Of Course You Should Learn to Code, Pixar Even Made A Movie About It

It's May 15th, 2012. I just woke up and apparently the world started taking crazy pills overnight.

My first thought was that someone was pranking my wireless connection because there was no way anyone was having this conversation. But here we are. And I'm biting the linkbait.

Jeff Atwood is entitled to his opinion, ridiculous though it may be. I understand his sentiment: we don't want bad coders, coding isn't the solution, it's the means to an end, you should be problem solving, not writing code. I get it. What I don't get is how he can say that with a straight face. Look at his bio and the offending post.

In short, Jeff is a 41 year old software developer, has thirty years of experience, having started on BASIC in the 80s. He would have us believe that he got into coding at the age of 11 in 1982 to solve big problems.


My first BASIC program at age 6 was to draw a pretty snowflake onto the screen. My next programs were a series of games out of a bizarre choose-your-own-programming-adventure kids' book. When I was 10 I graduated to C and the only thing I cared about was making dumb video games.

Unless Jeff was an exceptionally mature 11-year-old, I'm pretty sure he wasn't thinking about how he could help build branded media players by learning to code.

When you're that age, there's no way to understand the power you're learning to wield. All you know is that making the computer go bloop in just the way you want is incredibly fun. I'm a professional programmer (hah!) and adult (double-hah!) now and it's still incredibly fun.

As it happens, coding is one of those skills that's also tremendously useful. It helped me build an RFID security system. It gives me a slight edge on puzzle hunts. Heck, it just earned me an extra gig on dropbox. It's empowering. I love coding and I want to share that with everyone who's interested.

Jeff insists that instead of learning to code, we "research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level". I may just be unimaginative, but I really don't see how he insists anyone do that about computers without learning to code along the way. The fundamentals of computers are hopelessly far away for someone who just browses the web and writes an email here and there. Here's a fun game: in under five minutes, try to explain the concept of cwd to anyone who's never used anything besides a mac.

Jeff calls out Dev Bootcamp in particular for their short program and impressive results. What he doesn't realize is that the DBC students were incredibly driven and would have been great programmers if they had been pushed in that direction when they were 18. Why should we discourage that just because they're 26 now? They put in 400+ hours and got jobs as entry level engineers. If we're being honest, I probably put in less time than that at my formal CS education before I got my entry-level position. Any kids reading this, don't be like me.

I can only imagine that his elitist insistence against learning to code comes from having watched Ratatouille and stopping the film immediately after they introduced the villain. He must have missed the moment of redemption, "Anyone can code. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great coder, but a great coder can come from anywhere." (Totally 100% what he said in the movie, honest).