There comes a point in life where you have to start practising what you preach. And so it was that today I started to code. Not developing, not making apps, just fiddling about with code. And it was fun! Here’s a line by line account of how it went at Young Rewired State’s weekend coding event.
9.30am: Arrive with two daughters in tow. Marvel at the wonderfulness of the GitHub office a moment’s walk from AT&T Park on San Francisco’s Bay. Stripped wooden floors, chrome fittings, a state of the art kitchen, zinc bar, gigantic fluffy beanbags, sleek teak chairs. I could live here.
Also, there is fresh coffee on tap.
10.00: Sit on designer bench and watch my kids making themselves at home fooling around with the photo apps on the iPad. Start sketching out ideas for a virtual reality soccer experience game. Realise it could work. But I don’t know how to code.
10:30: Line up with the other mentors, introduce myself to the kids in the room, all under 18. Feel like a fraud. Walk around and hear the kids ideas. They want to stop petty crime, fix dangerous cracks in city sidewalks, highlight areas of pollution, find all the bookstores in a city. No one is building a game. Am I the only kid around here?
11:00: Eavesdrop on the kids who are now forming teams. The ones who aren’t brainstorming winning ideas around the ping-pong table are already writing lines of code. Can it really be that hard?
11:30: With my own kids hacking ideas with a developer mentor, I find myself on my third cup of coffee and looking at a blank iPad screen. The nine-year-old next to me has logged into codecademy.com. She’s writing code. Anything you can do….
11:35: Codecademy.com requires passwords. Twitter, Facebook or gmail. Realise I know none of my passwords by heart. The nine-year-old is laughing, but then confesses she has trouble remembering her passwords occasionally too. I change my email password.
11:40: I log in, password is rejected. Wonder what has happened to my short-term memory.
11:45: Long-term memory of 10 minutes ago kicks in. Remember password. Hello codecademy.com lesson 1!
11:47: OMG! I have written line of code. Ok, the nine-year-old helped.
12:00 The caffeine mingles with coding adrenaline and I mess up my second line of code. Decide it might be an idea to read the instructions codecademy kindly provides on the left-hand side of the screen. The nine-year-old sees what I am up to.
“Don’t waste time reading,” she says. “html is only interesting when you just do it.”
12:05 I delete the messy code and have another go. Of course, the kid is right.
12:25 I hack through to lesson seven of the 13 introduction exercises. Feeling pretty confident by now and even tweet the contents of my iPad screen. Who said girls can’t code?
12:30 Lunch! Join all the other young coders. I’m in the gang!
Claire Comins attended Young Rewired State’s first coding weekend in San Francisco. To find out about YRS weekends in other cities and the international Festival of Code in 2014, see youngrewiredstate.org