

Wow, have you ever looked at a knitting pattern? It looks kind of like source code! Those knitters must be real geeks!

And it’s often accompanied by a snippet of a set of actual knitting instructions that look like incomprehensible gibberish to the uninitiated, but which your grandma could probably read and turn into a jumper or a scarf or an attractive toilet-paper-roll cover (my Nanna actually knitted these!)

In case you haven’t seen this kind of knitting pattern before, here’s an example:

1st Row: P. 3, * k. 1, p. 1, k. 1, p. 3, repeat from * to last 4 sts. (k. 1, p. 1) twice. etc.

A typical knitting pattern from the 1940s. This one is Sun-glo pattern #2616, "Country Club", a sporty cabled sweater in two colours, in case you were wondering.

There was even a post a little while ago entitled Knitters and coders: separated at birth? that talked about knitting patterns as code, and worked through some examples using regular expressions. It was a good post, but I don’t think it went far enough, so I want to riff on it a bit.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say you have a pattern that says:

row 10: k2 p3 *(c6f p6) rpt from * 8 times c6f p3 k2

(Or as the aforementioned article would put it would put it, (c6f p6){9}.)

You read those instructions and do what they say, producing a row of knitting that incorporates a number of cable twists against a purl background.

Is what you’re doing programming? Of course not! It’s the reverse of programming: you’re reading a series of low-level instructions and doing what they say. It would be more accurate to say you’re an interpreter, or possibly a compiler, since it’ll usually save you time and trouble to read a pattern right through before you begin. (Ask me how I know. Ugh.) You might even be called a human computer.

But let’s be clear: even though what you’re doing when you read a pattern is a complex technical skill, and involves code, it’s not programming.

Despite that, I very firmly believe that knitting is like programming. I just think that the common analogy drawn — of printed knitting patterns as source code — is not a very good one for describing the intellectual process of knitting as it is practiced by the current generation of geeky crafters.

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