Learning to code as a New Year’s resolution
I haven’t checked out Codecademy yet, but I love the ideas in this initiative: That it’s valuable for everyone to learn to program, that learning to code is a great New Year’s resolution, and that it should be possible to learn programming with a regular, weekly effort. I’m not convinced that we’re there yet (only five hours a week for a year to learn to program? That’d be great if it would work!), but it’s a terrific goal!
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, let me suggest an idea that you might not have considered: You should learn computer programming. Specifically, you should sign up for Code Year, a new project that aims to teach neophytes the basics of programming over the course of 2012. Code Year was put together by Codecademy,* a startup that designs clever, interactive online tutorials. Codecademy’s founders, Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski, argue that everyone should know how to program—that learning to code is becoming as important as knowing how to read and write. I concur. So if you don’t know how to program, why not get started this week? Come on, it’ll be fun!
Code Year’s minimum commitment is one new lesson every week. The company says that it will take a person of average technical skill about five hours to complete a lesson, so you’re looking at about an hour of training every weekday. That’s not so bad, considering that the lessons are free, and the reward could be huge: If you’re looking to make yourself more employable (or more immune from getting sacked), if you’d like to become more creative at work and in the rest of your life, and if you can’t resist a good intellectual challenge, there are few endeavors that will pay off as handsomely as learning to code.
But this isn’t only about you. Let’s talk about how all of us—our entire tech-addled society—could benefit from a renewed interest in coding. Over the past 20 years, and especially in the last five, computers invaded every corner of our lives. Most of us accepted their ascendancy with grudging tolerance; even if they’re a pain to use and don’t ever work as well as they should, these machines often make our jobs easier and our lives more enjoyable. Part of the reason we’ve all benefitted from computers is that we don’t have to think about how they work. In their early days, the only way to use a computer was to program it. Now computers require no technical wizardry whatsoever—babies and even members of Congress can use the iPad. This is obviously a salutary trend. I’ve long argued that computers, like cars, shouldn’t require technical skill to operate, and the easier that computers are to use, the more valuable they’ll be to all of us.