Getting Technical in 2012

Way Back Machine

I launched my first website when I was twelve, around the same time Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt were creating Google.

Not a spinning cow.

It was a mash-up of bright colors, nonsense, and animated GIFs. I built it using, which at the time was the publishing platform of Lycos. I called it “Spinning Cow” because I found an animated GIF of a cow that spun around. When I was 9-ish, my mom’s kitchen was covered in cow decorations. Cows on the wallpaper, cow salt & pepper shakers, a cow cookie jar, the works. By the time I was 13, cows seemed like a cool “throwback.”

The site was totally pointless. I played around on codemonkey and learned a little HTML (I even knew what HTML stood for), but ultimately I got bored and went back to spending my free time with my head stuck in fiction books. Enter Harry Potter, exit hypertext.

In 2004, I showed up on a college campus and was forced to sign up for Computer Science 101. We learned C++. I built one non-required “app” – for my roommate. It asked her a series of questions and, based on her answers, told her what to wear that day.

When WordPress came along it wasn’t so different from my Tripod days, so I picked it up quickly and patched together a few basic sites. A few years later, I ended up working as an intern for a web developer at a non-profit. I learned what a “CMS” was, how to edit basic website content, and how to make pretty charts with Google Analytics. There were two bigger lessons I picked up:

  1. It’s easy to break code.
  2. It’s hard to design a site (app, program, etc) that actually achieves your stated goals. 

When I started working on the minor Silicon Bayou re-design (launched in September 2011) I knew I would fail repeatedly before I came up with something that worked. So I started hanging out at Ruby Bayou’s hacknight. My developer friends taught me a few very valuable tricks, but I still didn’t learn to code anything beyond minor visual tweaks (read: editing CSS).

This is the full extent of my history related to coding/hacking/developing/creating the interwebs. For someone who has never coded, it might seem like I know a lot. Really, all I know is enough to get myself in trouble. I can’t actually make things.

 So I Want to Make Things

I read, write, tweet, breathe, and co-work with start-ups. I see teams of smart people making awesome stuff happen on the web all the time. Simple ideas, well executed, can change the world.

In 2012, anyone can change the world.

But to change the world, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. For some people this means investing their own money, for others, investing their time and advice. For me, and possibly for you, it means learning to code.

  • I will not become an expert rubyist or github forker overnight (I don’t know what those things mean, but I hear the hackers arguing about them a lot).
  • I will learn enough to make a minimum viable product.
  • I will begin to understand what the brilliant lifelong hackers I talk to are really saying (forking and all).

And I will do it with 150,000+ other people who signed up for CodeYear.

Join Me

It’s easier than ever to make the interwebs. Start by making your New Year’s resolution learning to code.

Sign up on Code Year to get a new interactive programming lesson sent to you each week by Codecademy and you’ll be building apps and web sites before you know it.

And if you’re more worried about the design aspect, check out Sacha Grief‘s great post on how he designed in one hour.