Friday, May 18, 2012

Code learn code learn code redux

To anyone who cares about the {Learn to code} movement and the surprise controversy it caused from some very software engineers. Here is a new post about the topic.

There has been noise about this topic. Here is a cool response: Please Don't Become Anything, Especially Not A Programmer. Of course, there are also those who side with Jeff. Like Please learn to write. Today, I received a comment saying that coding horror is actually saying a completely different thing.

I think that, regardless of whether I am able to understand Coding Horror's triggering post or not . This is a good discussion some people out there are having. And I love to at least post my opinions in this blog so I can read them and maybe some of the few guys who read this blog.

Coding, that non-essential skill

After thinking and over thinking. I think Jeff's main annoyance with this whole thing is the notion that coding is essential.

So, is coding an essential skill? Do you have to learn to code to live a good life? The answer is, to me, nope. Surely, there really are few skills and knowledge that you could call essential, and programming is not one of them... But wait, neither are reading, writing nor math... I mean, surely you need *some* writing, *some* reading and *some* math (mere arithmetic, in fact). You also need *some* basic social skills. Everything else is optional, really.

It seems that most energy spent by the strong opponents of the learn to code movement is to remind us that coding is not essential. To which I have to ask: Big deal? If a guy makes learning to code his new year resolution, is it really a big crisis for us?

The relevant question is whether the Code Year campaign is really saying this. That coding is as essential a life skill as basic reading and arithmetic. I do not think so. It seems that Code Year is simply an advertisement for Code Academy, and that they are really saying that, if you want to learn something new, that code is an option and not one that is as obscure as some engineers would like you to think. That you can learn to code this year. I also do not think anyone is being forced to learn to code. It is a completely voluntary thing to do.

Learn to write?

If writing is not an essential skill beyond a certain basic level. The question is then, why should someone who has already acquired decent writing and communication skills be compelled to comply with the request to focus on writing and ignore code? There is certainly no reason. If you have run out of essential things to learn, then you should feel happy because you can find new things to learn. If you pick coding I will not make a big deal about it. You can also improve your writing. It has always been a choice you can make. You can even choose to do everything and improve your writing while you also learn to code.

Some people really should learn programming

A slight problem with the [it is not essential!] meme is that just because something is not a essential thing it means there is nothing good for society if you learn it. There are increasingly more careers that need some knowledge of how coding works.

The knowledge of how code works shall be , to me, not different than how some judges and lawyers have to learn know about environmental science (We got some judges out there making very important decisions regarding programming. They are just an example. I also think that many authority positions in companies related to this should also get to know at least some coding.

I say this because, unlike plumbing, programming is not really something that people can intuitively know what is it about. e.g. consider Hollywood. So, really, I think this information about the basics of programming is something that is needed for certain groups with a job description different to software engineer.

Become a programmer?

At least to me it seems that the {Learn to code} people are not saying: Become a programmer. So, I don't really think Bloomberg is planning to replace any programmer in the city hall or anything. Because I cannot find evidence of Code Year movement to ever say that after you learn to code you would replace part of your job description with "being a crack at javascript". That would be silly.

Hello world

Jeff mocks the notion of Bloomberg's discovery of programming to be a hello world-like program. Well, what would be so bad about it? Perhaps more people just getting to run their codes just once will make the world slightly better? It is difficult for me to imagine a way in which more overall knowledge about something would be a bad thing. In fact, it seems to me that historically, those in the thinking that some knowledge was not appropriate for some people were the ones in the wrong.

If more people learn to code

Is it going to be the end of the world? We will have more bad coders. That is for sure. There will be many people that will hate code after having been encouraged to learn to code only to find out they do not have the patience for it. There will be some guys and women who have found a cool new hobby, and they might spend some of their free time making cool minor projects, and eventually finding out the reasons to have a good methodology. Some other people will find a new career path. Some of them will become bad programmers. But a couple of them will become great programmers. More people will actually know what programming is all about though. There will be more knowledge around. And the next time a jerk says that he invented the double click, more people will know that such claim is bogus.

I think that regardless of whether the learn to code group is based on real points or not. The net outcome will be positive. As I mentioned before, it is difficult for me to imagine a good justification to think that more people knowing about a subject is ever going to be a bad thing.

Learn: Writing, plumbing, reading, coding, math, astronomy, chemistry, biology, music. Learn everything, damnit

There, that is my conclusion. It has become my new ideal to tell people that they have to learn everything. You shall never stop learning because your final objective is to learn everything. You can, however, pick the order in which to learn your stuff. Enjoy.


You too can earn 100k dollars a year?

This post reminds me of another thing that is being assumed about the learn to code meme. Many people seem to interpret it as "you can learn to code in one year and make millions with code.". I will be honest that I have not really seen much from this movement, the litte from the code year home page does not seem to imply that to me.

Of course, that premise is terribly wrong. Once again though, if people really fall for it, then this whole experience will help more people find out that no, 100K a year with coding is not as easy as learning to code. And that is a great thing to learn.

We may be missing something, that learning is so great that even if your starting premise is wrong, you still learn useful things. Let these beginners be wrong about their expectations.

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