Main image of article 'Idea' Blends IKEA and Algorithms to Teach You Something Useful
Algorithms are hard. So is putting together IKEA furniture. Yet when you mix the two, things (sometimes) get a bit less confusing. Idea is “an ongoing series of nonverbal algorithm assembly instructions,” which both delights and confounds. We can’t say the IKEA-ish sheets will teach you all you need to know about algorithms at a glance, but they might help clarify things. Much like that complicated PROGNITT chair you’re trying to put together (which is evidently ‘Dice’ in IKEA-speak), the instructions have tiny, pleasant characters who are either pleased or frustrated with your progress. Something simple, like quick-sort, seems downright magical via an IKEA assembly sheet: Something like Graph Scan (excuse me: GRÅPH SCÅN) is a bit trickier. In one sheet, it provides a visual representation of graph traversal, an algorithmic method for visiting each point in a graph. It covers three different methods, and examines their methodology and use-cases. We can’t say you’ll absorb information by staring at these visuals, just like you probably wouldn’t be able to put your IKEA chair back together without an instruction sheet handy. The sheets were originally designed to accompany a lecture on data structures. To that, think of them as complimentary, not replacements. For those who might be having trouble grasping a concept, Idea may prove a helpful resource. The methodology for teaching algorithms still sucks, so giving these the once-over before, during, or after you dive into documentation or some stuffy Stanford lecture might actually help you learn. A lot of ground is covered, too, including sorting, encryption, trees, scans, and draws; not too in-depth, but the more notable (and widely used) algorithms are there. Idea is also a lot of fun. Like Hackterms, Idea is an off-beat way to learn about things you might otherwise have trouble wrapping your head around. It’s especially handy if you’re a visual learner. Or just hate reading endless amounts of text.