Have you considered a pencil and a paper? Crayons? Markers? Paints and a canvas? A hammer, some wood and some nails?
"Ah, but that requires something to create something!" Yeah? So does programming. It requires a computer (or access to one). It requires programs to run your code - free or otherwise. In fact, I'd argue the barrier for entry into programming is SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER than MANY other creative outlets.
It's just like anything else in the world. Any jerk can grab some paints and make some lines on a canvas, but the ones who take the time to understand art and practice for years are always going to be better. Always.
So should you learn to code? If you're interested in it and you really like doing it, then yes. Otherwise you're going to waste your time and everyone else's time. Coding is just another art form. It's a means of expressing systems that run on computers. If this doesn't excite you, don't do it!
Learn something you're passionate about....because you'll never get really good at something unless you're fired up about it, and what's the point of doing something if you aren't going to completely commit? There's so much in this world to learn and be passionate about, why spend your time learning something you don't care about?
Good writing can change just as many lives, just as profoundly as good coding (think of that one book or that one blog article that really made us reflect upon our own lives).
We all have great things to say: "Please Learn How to Write"
I say this as a programmer, photographer, woodworker, electronics hacker, and musician. Nothing else comes close to programming in how much you can create with so little.
In fact, programming can help you with ALL of the other hobbies I occasionally indulge in. Being able to write music doesn't make me a better photographer.
And you really are creating from nothing; you could create an app at your local library if you had some kind of programming skill but no access to a computer of your own. If I lost everything but still had access to libraries, I would still be able to do programming work.
Only in digital photography are you "creating from nothing"; every other hobby I have requires you to use up consumables, and every one of those hobbies have involved investments in equipment greater than what I spent on my latest laptop.
I couldn't create anything interesting with pencil and paper myself, and I would also suggest that it would take FAR more skill in drawing to begin to make a living using pencil and paper than it would skill in, say, web development, to make a living creating web pages.
I KNOW web developers who are barely "programmers" compared to what I know about programming who do a good job and make a good living working on web sites for people. That kind of range of skill can only exist because of the extreme leverage you get from knowing anything at all about programming.
Yes, programming IS different.
Nobody would argue that plumbing and talking have similar importance and value. But what about plumbing and programming? Or programming or reading?
I personally believe that programming is closer to reading than to plumbing for a majority of people. I'm glad to see you feel the same!
I know what you're saying, but I'd like to point out that you don't need a computer to write programs. I started writing programs with pen and paper back in middle school (before my family owned a computer), and still often do that. Nowadays, most of them do end up being digitized and executed, though.
Alonzo Church, Alan Turing, Haskell Curry, Moses Schoenfinkel, etc., were writing programs before computers were even invented ;)
"The notes [...] include in complete detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers [...] which would have run correctly had the Analytical Engine been built. Based on this work, Lovelace is now widely credited with being the first computer programmer and her method is recognised as the world's first computer programme."
Seeing a thing come together as you fiddle with it is just satisfying.
But code goes further than that; since so much of our world is now digital, it multiplies these efforts in virtually every field, including the arts (there's a niche to be filled in custom automating the batch processing done in the photo production industry)
The same can be said of being a great orator. Cicero is still known today largely for his oratory skills, and similar skills have served president Obama.
So does being a great biologist and research doctor. Edward Jenner saved countless lives through is work.
Code can multiply your effort, and that is why I code, but it is not the only thing that can, and in fact many technologies exist to multiply the effort in some form or fashion.
Clearly being a great writer, orator, or doctor have high coefficients. Being a great plumber probably has a lower coefficient. Being a great doorman might be still lower on the scale. (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a doorman, just taking it as an example of a skill with a low change-the-world coefficient)
I think all things being equal, it's better to learn things with a high coefficient. Of course personal enjoyment is important too, so when I say "everyone should learn to code" I'm of course not advocating forcing people to learn to code against their will…
I've never had a piece of art or drawing save work/time/money for me but we have apps that do this everywhere.
