I’m not in favor of anyone learning to code unless she really wants to. I believe you should follow your bliss, career-wise, because most of the things you’d buy with all the money you’d make as a programmer won’t make you happy. Also, if your only reason for learning to code is because you want to be a journalist and you think that’s the only way to break into the field, that’s false.
I’m all for people not becoming coders, in other words—as long they make that decision for the right reasons. “I’m bad at math” is not the right reason.
Math has very little to do with coding, especially at the early stages. In fact, I’m not even sure why people conflate the two. (Maybe it has to do with the fact that both fields are male-dominated.)
Victoria Fine, Slate’s strategy director, has a good piece up this week about how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling.
Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. “How do I make a website red” was not nearly as successful a question as “CSS color values HEX red” combined with “CSS background color.” I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers.
Fine’s experience is typical among coding autodidacts, and it resembles my own learning-to-code adventure. In the beginning, you’re memorizing some basic concepts, like how the Internet works, what code does, how to FTP, and so forth. Then you build on that knowledge—primarily through Googling, trial, and error—as you explore your language(s) of choice.
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