Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why follow the norm when you can lead the pack?

1. You studied Economics — why learn to code?

Last January I got a new job. I had new responsibilities and now new opportunities to develop myself in my role, so I started mucking around with Codecademy!

2. How have you used what you learned on Codecademy at work?

I work in the Accommodation Office at the University of York and we use Google Forms to automate housing transfer requests from thousands of students. I used the JavaScript I learned in Code Year to write a Google Apps Script that sends a confirmation email to the student and their administrator. The project grew from automated notification emails into a dashboard to manage the transfer process from start to finish, and produce some pretty graphs along the way.

3. Did learning to code help you land your new job?

My new job is in Data Analysis, and I firmly believe that Codecademy helped me develop the skills (not to mention improving my confidence) to get it. I’m definitely carrying on learning — I want to be coding full-time by the time I’m 30.

4. What advice do you have for those making a career change?

Find a project and own it. This helps you:

Develop transferable skills

Many of the key attributes my employers were looking for I was able to develop through my project; not just coding ability but testing and bug fixing, understanding users’ needs, process improvement and project management.

Apply what you’re learning

This was that first time I’ve found learning to code rewarding in itself, the first time I’ve been motivated to carry on going and the first time I’ve come away with anything useful to show for myself.

Offer another perspective

Learning to code teaches you a way of thinking and addressing problems which can be applied in so many other areas of life – I don’t think people always appreciate that.

5. What do you listen to while you code?

A song, my “coding anthem.” The last verse sums up why I think everyone should learn to code.

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Try, try again: after a six month break, one man takes Code Year by the horns

You’re a journalist who decided to code— do you think that all journalists should code?

No. Journalism is a broad field and journalists distinguish themselves in their very own set of skills. Not everyone needs to be able to code, just like not all need to be good at writing longread and have a great radio voice.

But coding skills will play an increasingly important part in this mix. And, at least for now, if you know how to code, you have a skill that distinguishes you from almost all other journalists. Most importantly, being able to code means you don’t have to play by existing rules, but can create your own.

How would you describe coding?

Highly rewarding, but merciless until you get there. One mistake and the whole thing fails to work. That frustrated me in the beginning. It’s like ordering a full three course menu at the restaurant and not getting anything just because you pronounced the name of the wine slightly wrong.

Just one month after you started Code Year you gave up, and didn’t touch programming for six months. What finally brought you back?

I don’t remember exactly what it was. It always nettled me that I had given up, and since I had publicly announced my plans to learn to code, people kept asking me how I was doing. I think I eventually gave it a second try when I had a few days off and no daily business to worry about. What really pulled me back in was the fact that everything suddenly felt so easy and clear when I continued. That’s when I realized that this could really lead somewhere and from there, I never looked back.

And in the process you launched a web app called Instacurate. Tell us about it.

Instacurate helps you get the best out of Twitter, fast. It’s a nice way to discover interesting stuff on the web, as it displays links posted on Twitter in a visual, discovery-friendly way. You can search for specific users, hashtags, or browse your timeline, turning Instacurate into a personalised news site.

Instacurate was sort of my graduation project. I tested how far I could go with all that I’ve learnt during my CodeYear. Pretty far, I realised, also because I could make use of a lot of open source code and, thanks to Github, got support from experienced programmers with the tricky parts.

Now that you’re a coding pro, what do your friends think?

Some think I’m a complete nerd, some are pretty impressed, most of them probably a bit of both. I’m happy to see that quite a number of journalists who started Code Year with me in 2012 who gave up along the way are now giving it another try! But let me be clear, I’m a coding pro on the journalist’s scale. Compared to real programmers, I’m still a n00b, but that’s fine.

What advice do you have for aspiring coders?

I wrote a book on my whole programming quest, you’ll find a lot of advice in there. I strongly recommend having an experienced programmer who you can talk to in person, who can help you with tricky problems or with basic stuff such as setting up a local server on your laptop. That really proved priceless for me.

So… what’s next?