Art is an amazing creative outlet and I've seen some awe inspiring drawings/paintings but I've never seen one with a tangible benefit.
I think if you asked several highschool or even college students who painted Starry Night or Washington Crossing the Delaware you'd get a lot of blank stares. Ask the same kids if they know of or use Facebook; I'd bet more kids know about Facebook.
I'm not saying that everyone is cut out to be a programmer but I do support everyone trying it out. Zuckerberg didn't create Facebook with a pencil and paper.
Of course, that's taking things to an extreme, but you get my point. And sure, it took him longer than a weekend, but I doubt most 'disruptive' works of programming were born in a single weekend.
(EDIT: I'm not sure why Luther's 95 Theses popped into my head above any other body of work. But it's pretty indisputable that it was awfully impactful, and were, largely, just pen and paper (or quill and parchment... whatever :)))
Gandhi made a huge impact on a vast number of people and all he had was a white cloth and a pair of glasses! (albeit it took longer than a weekend)
Joking aside, if everyone learnt to programme then there would be no need for specific programmers. Yes, it's frustrating when people don't know the basics, but I have no idea what to do when it comes to plumbing. These are very distinct jobs. I take my car to a mechanic for the same reason. I do not need to know how the plumbing in my house works to take a shower, or how an engine works in order to drive my car. Facebook or Amazon do not require their users to understand how programming works.
If your code requires someone to understand the basics of programming then you have failed as programmer to understand your target audience. Granted you have apps that save you work/time/money, but your basic user should not need to understand what is going on under the hood.
1) Those who like it will take it further.....
2) Even writing a trivial program requires getting certain sorts of thought processes right. Once you can write trivial programs you may not be valuable as a programmer, but you will be empowered to interact with computers if you ever find yourself in your chosen work on a tangent where that's helpful.
Consider art. You draw a picture with pencil and a piece of paper. In programming, you define a process of drawing a picture.
True, you can still draw by hand just fine. However, imagine a picture that only exists when someone is looking at it—a picture that you can't draw in advance, only define a process that will draw it at someone's request. That's interaction, which is what programming is mostly about.
There are other activities that involve defining processes of building things—entrepreneurship comes to mind. However, programming seems to be the only one where building a process of creation is so pure and comparable to simply building a thing.
So yeah, saying programming is the only field that we can create something from nothing is just hogwash.
You don't have claim that programming is the bestest, most creative and constructive thing ever to say that programming has a mix of creative, constructive activity that is unique to it and can be uniquely satisfying in a certain way (just as painting, dance, martial arts and system administration have their unique aspects).
I know if I had it all to do over again I might trade my math & science classes for drawing.
Heck, even look at the average salaries of illustrators vs. graphic designers.
It's also MUCH easier for a developer to bootstrap and start a project on their own (be it a app, website, or add-on) than a designer/illustrator. The latter group can start some interesting projects on their own without needing to code but they are GENERALLY less scalable and lucrative.
If you can clearly and passionately describe a change you want to see in the world, you can get a lot of people behind you. Writing does, and always has, helped with this. I'd say being a very good writer can have a lot of benefits.
Now if you pair good writing with good computer skills, you have a the ability to get a powerful message to billions of people =]. I'd say they are both complimentary and extremely useful tools.
(ability to code) != (eyeballs reached)
I've written blog posts viewed by 100,000 people in one day.
I've also written software used by 1 person to save millions of dollars.
Both are rewarding, but I'd still rather build something. I think that's the most appropriate metric.
"Think about it: something I did reached 10,000 actual living people and had an impact (however small) on their life. That would never have been possible if I didn’t know how to plumb."
This statement works equally well for many professions.
I don't think the implication was supposed to be that you can't reach people without knowing how to code, but that in this instance, him knowing how to code gave him the ability to have an impact.
It seems an important enough distinction to point out.
