Learning to code

The first web page I ever created was pretty average. It featured an animated dancing policeman centered in the page with a delightful line about how I always wanted to be a policeman or some such nonsense. I may have also linked my name to mailto: jonstribling@cool.com which was my email address at the time. I thought I was too cool for hotmail so of course I had to use cool.com. Sadly cool.com is now a generic web design business.

I still remember the magic of seeing the page I had creatgd clumsily in vim load in a browser which I guess was Mozilla or Netscape. There was an abstract beauty of typing some what seemed to be random words enclosed in less-than and greater-than symbols, of typing a new language and seeing it transformed into a visual language all boxes and pictures and reflex-blue links.

Once I learnt some HTML and then CSS, and then JavaScript,  PHP, C, SQL, and some Perl for some unknown reason, the world was constructed differently to me. Anything seemed possible with this new grammar. The magic of television was mundane compared with the interactivity offered by the web. (I also tried some Shockwave but it seemed artificial, too click/drag/drop and I feel a childish glee that Flash is no longer the lingua franca of the interactive world and has been replaced with a scripting that can create stuff like chrome.angrybirds.com.  Now that is freakin impressive.)

Coding allowed me to build a career in the web and also build some fun things. It is far and away the most imortant skill I have learnt including how to read Derrida, and Deleuze and Guattari. Hard to believe I know, but coding offered me a window to genuine creativity whereas the French post-structuralists confused me and turned me to mind-altering drugs and delusions of grandeur.

Apart from learning to feed yourself, learning to code is the most useful skill anyone between the age of 6 and 86 can learn to improve their lives, erradicate fear of technical stuff, stop web-hipsters patronisng you, and impress members of the opposite sex. The future in commerce, entertainment, and education is technical, is based around a new language which isn’t a romance language but has within a simple command the potential to create a romance of limitless potentiality. If the big questions in customer experience, marketing, political control and freedom, policy development, and creativity are located in masisve data sets, in big data then the answers can be unlocked by coding nous not opening a book or asking the intern.

Learning Ruby is more important than Russian, speaking JavaScript is more useful than Mandarin, and the best thing is you’re never too old to learn. With awesome tools out there like codeyear.com which help develop hacking skills totally for free there is no excuse for liberating yourself from being a luddite and learning to create magic.

So if you don’t know how to code, when are you going to start?

What do you think?