One does not simply learn to code

I spent a few days thinking about this article and how I would write it. What do you all think? One does not simply learn to code

Does anyone have any topics they’d like me to cover in future articles? I try to write at least one big article a week.


Please cover regex… i find it difficult

FCC has it on the roadmap, I’m surprised it hasn’t been released yet… last year I could have swear people in the core-team were working on some challenges.

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I found this website very useful:

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I use it all the time! I always fine tune my regexp on before plugging it into whatever I’m working on.


This was a pretty good article. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pretend that coding is easy to learn because I still remember sitting on my college floor feeling frustrated because I couldn’t make a simple pattern using Python. I really look forward to more of those articles.

This article is really hitting the spot. Althought I did have some hard time going through the FCC Frontend challenges up to to Backend, I was feeling really good about myself and had a lot of confidence…

until that MEAN beast. There was so many new concepts to it, that i really hit me hard in the face : Coding is not easy. The real basics might be somewhat easy to grasp, but what can you do with just the basics ?

This MEAN part really put me down last year. I was feeling exactly like this article : “Or… maybe i’m just dumb”. I’ve went to something else, not coding for almost a year (!) And here we are. I haven’t lost much, fortunately, but some of my past code doesn’t make sense yet. I probably will stay on the frontend side as I find it more intuitive…

Thank you for this article !


@ExcViral check out this ! “Learn Regular Expressions with simple, interactive exercises”.

To answer Quincy’s question, I have also found coding to be hard, but in some strange way I have found that frustration to be enjoyable…

Regarding the article, my initial reaction that maybe there is switch tracking going on? I’m not on twitter and I am very much a local variable, so it is hard to say. I thought when people say “coding is easy” all they were trying to get at was that it was approachable if you take it in small steps, like anything in learning.

What topic, in regards to learning, would you say is actually easy?

@QuincyLarson I was looking for an article by you but couldn’t find one about the Free Code Camp philosophy/education approach. You talked a little bit about it in the “Let’s explore the universe of programming resources together”, but was looking for something a bit more comprehensive. If you do decide to write something, I’d be glad to share with you the ramblings I have already written on the topic.

Lastly, is there any books on learning/education people would recommend I check out?

Currently working though Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Have already read this year A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science, and Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware

On deck I have How We Learn (Benedict Carey) and What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?.

Writing code is easy. Wait! Put down the pitchfork until I say this:
Math is easy.

Sure, doing math at a professional level is hard. It takes a great deal of dedicated study and motivated interest. Same goes for programming at the professional level. The thing itself though? Easy. Everyone can and should do it (barring some cognitive impairments, etc). We start teaching children the roots of what becomes math before they read, before anyone without exposure to young children can even understand what they’re saying. You and I calculate tips and sale prices with regularity and confidence. That’s, what, fifth or sixth grade math? It’s certainly more than five years of math education. But you know what? It IS easy. It’s not worth the trouble of carrying around a reference chart of common percentages because it’s easy enough to do it in our heads. We keep track of budgets, we estimate rates of change, we can figure out how much paint we need to cover up that What The Hell Were They Thinking Green. I’m getting back to my point here, I promise. Small programs should be as much within the average person’s reach as small maths. The problem is, as the title of the article says “One does not simply learn to code”. One DOES simply learn math. From “if you have one more cookie, how many will that be” through (at a minimum) high school algebra, one simply learns how to use math. These code schools are promising to take you from counting on your fingers to numerical analysis in days or months instead of decades. Successful programmers are often people who have done it in years, and that IS hard.


I think, Quincy, that you may have missed the real point, even though you wrote it. :grin:

IMO, “coding is hard” is inaccurate, or at least has the wrong connotations. When people hear “X is hard”, they think that you need to be particularly smart or skilled. But coding is not like theoretical physics. It’s accessible to everybody and anyone with average intelligence can do it. So coding is not hard.

What is hard is to stick with it because there is a LOT to learn if you want to become good. In that sense, yes, it’s “hard”. Unfortunately, what makes it much harder than it needs to be is, as you pointed out in the article, no one can seem to teach it properly. It’s annoying hell. I constantly find myself looking something up in at least three different places and having to piece together something from each in order to understand a new concept, not because they are hard but because they’re taught by programmers. Programmers aren’t teachers though.

One of the most irksome things for me is to see a lesson or tutorial that purports to teach something quite simple but uses examples and language that are too advanced for anyone learning that particular thing. If I understood this language and these examples, I’d already be at a level where I know this new thing!!! Arrrrgghhh!!! LOL

MDN is a classic example of a site that does this constantly. Wanna learn how to use string.length? OK! Check out the following example in which we have a multi-dimensional array and a call-back in a closure using promises! EASY PEASY!

Coding is not hard. It’s hard to learn because no one has bothered to teach it properly. Even some of the most praised books, I don’t really like. Eloquent JS? Not liking it so far. Head First? Aside from the constant distractions of stupid joke after stupid joke, it too suffers from starting off really easy and then shooting you in the head with impossible to understand concepts that weren’t laid out properly. Literally, I have yet to find one single source that I think does a “good” job of teaching. They all seem to fail miserably in at least one or two areas, and frankly, there’s no good reason for that but there it is.

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I learned HTML, CSS, and JavaScript at Codecademy, where do I get a job?

Articles like this come up every day, giving people the idea that they can pick up a language at Udemy and start earning 100K. If a person has to be told how to pronounce C# today, I wish them luck on their odds of being paid to use it within a year, especially if they have to work their full-time non-programming job in the meantime, raise a family, have hobbies, etc.

Any person who knows enough to benefit directly from articles like these also knows enough to not need them.

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Can anyone learn to code - yes for sure they can.

Can anyone learn to code well - maybe, as others have said it depend on how dedicated you are.

Can anyone make a profession of of it - maybe, maybe not…

There is more to being a developer than being able to code. Can you meet deadlines, work under pressure? Can you be successful at integrating into a team? Can you communicate well? Good organizational skills? You get the idea.

Having said all that I do believe passion and motivation can carry one far. And I expect most people that can make it through the FCC program will become a professional developer if they want to be.

Is learning to code “well” hard - yes it is. But its manageable, and like any profession takes effort and time and interest and passion and the will to see it through.

I think it’s mostly meant as a warning for newbies not to give time and/or money to any service that claims that learning to be a programmer is easy and can be done quickly. I guess that there was also a warning in there for educators not to be dismissive of the steepness of the learning curve.

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