Edit: <i></i> didn't make italics
Edit 2: Thanks wallawe
Not directly, maybe. But having some acknowledgment of basic data principles (particularly delimitation, meta-ness, maybe even regexes) can substantially increase your ability to write digitally. Markdown, for instance. And of course, being able to maintain or customize an existing platform, whether it's WordPress or Tumblr.
It's sad to say, but delimitation is not a skill that is in the mind of the average professional adult. Try sending someone a tab-delimited text file to someone who has only known CSV or XLS sometime.
But they're far less complex than code. And I can't say I've ever heard the "learn to code" people advocating them.
I've taught a lot of "learn to code" sessions...My main goal is to not for them to remember the specific syntax, but that programming gives you the ability to repeat a task thousands of times (for loops) and differentiate between them (if statements)...how many (non-worker-drones) people would be content spending significant amounts of their dayjob time doing manual copying-and-pasting and click-series-of-links-to-download-reports if they were aware of these basic coding constructs?
Now your average tech savvy office drone could morph their excel spreadsheets into a full blown application capable of processing business data without having to jump through any of the traditional hoops the evil IT department normally demands.
And we ended up with a ton of buggy, dangerous "mission critical" piles of garbage because they were "designed" and built by non-programmers.
Software programming is a discipline on the order of engineering and it will continue to get more complicated and require more and more education going forward. So no, not everyone should learn to "code".
We should be encouraging people to THINK like a coder - to approach problems in a way to identifies root causes and starts coming up with proper solutions.
I'm not in the valley so may it's vastly different down there, but outside (in Canada) tech is still considered a very specialized field, software development especially. It is not considered as simple as basic household skills like plumbing, cooking and building a deck. I would not expect my lawyer to 1) know how to code or, 2) code in a professional and useful manner.
If there was no VBA, the jobs these scripts were created for would still be done manually, with a mouse, by some secretary somewhere. "Getting a professional to do it" would never enter into the picture when you're talking about a BigCorp with a conservative, limited-budget IT department.
When I came back a year later after graduating, I learned the process was again being done manually because my replacement did not have even a basic understanding of how to interpret what a macro does from the script.
A few months ago, I automated ~6 hours of monthly Excel work through ~4 hours of trial and error of recording macros and manually editing them. I have zero training in coding other than osmosis from my brother who is an iOS programmer, but I wasn't afraid to screw up enough to figure it out.
Based on my first experience, unless my eventual replacement has at least a curiosity about how macros work I wouldn't trust them to effectively run my script over the long term--if anything breaks, they won't be able to fix it.
The point is, a lack of basic, basic understanding of coding could end up costing the company the 75+ hours/year I was able to save with a "buggy, dangerous...pile of garbage" when I either move to a new role or leave. This was something which would never have been a high enough priority for our coders to write for us. Multiply that through 25 people in our finance department, and you're talking about needing an additional full-time employee.
Can anyone recommend a good place to learn enough VBA to move past the buggy and dangerous stage?
On the other hand, showing people how to safely experiment in ways they can be sure won't screw things up may be very empowering and allow them to express their creative drive.
My parents did not do that. Even today, they pride themselves on the fact that when I used to asked them a "What would happen if..." question, they'd be like "Why don't you try it out". Sure I may/may not have got myself in a sticky situation, but the point is they didn't shut me down. Also, if I ever broke something (which was fixable) my dad would actually open that damn thing and fix it during the weekends, talking and explaining to me what the things inside do. Sure I may be only 7-8 or even 10-11 but hey that adds more to my curiosity.
At their angriest, my parents have assessed the situation to check if it's fixable by a human at my age/capacity and given me a stern "fix it" look. Boom, that was a blessing in disguise as well because now I'd be all like "Shit, how DOES this work".
[Note: I'm neither married/not have kids...yet]
The problem that I've seen with others/their parents/their children is that they get annoyed quite quickly. And when you shut down a 5 year old, you can clearly see the pained expression on his face.
