When you hear the term "peer pressure", what immediately comes to mind?
Many people will quickly think of associations with bullying, bad decisions, and building anxiety. The immediate reaction to "peer pressure" is usually a negative one, and generally folks would agree that decisions made without influence from members of one's peer group are better than ones with.
That's definitely a fair assessment. After all, many bad acts throughout history have often been a result of someone being forced to do things they wouldn't have individually done. There is a significant amount of evidence that social influence is an effective and strong force in motivating people to abuse substances, commit criminal acts, or make otherwise poor life choices.
But the digital peer pressure that pushes us to use social media a certain way can also have more positive effects. It can challenge us to understand the details in that Do lecture or to edit a Wikipedia article to make it better. Digital peer pressure can push us to level up.
Though Godin is talking about peer pressure online, it applies to real life as well.
I've used this insight in the past-- believe it or not, social influence was the only thing that allowed me to learn to code. As I wrote about in The Best Way to Learn to Code, I initially tried to teach myself, but could never keep up a practice. I'd do a tutorial here and there, and perhaps skim a programming book, but would fall off the wagon for weeks afterwards.
However, the second I enrolled in a university program, it was mentally a different ballgame. The first class I took as part of the prerequisites, Introduction to Computer Programming in C++, was significantly harder than the most challenging resources I had previously used to teach myself. However, by the end of the class, for the first time ever, I could code a working program alone. Why's this?
The social pressure. I didn't want my family and friends know that I dropped out of the first class. I didn't want to be the only student in my cohort who didn't turn in their assignment. And I certainly didn't want my brilliant professors to think poorly of me.
Regardless of whether I should have cared about others' opinions, the subconscious desire to look good worked in my favor, and ultimately launched a new and fulfilling career for me.
So with that said-- I'm proud to announce that AlgoDaily has a new feature: the leaderboard. It's meant to be just a bit of peer pressure to challenge and inspire you to do the daily practice of solving a problem.
Today, it tracks just two metrics: number of challenges completed, and days in a row that a user has done a problem-- but we'll be sure to expand this. Can you get on it? If so, where do you fall on it?
The same way that The 4-Hour Chef was a guide to rapid learning that had been masked as a cookbook, AlgoDaily's purpose goes beyond passing a technical interview.
Instead, it's about having a system, any system, that incrementally moves you toward your goal regardless of the direction luck sways.
It's about cultivating daily habits that ensure you're at least a little bit better than yesterday in any area of life.
It's about having a community and peers on the same path that motivate you to get better, slowly but surely.
This is also why we have the AlgoDaily community. After every question, you'll see a link that says "Having trouble with this question? Click here to ask the community for help"-- which will bring you to helpful discussions like this one.
I'm hoping that this message gets people thinking of ways social pressure could be used as a force for good. Until then, can you get on the leaderboard?
P.S. - I am in the works on open sourcing the entire AlgoDaily curriculum-- more to come soon. The goal is to improve upon the quantity of questions, build more test cases, and write the solutions in other languages. If you've benefitted from AlgoDaily, and would like to help me prepare the curriculum to be open sourced, please comment or shoot me an email at email@example.com. Together, let's create the largest open sourced repository of technical interview challenges so that any developer can be economically empowered.
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