Getting started with coding – Part 1 – Introduction

Introduction

If you work with computers in any aspect of your life, being able to code can be a very powerful tool. All too often however, I hear people say things like “it’s too difficult” or “I’m not a developer” and they never take more than their first few steps. This post, the first in a series on getting started with coding, addresses both the fears of taking your first steps and the benefits of starting that journey. The remaining posts then give you all the help you need to overcome those perceived obstacles and have some fun along the way.

Addressing the negatives

First of all, let’s address the two most common reasons I hear for people not wanting to learn how to code, in the previous section.

It is key that I outline the difference here between learning how to code and how to become a fully fledged developer. This series of posts is not about becoming a programmer. It’s about taking the leap of faith required to start learning some relatively basic coding that you can use to add great value to so many things, both in the workplace and in your personal life. The wealth of freely available resources to help you makes this seemingly difficult task a piece of cake.

Let me say it another way. You probably aren’t going to learn to be the next Linus Torvalds but if you take the hour or two required to read this series of posts, you should be confident enough to create some basic scripts that will in turn feed your desire to increase your knowledge further.

Added value

First of all, as a quick check-list to determine if learning the basics of coding is for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you use computers in any aspect of your life?
  2. Do you carry out manual tasks on the computer?
  3. Are some of those tasks repeatable?
  4. Do you sometimes make mistakes carrying out those tasks?
  5. Do you wish you could be more productive?
  6. Do any of these tasks take up a long time?
  7. Are any of these tasks complex in nature?

If you answered yes to more than three of these, then I would strongly suggest that coding can help you out. Of course, it’s a trick check-list as most people will answer yes to Q1-3 and you probably wouldn’t be looking for this blog post if you didn’t say yes to Q5. In addition, coding can help with the longer and more complex tasks covered in Q6-7 but just as easily with the shorter tasks. Either way though, you get consistent, repeatable work flows that allow you to get on with other things in your life and hopefully reduce the number of times you answer “yes” to Q4.

Get a ‘just play’ attitude

I hear this a lot of from existing coders, but these people are more often than not born naturals at learning new things and so I understand when complete beginners just don’t know where to start playing. However, the ‘just play’ attitude is key to picking things up at a quicker pace though so as you work through this series of posts, really try to keep that in mind and don’t be afraid to experiment. Making mistakes can sometimes be the best learning tool and this series of posts will show you how to dive in.

My remaining posts in this series will be relatively short and to the point, with the main reason being simplifying your journey, but you should always be prepared to go beyond what is discussed e.g. in the editors post, I discuss a couple of different choices that I use, but you should feel comfortable downloading a few different ones until you find the one that works best for you if what I suggest doesn’t feel right for you.

The ‘just play’ attitude is even more useful when it comes to the actual act of coding itself. Don’t just copy and paste examples you find on the web (although this is a great way to get ready made code so you can hit the ground running). Tinker with them, change them to suit your needs, break things and then try to fix them again. It’s scary to take those first steps but don’t let self-doubt get in the way of having a really good time.

Summary

In learning to code, the old adage “life is a journey, not a destination” is highly applicable. As I stated at the beginning of this post, this series is not about teaching you how to move in to a new career. It’s about helping you on the first few steps learning some basic tools to make your life easier. Hopefully you will have fun and start adding value in different areas. Now, with the theme being getting up to speed quickly, let’s crack on with part 2, choosing a language.

Till the next time.

Please let me know your thoughts!