They simply lose interest in everything and end up becoming drones. And they're afraid of doing anything new because they worry if they screw it up, their parent will come home and beat them up.
Software development is a highly skilled discipline. Sure, you can teach your accountant to code fizz buzz - but what use is that to them? Are they going to spend the thousands upon thousands of hours to become proficient in development before realizing it would be cheaper just to hire it out?
Again, focus on teaching a coder point of view - a way of thinking.
That's the whole point of this, learning to code gives you the option to make something you otherwise would consider magic.
You say you do not expect your lawyer to learn to code, but do you expect him to have basic mathematical tools to be able to have a conversation with him about stocks and options and percentages, right? Well, in the not so distant future these simple mathematical tools that we learn early on in life will be incorporated with basic programming tools.
No, lawyers still won't be able to code a Facebook from scratch, but they will be able to code basic HTML template for legal documents, and generate simple reports when they need to. Obviously they'll have secretaries and code monkeys that will do their bidding for money, as always, but they will still know the basic principles of software development, unlike today that most non-technical people consider software as black magic.
It applies to a lot of professions. We see it applied to the legal profession all the time here on HN.
No lawyer likes to find out that the Accounting Dept. has been drafting contracts, any more than an IT person likes to discover that the CPAs have developed a pseudo-enterprise accounting "system" in Microsoft Access.
But I think there is a middle ground: It's not practical to consult a lawyer for every click-through agreement you encounter on the web, just like it's not practical to launch an enterprise IT project every time you need to automate some tasks in a spreadsheet. Some basic skills in these areas are good to have. Just know your limits...
1. You already knew how to design. In fact you are a very talented and well known designer. If you didn't have design skills, chances are a huge huge amount lower that anything you put out will make the rounds - design is super important, and you of all people know that. And that's something you need to learn as well, so tack that on top of the time it takes to learn how to code.
This is a MASSIVE stack of things to learn, and I don't know a single person who knows all of this and doesn't work full time doing this stuff. "Learning to code" seems like a cute thing you can make a resolution to work on as a hobby, and maybe it is. You might be able to pick up the bare basics of programming in your free time, if you work hard. But making something significant like you claim here is a completely different deal.
3. You never dispute or even address the main point behind Atwood's article - that while programming is great to learn, the trend that 'everyone should learn to program' as a base skill along with reading, writing, and math is ridiculous. It's nowhere near as important as these other skills, and he makes a number of other valid points as well which I'm sure you don't disagree with. You argument was simply that programming is cool, so you should learn it. Sure, I agree, and I would have said the same if I only read the title of Atwood's article. But I feel like the way you contested it was uninformed and completely missed the point.
I'll dispute the main point.
As computers permeate more of our everyday lives it becomes necessary to understand them on some level. Nobody needed to learn how to read until there were books everywhere. No one needs to be an English major to pick up a book and learn to read. The benefits we know are enormous to adopting this skill.
But lets consider a world where books were everywhere but only an elite few felt it was useful to teach people to read. Knowledge as we well know is power and if only a few had the ability to pass on their knowledge amongst themselves then they would have a significant advantage over those who cannot read. The unfortunate masses who could not read would never know the full extent of the forces that work against their best interests. How could they?
Now we're in a world where there is more computing power in your pocket than that which sent human beings to the moon and back. Yet the non-programmer has no idea just how useful it is. The only literacy they have with computers are as appliances. They don't realize that these devices carry with them processes that may or may not operate in their best interest and they have no way of knowing that without being able to at least have a basic literacy of computers and programming.
Becoming a master at programming is still a difficult task that few will achieve. Just as becoming the next Nabokov or Salinger won't come to every person who picks up a pen and paper. However that doesn't mean we don't need to teach everyone how to write. We give them the basics and its up to them to use those tools if they so choose and pursue their own paths. However if we keep them in the dark then they'll have no hope.
