Queer Your Tech With Fun: Your New Year’s Resolution to Code in 2013

Welcome to the eighth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything I cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani

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So to break up the backing up series, I thought I’d just do a short interlude today while all of y’all are out purchasing or making your hard drives. I’ll start up again next week with cloud storage solutions.

This past year, there was a push to learn how to code with Code Year. Code Year was run by Code Academy, and while we don’t really have a ton of time to jump on the Code Year bandwagon for 2012, we can certainly do it in 2013. Code Academy makes it fast and fun to learn to code with JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Ruby and Python.

The virtual badges from Code Academy via z1g1.net

The virtual badges from Code Academy via z1g1.net

You get these teeny tiny little badges like you’re coding girl scout nerd, which of course makes me smile a lot. And you can code with your friends. And the Code Year syllabus certainly isn’t limited to 2012. You can start it any time you like.

Why learn to code? Well, that’s up to you. Coding is like learning another language – it simply opens up more possibilities for you. Haven’t you ever wondered how a website is made? Or how that app on your phone actually runs? There are plenty of arguments for not learning to code, like that it’s actually really hard to learn to code and we shouldn’t take it on lightly, or that we’re putting the practice of coding before the practice of problem solving. But here’s the thing. I don’t agree with any of the reasons why you shouldn’t learn to code. I’m also not telling you to race out and become a professional programmer.

I think learning for the sake of learning is important. We are so often taught as we grow up that healthy curiosity is a waste of our time and that nothing is worth doing if you’re not doing it well or professionally. If you’re curious as to what CSS is, I think you should be able to learn to code without being discouraged by the sometimes vicious tech world. I also think that, like any language, the more tools you have in your tool belt, the more you’ll be able to learn new ways of thinking and approaching problems. It’s not really about the code – it’s about stretching, growing, learning about new things you haven’t touched before. Like Laneia said, we aren’t done yet (okay, she said that about her children. But I like to think we’re all Laneia’s children). Plus if you don’t know what code can do, how do we know it’s not the right way to solve XYZ problem we’ve been experiencing? How do you know that code can’t help you in this new business you’re starting? What if code can make you breakfast in the morning? (If anyone has figured that last one out, please contact me? I love breakfast and this Twitter-triggered coffee pot is the only example I can find.)

via enterpriseirregulars.com

via enterpriseirregulars.com

If you’re not into Code Academy, try Kahn Academy, which is basically free education on just about anything. They’ve got a coding section too. And also you earn badges. (What? I still wish I was a girl scout? Naw, what are you talking about?!) If you’re thinking this all sounds too easy, you could Learn Python the Hard Way (also for free).

So what do you say? Who’s with me? Computer literacy is a huge deal now that most of our lives happen with some form of technology involved, and learning the language behind it is a part of that. If you have any more coding resources that I missed, feel free to share in the comments. We may have missed the boat on learning to code in 2012, but 2013? The year is ours.

Profile photo of Lana Turing

Lana has written 12 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    This is perfect. I work in the marketing department of a mid-size teach company and I’m forever giving our coders the side-eye of envy. So in 2013 it’s time to go out and LEARN TO CODE, dammit. Plus there’s a cute programmer girl I really wanna talk to…

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    “If you’re not into Code Academy, try Khan Academy, which is basically free education on just about anything.”

    Yeah, but if you learn coding from there, your programs tend to come out something like this:

    main()
    {
    printf(“KHAAAAAN!”);
    }

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    Khan Academy is the reason I got into grad school. My math score on the GRE was average rather than holy-fuck-can-this-person-even-count?, which is what it would have been had I not spent many hours watching Salman Khan draw rainbow-colored numbers. (I’ve never watched the computer videos. Probably they are less colorful. But still helpful?)

    I need to learn Python, so I guess I will be finding out!

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    I think knowing the basics of coding is a foundation skill, like knowing how to do basic math in your head or how to perform basic first aid.

    A lot of people think that software is doing something intelligent when it’s often(1) just following a comprehensive set of logic rules no more complex than what we use in daily conversation. Since we’re not typically taught how to map our thinking into conditional rules (IF, THEN, ELSE) and boolean logic (AND, OR, BUT), it’s easy to think that programming is magic.

    Programming elegantly to solve complex problems is art, if not magic, but programming is not inherently magical. The difference between being a programmer and knowing basic coding is like the difference between being a doctor and knowing first aid. If you want to make a living as a programmer, then do the comp sci equivalent of becoming a doctor (get a degree in it). If you want to have a good grasp of how software works and how to automate work on your computer, then do the comp sci equivalent of learning first aid (learn the basics of coding).

    I am a happily mediocre programmer in a handful of languages. I’ll never make a living from it but I can quickly figure out the hows and wtfs of most software and automate the hell out of pretty much everything I do on a computer. In a digital life, that’s like having a superpower that creates more time.

    (1) Grossly oversimplifying here for non-technical people.

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    The other day I heard my roommate screen at 12:01 am and I thought she had probably stabbed herself cooking or something, but she had just forgotten to use Code Academy the day before and broke a streak and wouldn’t be getting a badge or something.

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    So when I was younger, I was into coding. I used to make BASIC programs as a kid on my VIC-20 and, later, the DOS-running desktop that my parents bought at Sears. I also took HTML courses in college.

    I will never be a programmer or make websites for a living. Right now, I’m a technical writer. But you know what? I use my knowledge of code every day. I use it to understand the database software where we keep content for reuse (to the point where I am currently one of the experts in the team on that software). I use it to make macros in Word to streamline my work (and my coworkers’ work) and to keep my RSI in check. And, as Arls said, I use it to better understand any software I use in my day to day life.

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    You can also check out stuff like Coursera and “Javascript for Cats” and “Learn Python the Hard Way”.

    Did you know that if you can train your computer to do your bidding, you are automatically cool and a heroine to mortal users?

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      Yup, that is also why I need to learn Python. I am convinced that with a GIS certificate and a working knowledge of Python, maybe someone will hire me after I’m turned down for every ecological restoration job in the country and get desperate.

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    Is there some kind of code that takes my search history and turns it into Autostraddle posts? Because just last week I was looking up how hard it would be to learn Java. Seriously, this is getting creepy. But thank you!!

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    As someone who “headhunts” (goes out and searches through LinkedIn for my company to hire), I am SO MUCH MORE LIKELY to hire someone if they know how to code. *Especially* if the job they are doing has nothing to do with coding. Finding people who can “speak tech” is so helpful-especially if they’re on the creative end of things. Having an artist who can communicate with developers makes my heart so happy!

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    Thanks! I’ve always intended to learn more about coding, and never quite knew where to start. (Have a lot of SQL Server experience, with a bit of VB, but really want to learn more.) Python will come in handy with some of the GIS and BI software we use at work – always nice to be able to be able to add your own extensions where the software doesn’t do exactly what you want.

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    Whoa, just a few days ago I was asking the head of IT advice for going back to school for Web Design & Development and the first thing he said was check out Code Academy often! I also found w3schools.com, lynda.com and teamtreehouse.com useful as well! I’m so excited! :}

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