Learning to code again

A few days ago one of my friends tweeted a link to Codeacademy. As you will see when you go there, which you should do immediately after reading this blog post, it teaches you to code by immersing you in lessons right in your web browser. It pushes you in the pool, but you can see it’s a shallow pool, and the water is pretty warm.

You begin thinking you’re just typing. But before you realize what you’re doing, the site’s like, “Oh, btw you’re learning JavaScript right now.” I’m a big fan of tricking people into learning. By telling you that you’re programming after you’ve already completed part of a lesson, the site’s gotten you past the hardest part of programming. Well, at least the part that keeps 99% of people from doing it. You know, the part where you have to overcome all the preconceived notions about programming you’ve accumulated throughout your life that leads you to believe computer programming is something only geniuses do, so if you’re not a genius you shouldn’t even bother.

It came easily to me though. I found it fun, and satisfying in the same way I used to find solving math problems satisfying. A few lessons in, I started realizing that the stuff I was learning on Codeacademy about JavaScript was very similar to the things I learned in the C++ Intro Programming course I took in Engineering school. It’s been six years though, and I had assumed I’d forgotten everything and that my propensity for programming had somehow degraded because I’m 24 now and probably past the stage where I can soak up information like a sponge. Even though I completed all the courses on the site in three days, that stuff was very introductory, so it’s too early to tell if that’s the case. But I have a hunch it was just something that I told myself to avoid trying and failing. I think that lots of other people do that too, and that sites like this can help break through that mental blockade.

There are a few issues with the site though, mostly with how the instructions are worded. I don’t think the lessons would have come quite so easily to me if I hadn’t taken a C++ course and been familiar with if/for/while/do while loops and the basic programming terminology, which they don’t often bother to explain. Probably because it’s a site made by programmers, not English majors, which you can’t really fault them for.

I emailed one of the founders,  Zach Sims, to tell him his site is awesome but that there are some language barriers. He said he knew, and that the site wasn’t really ready for launch. They wanted feedback so they released the prototype on Hacker News, and they ended up with more users than they knew what to do with. Of all the problems to have, that’s a good one. I just hope they hurry up and develop the site, because I have exhausted the material and I need more lessons or I will be sad. I finally found a productive insomnia activity I enjoy and it was over so soon! Typical. But I guess I don’t have to be scared of programming anymore, and I should maybe take an IRL class so I can build my own websites instead of criticizing everyone else’s.

3 thoughts on “Learning to code again

  1. scribbler50

    “I’m 24 now and probably past the stage where I can soak up information like a sponge.”

    Twenty four and it’s over ??? Yikes… what does that make me, a chunk of granite? :)

    (Just saying “hi”, old friend. Er, excuse me, young friend.)

  2. Mike McGee

    I believe you are talking about Codecademy instead of Code Academy or Codeacademy. Code Academy is a 12-week program in Chicago that teaches people how to build web applications.

    It’s ok, we get confused a lot.



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