Teach everyone to code. Computing is emerging as a new medium of expression and the technology is embedding itself in our every day existence. People need to be literate so they are able to understand the consequences and benefits of this technology. It's 2012 and most people I know still think computers are practically magic. They should know better and its our fault for not educating them.
You can say the same thing about any number of technologies that permeate our (western, and increasingly developed) lives - plumbing, electrical, cars, landscaping etc. While it's true that we should have some understanding of these technologies (checking the fluid levels in a car, snaking s small pipe, running A/V on your PC), expecting everyone to learn programing is like expecting everyone to learn pipefitting, carpentry, etc.
There is only so much time one has, folks should focus on their passions and let the experts take care of everything else.
With only an intuition for basic mathematics, the ability to read, and maybe a layman's understanding of fundamental physics one can come to understand enough about carpentry and plumbing to solve their own problems.
The same isn't true for computers. We don't teach computation in schools. To learn programming you have to scratch your own itch or wait until you get to college (in most places). There's no intuition about computation, no fundamentals that are taught and widely adopted. The average person doesn't sit down at their computer and understands what is going on, even in some small intuitive way, when they save their spreadsheet or click on a link in their email that takes them to their banking site (and subsequently they cannot even put together why, months later, they are the victim of bank fraud). Without even a basic understanding of the fundamental principles of computation these people have no idea how this technology is affecting their lives.
I'm not saying that everyone needs to be a professional programmer any more than everyone needs to be a master carpenter. We don't teach math in early education in the hopes that every child becomes a mathematician. We do it because it gives them tools to navigate their world and overcome the challenges of modern life. So too must we teach them computation. We don't want them all to become programmers but it is useful to know so that they can have the intuition to solve their own problems and start using computers as tools.
That is because unlike plumbing, electrical, cars, landscaping and like reading, writing and numeracy, basic programming augments your cognitive toolkit. In the least, it enhances rigorous and corner case thinking. It also makes learning abstract concepts easier, it allows one to reach beyond analytic solutions of equations and to access large amounts of data and automate the handling of said data.
If a computer can enhance many aspects of people's lives then they get more utility in having more powerful basic mechanisms of interaction for automating a program's behaviour. Having basic computer literacy would have definite positive utility for society.
Learning to program is not like learning to fix a car, it is like learning to drive a car instead of hiring a driver.
I vehemently disagree on this. Apple has made a silly fortune proving the contrary.
If you need deep understanding of a device to make it useful then the designers have failed to provide you with the right abstractions.
Some people just lack the appropriate base skills to fool with computers and certainly programming. They will always need a "tech guy" and have no desire to change that for a reason. It's not that simple to them. Not because they are stupid but because it's not their thing.
Apple cares about UI and attractive industrial design, and was the first companies to really get that in the computer space (and later in the MP3, smart phone, and tablet spaces). Good UI design is good for experts and novices alike. Do you really think that most people who used DOS computers once upon a time would really want to go back to 100% command-line interactions? (Yes, I know there are exceptions in the Unix crowd who swear that vi IS sliced bread and that anything not on the command line sucks...but there are probably 10x as many "expert" developers who swear by GUIs. Can't please everyone.)
The key difference is that, if you shy away from programming, there are huge categories of things you will never be able to do. And until you know how to program, you won't even know what those things are.
The "learning to read" analogy (elsewhere in this thread) is good. It's a powerful skill that, until you know it, you don't even know what it is you're missing.
However, that has nothing to do with the point I was making.
We often take for granted the effort and expertise needed to do something that we can do so easily or has become second nature to us. This is sometimes why the better you are at something, the more painful it is to watch someone else do it poorly.
Sure writing a website is cool, but then again, learning plumbing is cool, which is the basis of Jeff's argumentation. Plumbing can empower you by giving you control over your own house and appliances, etc, etc.
I think the real reason people should learn to code, is because an increasing number will have to deal with machines in every day lives, often taking decision affecting the work (and general lives) of others based on their understanding of those same machines:
- The legislator who has to pass laws about computers and/or the Internet.