I’ll definitely keep working on courses on Codecademy, I actually just started the one on APIs which I consider especially valuable for journalistic work. My main goal, however, will be to make programming a more integral part of my daily work, working on story-related code-projects. And, of course, I’ve got a ton of ideas for the next steps with Instacurate.

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Streak versus Hospital: Motivation to the end

Why did you start learning to program?

Flore: I started just after my doctor ordered me to stay home to prevent my baby from coming too soon (I was pregnant at the time). I was bored at home alone, and my husband Benoit who is an IT Engineer told me I should learn to code on Codecademy.

No dreams of becoming a developer then?

Flore: Not quite, but I have to say that your website really is as great as he described it! I was certain that I wouldn’t understand a thing, and surprisingly I’ve learned a lot that was interesting to me — I didn’t expect to! Sometimes it’s even amusing as well…

You were on a roll when you had to enter the hospital and lost your streak — tell us what happened.

Benoit: Well that was something that really motivated her to keep it up, especially at that point in the course when things were getting hairy. She was kind of discouraged when she had to break her streak, so I emailed to ask if there any remote chance you guys could pretend she never had to go to the maternity ward and set her streak back to 57 days.

And we were so impressed by her dedication that we bent the rules and reset her streak.

Benoit: Yes! She went back into the hospital again after that, but this time she managed to get a room closer to the WiFi hotspot. When she couldn’t connect we would do the exercises by phone and I’d type her answer in for her.

Ultimately the streak broke anyway though…

Benoit: So soon baby Clemence was born, and that night when I realized about the streak I quickly took out my smartphone (still poor WiFi in the new hospital room) hoping that the timezone difference might save us, but it was too late… We both saw the dreaded ‘0 day streak’ on our profiles. But hey — we had a baby!

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A developer wanted to find his friends on Codecademy. So he coded up a tool

You work as a web developer, but you joined Codecademy for Code Year. Why?

Code Year was a great opportunity to reinforce a number of programming concepts. I had had a good amount of experience working with HTML/CSS and JavaScript, but most … Continue reading

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Learn APIs with Codecademy!

When I worked at GroupMe before starting Codecademy, it always amazed me that the company started at a TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon. Its founders somehow built an awesome group texting application in less than 48 hours! How’d they do it? They built on top of another company’s technology – Twilio, in this case – and used it to build an app of their own. Twilio sent the text messages, but GroupMe handled group formation, the interface, and more. A year after GroupMe was created at a hackathon, Skype bought it for more than $60m.

That’s one of the many examples of the power of APIs – application programming interfaces. They exist to make it easy to interface with applications other people have built. Without APIs, hackathons would be much harder. APIs make it easy to create things – to make things that interface and interact with the real world and the technologies in it. For Twilio, this means interacting with phone numbers. For YouTube, it’s with videos.

Codecademy has long taught people the basics of programming and how to build things like games and websites. It’s always been our goal to help people create things – to make companies, products, and real-world applications. Today, we’re one step closer with that. We worked with great companies like Youtube, NPR, Bitly, SoundCloud, Parse, and more to teach you how to build simple API apps. What can you do with these APIs? Build awesome websites with video with YouTube’s. Shorten links on the fly and grab stats with Bitly’s. Mash up the news with NPR’s. That’s just the beginning – we’ll be adding more APIs soon!

Programming is an amazing skill because it lets you create things on your computer. Using APIs makes that one step easier. It’s often hard for developers (even professional ones!) to get up to date on the latest APIs and to learn how to use them. Dense documentation makes it nearly impossible to pick up an API and start programming immediately. These new Codecademy lessons should be just as helpful to experienced developers as they are to total newbies. They’ll help you get up and running faster than ever.

Amazing products and projects have been built on the APIs that we’re starting to teach today. This is just the start – if you have an API you’d like to teach or one you’d like to learn more about, let us know! Let’s build something great together.

Get started now!

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Make 2013 Your Code Year

On January 1, we proclaimed 2012 “Code Year.” Our aim was to make programming mainstream in 2012. We thought that not everyone needed to be a programmer, but everyone needed to understand what programming was. Code Year launched and more th… Continue reading

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