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Mayor Bloomberg Will Learn How To Write Code In 2012 (talkingpointsmemo.com)
156 points by edavis on Jan 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments

Note the interesting bit about the London mayor: "The move even prompted London Mayor Boris Johnson to state he was in “awe” of Bloomberg and would consider joining him on the quest to become adept at, or at least acquainted with, programming, as the BBC reported."

This is a great thing for Bloomberg to do. In an age where so many politicians are trying as hard as they can to stifle the new economy in favor of the old economy, the major of a city with a GDP bigger than that of 47 other states paying such public attention to the tech industry is a great step in moving our politics forward.

He's not new to the tech field. He graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins.

Bloomberg's most famous product is probably the Bloomberg Terminal. A dual screen computer and OS for hedge fund manager types, that costs $1900-2500 a month per subscription.

It stopped being its own OS long ago. Now the dual-screen computer is a standard Windows PC with a pretty case and fancy keyboard, and the terminal software is just a win32 .exe.

Why do they even bother with special hardware? The keyboard I guess I can see.

Seems like the whole thing could just be web app now.

A lot of it has to do with branding, and there are some more minor hardware concerns. The branding aspect comes from seeing an entire trading floor with the branded monitor/keyboard. It is recognizable anywhere you go. The keyboard has special keys which are used by software features for which the user base has acquired muscle memory (they do help you become a faster user). Also things such as embedded speakers in the keyboard so that terminal A/V can be played anywhere because customers computers might not (it is common) have speakers.

Also, wrt to being a web app, there are users and then there are users. Sure, certain customers' usage might be fine for the web (and it can be run remote from anywhere on the web for the obvious reduced performance due to remoting), but receiving 50k+ ticks a second and pumping screen updates to 8 monitors in a trading situation is not something a browser is good at.

It's a mistake to think about Bloomberg as an application, it's much closer to a platform which hosts a wide variety of applications (that just all happened to be made by Bloomberg). Some of the apps might work fine as web apps, but if you have for example an app that requires displaying a large number of updates (for example realtime pricing of the S&P 500) then html/javascript just doesn't have the performance.

Also most of the big clients have physical connections to Bloomberg directly rather than going over the internet (for redundancy, security and performance reasons), and you need to optimize the data going over those connections. If you have a few hundred people at one client all watching 1000 prices in real-time you don't want to send all that data to every user separately so you need to use a fan-out node located at the client site.

These are just a few of the kind of complications you'd need to deal with if you wanted to build a web app that did the same thing. I doubt there's a single web app in existence which has anywhere near the level complexity that Bloomberg on the web would have.

It might be possible eventually but we're still someway off.

They have a web-launched SaaS version, too, and they're trying to get everybody to switch to it because the pricing model is per-user instead of per-machine.

This is definitely true, the tech Bloomberg uses was novel in the 80s, but the functionality of a modern browser now outstrips that of the terminal program. There's actually some functions in the Bloomberg Terminal these days which just fire up an embedded browser to render the content!

There are many things a browser can do just fine, but there are also many things that the terminal needs to do that would be difficult to do memory or CPU wise without resorting to plugins. Certain things in the terminal use an embedded browser (e.g., displaying company web pages), but almost no terminal apps are written as web pages. (Products such as BLAW, BGOV, etc. are native web apps)

This isn't true, whilst the terminal can't display web content, it will far outstrip it in functionality and resource management.

Having said this, I think browser's will catch up and so...

Well, it's not that weird for Bloomberg. He did after all build his considerable fortune on a tech company (which has been in existence since 1981, longer than most tech companies)

Bloomberg was already highly technical once before. Listen to his Techcrunch interview where he talks about having to solder integrated circuits onto boards to build the first Bloomberg terminals. He's not just another clueless MBA CEO.


His book "Bloomberg by Bloomberg" is also a good read. I also find it amusing this even made the news. His billion-dollar fortune comes from a tech company founded with money he got as severance after being fired from a previous tech management position, albeit in the finance sector.