- The manager who has to assess the usefulness of a new software application.
- The teacher educating kids and preparing them for the modern world.
- The consumer who wants to make an informed choice when chosing the latest gadget, not blindly follow what marketing departments tell her to.
- The judge and jurors overseeing the Oracle-vs-Google case.
I want to make the distinction that I wish people would learn to Code, not so they can "make" stuff, but so they can "understand" stuff.
To me, there's an argument to be made that coding can be considered (or maybe, will one day be considered) like a life skill on par with reading, cooking, or playing music.
I agree it doesn't look like it right now, but I'm sure that a couple hundreds years ago the idea that everybody would one day know how to read seemed just as ludicrous.
> I can’t think of many other skills that enable you to create something from scratch and reach as many people as knowing how to set up a simple website.
> Just last week, I was able to come up with an idea and then launch a site in 2 days. That site was then seen by about 10,000 people in a couple hours.
> Think about it: something I did reached 10,000 actual living people and had an impact (however small) on their life. That would never have been possible if I didn’t know how to code.
Drawing on an analogy similar to the one you make: Learning to write is crucial today, even though I will probably never be a published author. Similarly, learning to code is important, but not because "you too, can make a website!".
And another good reason for learning to code (just like learning to write) is that it'll let you reach a lot of people, and possibly become extremely rich in the process. I guess that second argument is what Jeff Atwood is mostly disagreeing with.
This is all great, but I advocate learning how to "code". I think that learning how to plug in your printer, transferring your pictures from your phone to your PC, or being familiar with the latest trendy webapp that automates your microwave's behaviour according to your GPS coordinates (a million dollar idea) is not enough.
I don't think everybody should learn to code, just like I don't think everybody should learn math. Also I become borderline elitist when it comes to coding professionally.
But as far as education goes, I'd like to live in a world where any college (heck, even high school) graduate would be able to read a simple Excel macro or bash script and understand the gist of how it works.
I wish I had this ability. (;
I can’t think of many other skills that enable you to create something from scratch and reach as many people as knowing how to set up a simple rage post.
Just last week, I was able to come up with an idea and then photographed my cat in 2 ways. That photo was then seen by about 10,000 people in a couple hours and I got 2000 karma points.
Think about it: something I did reached 10,000 actual living people and had an impact (however small) on their life. That would never have been possible if I didn’t know how to procrastinate on the Internet.
English teachers in Japan are also using rage comics to supplement their English lessons and inspire their students to learn words so they can understand their classmates' jokes .
And that on the Reddit comments the ordering of the panels is debated.
Just as every kid learns mathematics does not mean he/she has to become a full-fledged PhD researching manifolds in Topology. But they still need to know how to calculate percentages, basic statistics etc to get through life more easily.
In the same way, giving instructions to a computer the "hard" way instead of via clicking on buttons and letting magic happen is often a good exercise to appreciate the power and freedom it gives you. I remember doing this when I was 9 or 10 and doing locate, print, cls repeatedly in a BASIC loop let me create an animation I could control quite precisely (well no, CPU cycles came into play!)
But that's the precise reason, 18 years on, I delve into programming GPUs, wrote games with advanced Direct3D shaders for them and am currently wrting OpenCL code to solve complex equations on them.
It's all because of the locate, print, cls loop!
You can view "coding" as...
...an extension of mathmatics -- The ability to express an algorithm in a way that a computer understands it.
...an engineering discipline, where you build complex products by appliying good practice.
The first thing, can and should be tought at school. In fact where I live it is tought there. Needless to say it has the same reputation as math...
The second thing is something you have to study and become an expert in, because if you are not companies loose money or you might even kill people.
Is this even true? I think it's pretty well documented that the vast majority of the population actually has a high chance of failing. Look at failure rates in intro CS courses. Remember this?
The same goes for coding. It will get you thinking about a lot of things that really matter to your life and the world.
