It has been said that learning to code will be as crucial as being literate in the near future.
While there is a debate if that is true or pure exaggeration, more and more jobs in the media industry are demanding coding skills and more people are trying to push themselves to learn simpler languages such as HTML and CSS.
The question many beginners have is: where to start? Project Ada had a chat with Alison Benjamin, a web developer at the Frontline Club, who got into programming mainly by teaching herself.
“I have a non-traditional tech background; I did my BA in Arts and focused on information systems during my masters in Library and Information Science, but a lot of things were self-taught. I was lucky enough to have people all around me that would help me to learn,” she says.
At the end of her masters at the University of Toronto, Benjamin got Google Summer of Code grants in 2010 and 2011.
In 2012, she left Canada to take up a job at the Frontline Club, where she is responsible for developing the Frontline Club’s Web properties and its digital strategy.
If you are interested in learning to code, but have no clue where to start, here are her tips to break into the world of programming:
Teach yourself online
“There a lot of resources online. MIT OpenCourseWare puts university-level computer science classes online. Codecademy and Code School are aimed at beginners and deliver lessons via a game-like pedagogy. It is like learning languages.”
Go out and meet people
“Going to places like Hacks/ Hackers and asking questions is good. You might approach people and say ‘I’d like to contribute to these projects, my skills are A, B and C and I would like to learn X, Y and Z’. There are many people willing to talk about their experience in development, in journalism or in both. That may be a way forward.”
Start a website
“Do pragmatic things like building a website. Start doing your own maps and graphs, put your work on the web on platforms such as GitHub and see if that works for you.”
Use your spare time to learn something new
“The great thing about D3 is the rich community behind it. People post the code and datasets behind their projects on GitHub and in gists. You see something and think ‘this is a cool project. How did they get here?’ and you can go and see what is behind the visualisation.”