How Codecademy changed my life.

HTML
So I’ve just finished the HTML/CSS track of Codecademy and I’m left wondering how I’m going to fill my evenings now it’s over. I really enjoyed it – instantly practical and useful and I recommend it to all journalists!

But instead of twiddling my thumbs or spending my evenings watching endless episodes of Nordic Noir I decided to think about how Codecademy has changed my life. That’s not a flippant statement. It’s actually true. I first started it about eighteen months ago following the Javascript track. It opened my eyes onto a whole new world! Work commitments meant I didn’t complete the Javascript course (I started to flounder once we got onto OOP) and I do need to get back into it before I forget everything I ever learnt.

6 Ways Codecademy Changed my life

  1. Evangelism

    I realised how important this stuff was – not just for an old hack like me but for EVERYONE! It’s not boring and it’s not that hard. I started to think about how I could spread the word. What could I do to help other people who had never learnt how to code? What could I do to help my daughters learn to code because school wasn’t going to teach them?

  2. Pinterest Board - Coding for beginnersPinterest board

    I made a Pinterest board of some of the resources I was finding as I voyaged round the internet looking for programming help for beginners. It’s got followers! Pinterest is a really great way to share resources – much more enticing than a list of hyperlinks, for example.

  3. CodeClub

    Doing Codecademy gave me the confidence to set up a CodeClub at my daughters’ primary school. I’ve got a couple of real experts on hand to help with the clever stuff but I think the children like the fact that I’m learning too.

  4. Teaching my daughters

    photo-57I’m not patient enough for home educating normally but some of my enthusiasm for learning to code has rubbed off on my daughters. This makes me very happy.

    Related Links

  5. Blogging
    This blog has morphed from a blog about journalism education to a blog about learning to code and generally getting techy. I’m thinking about migrating to WordPress.org….. It’s got to be done, hasn’t it??
  6. Journo-coders

    I’ve become really interested in the rise of the journo-coder in newsrooms. Who are these people and how did they get to be this way? Should journalism departments at universities be doing more to create journo-coders?

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So those are a few thoughts about how I’ve changed since starting to teach myself code. I’d love to hear your stories too! Never, ever stop learning new stuff because it will open up surprising new doors and keep you away from the TV.

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Journo-coders

A couple of months ago I wrote an article for Wannabehacks asking if it was time for journalism students to ditch short hand and learn to code instead.  I’m still keen to gather more responses (do take part in the survey below if you’re a student journalist or just starting out in journalism).  But in the meantime, here are a few follow-up thoughts and responses to questions people asked me.

cnorthwood left a comment on the article.  He’s a developer and is wondering if he should be doing more journalism (he’s already worked on some interesting-looking projects).  He raised a valid point about journalists learning to code:

It’s a very useful skill to have in their arsenal – making tools to help you do your job better, ability to analyse information in a new way (particularly large amounts of data coming available under the open data movement), but maybe the best way to do it is to team up with a developer and do it that way. It seems the way journalism is going is to make journos a jack of all trades – you’re now expected to have camera skills, editing skills, and lots of other things that would previously have been handled by specialists. Coding just seems another piece of that puzzle.

My response would be to say that some “trades” are in danger of becoming obsolete in newsrooms and are instead becoming “skills” that all journalists need to possess.  It’s an organic evolution.  A “jack-of-all-trades” is just a pejorative word for a multi skilled member of staff who’s a boon on any news team!  But I do agree that journalists – who understand a bit about what code does – working alongside developers is a good way to go.

One participant in my survey said they weren’t sure what programming could do for journalism.  A good way to answer that is to ask why would a programmer/developer want to work in a newsroom.  Daniel Sinker gives a great response to that question.  He leads the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project for Mozilla.  From 2008-2011 he taught in the journalism department at Columbia College Chicago where he focused on entrepreneurial journalism and the mobile web.  He’s recorded some really interesting video testimony from developers working in newsrooms in New York in the “news apps community” as one of the interviewees describes it.  You can see all six videos here but here are a couple of examples I’ve pulled out.

I got these from Knight-Mozilla Open News which organisers Fellowships (the deadline for 2013 has just ended) which:

embed developers and technologists in newsrooms around the world to spend a year writing code in collaboration with reporters, designers, and newsroom developers. Fellows work in the open by sharing their code and their discoveries on the web, helping to strengthen and build journalism’s toolbox.

So I think the news apps community sounds like a pretty exciting place to be and one which the current batch of student journalists AND computer scientists should really think about.

Chris Hutchinson got in touch after reading my article on Wannabehacks.  He’s a student journalist at Birmingham University and online editor for the student news site, Redbrick.  He seems a really good example of a new generation of journocoders – self-taught because he understood the way journalism was going and the way code could really connect stories to their communities.  So he wrote this follow-up article on his own blog which develops some of the points I made but, more impressively, he describes his own experience and insight as a genuine journalist who codes (I’m just an impostor, remember)

lolitician got in touch to say she’d have LOVED to do a journalism/comp sci degree had such a thing existed –

Perfect vocational combination of arts and science, and I would have rocked at it! Currently doing distance NCTJ and CodeYear.

Good luck!

I’m still interested in hearing from student journalists and wannabe hacks about this subject so please comment or tweet me.  And, if you haven’t already done so, please take part in the survey!

If you answered yes, please describe your level of knowledge and where you learnt to code.