And none of it is easy or obvious. Dijkstra said teaching computer science was absolute cruelty because it does not truly reflect anything else in the world.
If you are going to work with computers don't think that an email server is an online mail room, don't go down the road of thinking that copyright law holds from one medium to the other because the idea behind the product is the same.
Don't think that skype is a telephone, don't think that facebook is the beatles of today, do know what something is, do know that the only intersection between life and computers is via maths and logic, do understand that these things matter now and will matter in the future.
If you don't know how to code, it probably seems perfectly reasonable to have a computer that you can't program yourself, with everything locked down. If that's the future you want, then sure, tell politicians to leave the coding to the professionals.
If you can code, you start to see the computer as a machine that can do anything you want, instead of just the things some app store makes available to you. That freedom is addictive. You start demanding it.
Cory Doctorow's fears about the end of general computing will come true unless lots of people get addicted to that freedom. http://boingboing.net/2012/01/10/lockdown.html
I really think the issue is deeper than current commentators are addressing.
I think Atwood's point is valid in so far as the world probably doesn't need politicians coding the software by which government services are provided. Nor do we need everyone writing their own web pages, one GeoCities was enough.
In other words, most people should try to learn the lightweight scripting which allows for better exploitation of all the computing tools.
Perhaps learning to code is a gateway to understanding technology. But that's a pretty steep learning curve just to explain to someone how a web page is generated and served.
To keep the plumber analogy, I'd be a better homeowner if I understood what all the pipes in my house do, and the importance of proper care and maintenance. Or when something breaks, how to turn off the water main without calling 911.
We should REALLY do this with healthcare. Who needs doctors. All hail self diagnosis year 2013!
Did you ever take a biology class?
We shouldn't be arguing why we should or shouldn't learned coding over other skills, like plumbing.
I praise people that put in work to make learning (such as coding) an easily accessible endeavor for those that want to learn. I would also praise Khan academy and universities that have made learning a variety of skills easily accessible to the people.
As a society, let us push to make education and learning open and accessible to all.
But I think the first step in giving someone the opportunity to code is to make them want to try it. So that was the intent behind me saying "everybody should learn how to code".
Coding isn't hard, coding is simple - simpler than a lot of other complicated things we have to learn as we grow up - and as such it should be mandatory in a world governed by computers.
Quite a few people don't have the time or the inclination to sit down and learn how to code, and to keep making like its really simple is kind of silly. I took my first programming class in Java many years ago, and even on basic things like operators and variables, half of the class was completely lost.
Not everybody can do what we do.
The more likely thing (in my opinion) is that people who're passionate about coding will learn on their own and seek out material without the help of these sites. Most of this stuff will probably pass as a current net fad. There has never been a lack of available learning material & people keen to share their knowledge on the net!
I would bring in articles from major News outlets and ask my kids to spot the blatant scientific errors. Do you know how many articles report things that clearly violate conservation of energy? It is so rare to see a science article in the mainstream press without errors, that I don't even get surprised anymore.
Having people with basic science knowledge will allow them to be savvier consumers, better citizens, and, in those cases where their lives take them there, vastly better public servants.
Knowledge about programming is not an exact parallel, but I think it's reasonably close. I agree with Atwood that programming is not as foundational as reading, writing, and math, but it's right up there with a few other things that would be very good to teach everyone the basics of.
If we measured everything by how much we used it professionally, we wouldn't learn music, play sports, or any number of things we focus on in schools.
I am definitely wary of people who tell me:
- "Why don't we..."
- "We just need..."
- "How hard could this be..."
- "Quickly change it so that..."
- "We can always change it later if it doesn't pan out..."
The disconnect between people who know how hard it can be and the people who assume it's as simple as talking about it is way too large as it is.
Against learning to code:
-More bad programmers.
-Even worse, more non-programmers who think they can code. Example: Someone does CodeYear and suddenly thinks they are a expert coder. Starts web design business. Sells poorly built wordpress themes to unsuspecting small businesses. If they have low prices, it makes potential customers think that all coding should be cheap("if they can do it for practically free, why should I pay you more?"). Thus, the entire industry suffers.
