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comment by Kaius
Kaius  ·  3879 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Hour of Code

I think that this is a better attempt at getting people to try coding than some of the others I have seen but that might just be down to it being such a short video. Learning to code is all well and good if you are interested in it and enjoy it but this recent hype that everyone should learn to code is ridiculous. I work as a developer and while I love what I do I can also see that coding is certainly not a skill everyone needs to learn.

The tagline to this whole discussion and the conceit being put forward is that coding is a creative, artistic, interesting thing to do, which teaches you new ways of thinking. This is only true up to a point. When you start coding you get to play around with html or simple forms. You place text in boxes or you spin images around the screen. You learn a set of instructions to allow you to do these things and that will take some time depending on several factors. That set of instructions is an abstraction built upon numerous layers of abstractions which hide away the complexity of what you are actually doing. When you type:

    string myString = "Hello World!"; Console.WriteLine(myString);

the complexity of memory management, character encoding, pointer references etc is all hidden away from you. It is in a sense no different from clicking "Insert > Clip Art" in MS word except that you are working at a different level of abstraction. There is no more artistic or creative value at this level than there is at any other, you have not learned a different way of thinking, you have simply learned how to interact with yet another abstraction.

The other thing that bothers me is when I see Will.I.Am saying that coders are the future rock stars. BULLSHIT! Programming is a skill and it requires an unhealthy number of hours sitting in front of a screen to perfect. You will not be seen as a rock star when you finally get that pesky print margin bug in Chrome fixed, that only shows up for 1 user in December. Right now there is an explosion in Apps for mobile devices, every company has one and most of them are completely rubbish. I have developed a few and to be honest I would equate that type of development with building Lego castles. You are given all the pieces, you just stick them together until you get something you want and hey presto you are done. To build something great you need to think of it as moving from building a lego castle to building a 6 bedroom house. Its a couple of orders of magnitude harder. Is Will.I.Am willing to give up the next 10 years of his life to learn how to do this? Cos thats what it takes.

So lets review, Will.I.Am made millions selling music, I know for a fact he is an intelligent guy and he puts a lot of money into STEM education for underprivileged kids; but telling kids they will be rock stars is incorrect. Bill Gates had the chops to do some coding and by all accounts he made some good contributions to DOS but if that was all he had ever done no one would know his name. Instead he used his business skills to spot a market gap and employed developers to build something to fill it. Ditto Steve Jobs. Zuckerberg landed on what could be called a digital social virus and it spread because it was an effective IDEA, he could have had someone else code the website and the result would have been the same.

The point here is that all these guys had a product and then they got someone to build it. Its the product that matters not the code. We dont need more people who can write code, we need more people with good product ideas. Right now everyone wants to write an iphone app and make a billion dollars from the next angry birds. Meanwhile people with diabetes have to record their glucose levels on one device or paper and then use another device to deliver a dose on insulin. Something is wrong here.

What would you think if I went around telling everyone they should learn to knit? Its creative, when you nail that first cross stitch it will be amazing! You would call BULLSHIT and you would be right. It would be the same if I told everyone to learn how to design skyscrapers...

Coding is a great career if you love it, its a job with good sides and bad just like any other and you wont be a rock star.