Like hundreds of thousands of folks, I signed up for Code Year in January, 2012. This was the year I was going to learn how to code.

Except I didn’t.

Well, not like that. Not via a weekly email that pointed me to Codecademy lessons on Javascript and whatnot.

I’m not the first to confess that I’ve failed to follow through on this particular New Year’s resolution. New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose just published a “Public Apology to Codecademy”:

“So, I’m sorry, Codecademy. I’m sorry for the broken promises. I’m sorry for the wasted e-mails, the futile bytes spent chasing after a man who was never really going to love you back. I’m sorry you had to resort to thinly veiled passive-aggression there at the end, and I’m sorry that despite all your entreaties — 72 in all — I never got up the nerve to take the first step that might have landed me on the road to code.”

Like Roose, I never clicked on any of the emails I received from Codecademy. We can debate, I realize, whether or not I ever had any intentions of doing so, considering my vocal criticism of the startup’s pedagogy.

But my doubts about one Web-based learn-to-code curriculum certainly didn’t stop me from experimenting with numerous others. During Code Year, I signed up for Udacity’s CS101. I signed up for Coursera’s CS101. I signed up for the edX introductory CS class. I signed up for the Mechanical MOOC. I test drove lots of learn-to-code startups’ sites.

None of it stuck.

Unlike Roose, I think I really do want to learn more code. And unlike Roose, I'm not inclined to apologize that I'm a Codecademy-Udacity-dropout, even though I tend to agree with him when he tells these startups that “it’s not you, it’s me.”

I mean, it must be...

Because this year more than any, I’ve buried myself in code. I’ve looked at a bunch of API calls. I’ve looked at API developer areas and API documentation. I’ve moved my domains from GoDaddy to Hover and I’ve learned all about DNS. I’ve played around with scripting in Google Docs (now Drive). I’ve tried my hand at Google BigQuery. I’ve started creating GitHub repositories for my work (although admittedly, they’re all Markdown, HTML, and text). Most importantly, I’ve tinkered with the PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript on my websites.

And really, this is what I want to do. I want to be able to support my sites — everything from the DNS to the database. I want to control my digital identity. I want access to my data. I want to be able to ask questions that data and against any open data in my profession (for me, that’s education). I want to be able to solve my own digital problems — and not just, “please cycle the modem” sorts of bullshit. I want to be able to hack my world.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to do much more. I want to learn much more. I’m pretty reliant on my boyfriend’s engineering skills and his willingness to answer my basic questions. And I don’t like it that my eyeballs still spin back in my head when someone mentions regular expressions. And kids, I do so badly want to be able to make a Twitter-bot that responds to link-baity ed-tech posts with some sort of @horse_ebooks witticism. And such.

I don’t think I can get this in a weekly email newsletter. I don’t think I can get this when the final project is building a card game. I don’t think I can get it when the final project is building a search engine. (Although the latter is way more interesting than the former, I would say.)

I need to chose the final project. Likely, that project is something that I’m already working on. I need to define my own goals. And likely, I need to figure something out now. I need just-in-time guidance; not something that we’ll get to Week 7 of the syllabus.

“Welcome to how everyone learns to code, Audrey.”

And okay, yeah. Sure. I get that. But that sorta indifferent shrug and a weekly email newsletter make for a pretty discouraging Code Year for a lot of folks.

Image credits: Kevin Roose's email inbox via New York Magazine

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Audrey Watters



Audrey Watters


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