That isn't to say CodeYear is bad. I like it. It's great for people who actually want to learn to code and don't know where to start. It's bad for people who think they can sell websites after a few hours.
Learning to code != becoming a professional programmer. I can't count the number of times I wished that a graphic designer I was working with had even the basic idea of how HTML works.
Non developers should learn at least a bit of appreciation and even a baseline knowledge of what we do if they work with us on a daily basis. Also, developers need to actually learn some basic design skills to enhance their communications as well.
I had a computer class in high school where we were taught BASIC, and we were eventually taught to use HyperCard in a likely atypical "humanities" class I took; those experiences were certainly very enriching and empowring to me, even if I never touched BASIC or HyperCard again since.
Is programming even still a part of high school curricula?
I personally think computer literacy/competency is much more important than the ability to code. Unfortunately we still aren't to the point where we can say that most of the population is there.
I think everyone who has a mind for problem-solving should learn to code. Heck, even people who aren't especially right-brained can use code to be creative and artistic. And sometimes it's just fun, damnit.
I've temped before and been told to do nothing more than prettify and unify formatting in an Excel spreadsheet (for later insertion into a db).
(555)555-1212, 555.555.1212, (555) 555-1212, 555-555-1212, and so on to some standard format is a 10 minute job regardless of size.
Not everyone needs to be able to really program, but a healthy respect and knowledge of what a couple of one liners can do saves lots of money. That's money that could be spent on truly productive tasks that would actually drive the economy and not burden it.
Why not empower people to spend their leisure time or their artistic pursuits in a new, challenging way?
if people have something to contribute, there are so many tools and services out there that negate the need for coding it isn't funny. i always advocate non-coders to test out their market theories using tumblr, wordpress, facebook, twitter, posterous, pinterest, et al before rushing off to pay someone to develop something. (in fact, i think us developers should bill ourselves for our own time on our own projects, but that's fodder for another post).
jeff atwood, you are right on the money.
--> To all, who want to sell something, with this "learn-to-code" propaganda...
That is not a good reason to learn to code. Being beautiful and rich is empowering. Being tall and strong is empowering. So what?
A large number of people cannot be beautiful, rich, tall, strong, or good enough coders to feel empowered.
On a completely unrelated note, everybody should learn CPR.
Edit: This wasn't a derogatory comment. I merely wanted to point out that the Author probably isn't a mediocre coder and those people that are probably can't touch 10000 people in just 2 days. I really like thetoolbox.cc.
But I don't think you necessarily need great coding skills to reach people. The Toolbox really is nothing more than a customized WordPress theme, and I'm sure I could find lots of similarly successful sites that are not overly complex from a technical point of view.
How much can you learn about computers by doing the code year?
(not being a jerk, just curious)
Office jobs, and general running of any business can be improved with knowledge of code - or code itself imo.
Oh please, before lecturing what everybody should do - first learn some empathy, that will blow your socks off!
I think it's apt. Cooking shares many qualities with coding, you're under time deadlines to produce something for a end consumer (for the most part). There's lots of competing methods and you have to select which ones work best for the product you want to produce.
Most importantly you can cook something amazing that everyone loves, or a charred lump that no one will touch. Much the same as coding.
Cooking does not evolve that fast compared to programming. Everybody loves their grandma's pie.
And most important cooking is manufacturing and programming is designing. Regular cooking is trying to reproduce something that was done as close as possible, while programming involves dealing with lots of specifics.
The argument still holds, programming can be ridiculously simplistic and so can cooking.
A, you mean like hundreds of other professions...
Horizontal scrolling - a possible bug?
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Remember that Buffet quote -- he has seen a few bubbles: "... try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
Edit: If it isn't obvious -- the meme "everyone should learn to code" is the largest top-of-a-bubble signal I've ever seen.