This is probably the most beneficial Founder Story I've seen in a long time. I'd highly recommend a watch. The video proves that hard work has always been essential in the tech industry, with our without outside capital. A few too many recent Founder Stories are with relatively inexperienced people with only a few years or less under their belt, and I don't feel like I've actually learned anything from the video other than their company name. This one is different.

I Love this video. Especially his story about keeping burn low as much as possible. One such example of when he did that was when sawed down some desks so more could fit in the same space (i.e. fit more salespeople in the same square footage)- and many of his employees didn't even realize at first.

Love it.

What a great video. It gives me a lot more respect for the guy. After watching it I'm surprised that he's made it this long without learning how to code.

Well, is writing code the new literacy? Most people in the west can read and write at some level, even if they never write a novel. The future might be like that with code - there are signs of it, where knowing how to write a little script or a SQL query can make a huge difference in plenty of different fields

I think not. Human computer interaction is moving farther AWAY from this in my view. Note that the most popular consumer devices (phones and tablets) don't allow any way for the user to really accomplish this and actually require a second device to build programs.

John Siracusa talks about this very thing on the latest Hypercritical [1]. Most people, while they could learn to code, have no desire or future being terribly proficient at it. The mindset and critical thinking is not how most people want to spend their time.

[1] http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/48

This is an interesting point and one I haven't thought of like this. The past year, I kept telling people to start learning to program, because there will be an unprecedented increase in demand for programmers and knowing how to program (even just a little bit) will be greatly beneficial no matter in what line of life you are in.

But can it come to the point where if you can't code, you get left behind? It might not be so farfetched.

Or, the more people who can code, the less valuable the skill? Meh, or not.

Maybe it's not supply & demand, but a network effect:

For reading, I would argue the ability to read become more valuable as the literacy rate increases, as society starts to run on the written word.

Perhaps computer literacy is the same.

That's interesting. When would you use a supply & demand model versus network effects to explain a trend?

The more people who can code, the more demand there will be for advanced training from experienced coders. The hackers of today will be the teachers of tomorrow :)

Good for him, and good for Codecademy. While a largely symbolic gesture, it can certainly never hurt to have political leaders be at least somewhat familiar with technology, especially when they're trying to create a new SV. I hope this is an actual intention and not just an empty PR move. He could, however, score a massive PR win both for himself and for NYC as a tech center by taking Codecademy up on their offer and showing up for lessons in person.

It is a symbolic move, but the interesting thing about it is that this kind of symbolism wouldn't work in most other places on this planet.

Agree, and it wouldn't have worked for even New York a couple of years ago. Right now, one of the biggest advantages for New York startups is the terrific (& free) PR push from Bloomberg himself. Go Codecademy!


Considering his whole business is basically being the tech company for the finance industry it's surprising he never learned about it.

As far as I'm aware anecdotally (I interned at Bloomberg last summer) Mike was in a position that required managing technology in his previous financial job before starting Bloomberg itself. Perhaps a more useful skill than being a developer himself considering he had a few million of capital to hire his own team from the off!

Well, NYC finance is still about dealmaking, even in the days of digital trading. Business is still done face-to-face, and the sheer density of New York will probably make sure that deal makers are more valuable than technologists for the foreseeable future. That's not to discount technologists in NY at all, though (they're deal makers too). It's just the reality that handshakes and coffee are irreplaceable.

Speaking of coffee, a lot of his early deals were based on him going around to Merrill Lynch and buying people there coffee, then coming back later saying "I'm Michael Bloomberg. I bought you a coffee. Can we talk?"

First person to learn how to code AFTER becoming a billionaire?

I will consider hiring him in 2015

So will I, but only if I can check out his code on github and ask him a whole bunch of puzzle questions first. ;)

In 1917 Lenin said that every cook should be able to run a state.

In 2012 a mayor would write code. That's what the mankind achieved.

How long before the TV series 'Coding with the Stars'?


I suppose I should be happy that authority figures are getting in touch with technology.

That said, I'm pretty sure Bloomberg learning to code marks the peak of the second tech bubble. That, or Ashton Kutcher becoming a VC.

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