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Created by Zed A. Shaw Updated 2024-06-20 22:54:43

55: How to Read Documentation (featuring Pandas)

This exercise is going to teach two very important skills. First, you'll learn about Pandas and its DataFrame construct. This is the most common way to work with data in the Python Data Science world. Second, you're going to learn how to read typical programmer documentation. This is a far more useful skill as it applies to every single programming topic you will ever encounter. In fact, you should think of this exercise as using Pandas to teach you how to read documentation.

For this exercise you are free to switch back to Jupyter to make exploration and documenting what you learn easier. If you then want to make a project using Pandas you can take what you learn with Jupyter to create it.

Why Programmer Documentation Sucks

There's a concept in painting called "the gestalt." The gestalt of a painting is how all of the parts of a painting fit together to create a single cohesive experience. Imagine I paint a portrait of you and create the most perfect mouth, eyes, nose, ears, and hair you've ever seen. You see each part is perfect and then you pull back, and when placed together...they're all wrong. The eyes are too close together, the nose is too dark compared to everything else, and the ears are different sizes. On their own, they're perfect, but when combined into a finished work of art they're awful because I didn't also pay attention to the gestalt of the painting.

For something to have high quality you have to pay attention to the qualities of each individual piece, and how those pieces fit together. Programmer documentation is frequently like this awful portrait with perfect features that don't fit together. Programmers will very clearly and accurately describe every single function, the nuances of every option to those functions, and every class they made. Then completely ignore any documentation that describes how those pieces fit together or how to use them to do anything.

This kind of documentation is everywhere. Look at Python's original sqlite3 documentation then compare it to the latest version that finally has how to use placeholders. That's a fairly important topic you need for good security and it's...just casually ignored for about a decade?

Learning from this documentation requires a particular style of reading that's more active. That's what you will learn in this exercise.

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