Slate has a really fascinating article this week in which writer Annie Lowrey decides to take a month to learn how to code—entering the coding world as a novice presents her with a conundrum known as "The Little Coder's Predicament" (essentially, it's hard to find an entry point to coding now that the days of teaching yourself BASIC on your Atari are way, way over), and an enigmatic Ruby programmer named _why. It's a great piece:
Slate gives each of its staffers a month per year to undertake an ambitious project, one that attempts to do something new in Internet journalism. Tim Noah explained income inequality. Julia Turner explored the world of road signs. Dahlia Lithwick wrote a chick-lit novel in real time, with the help of her Facebook friends. I decided to try to learn computer programming.
Why? I understand, if imperfectly, the laws that control the physical world around me. Ask me why an apple falls to the Earth or why a cork floats in water or why electrons do not collapse into the nucleus, and I can at least attempt an explanation. But the virtual world I live in is a mystery. Arthur C. Clarke wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” For me, and for most of you, I suspect, the computer is just that: a glowing, magic box. Learning to program would help demystify the technologies I use daily and allow me to even create some humble magic of my own.
This article hit home with me; I've been slowly making my way through CodeAcademy's courses, motivated by exactly what Lowrey describes: The sorta unsettling sense of spending all day in a world I don't really understand. Save that shit to read later, dudes. (I will never stop proselytizing for Instapaper, it is the best app and I read a TON more long-form writing since I bought it.)
Lowrey—who writes about economic policy for The New York Times—answered questions on Reddit this morning.