Author Archives: Rob Snyder

Buy Stock in WordPress! … and not in Codecademy.

It would seem that I am a little late to the party when it comes to buying stock in WordPress. After all, it has been around for nearly a decade. (Where was I again 10 years ago? Yes, I remember, selling my stock in Google.) Had I known then that WordPress would serve as the foundation for two-thirds of the websites I see today, I probably would have invested in it back then. That is, if it wasn’t free and open to the world. Bummer.

On the other hand, at least I can use it today without a paid subscription or ridiculous price tag. That’s a good thing, because it seems to be the best and easiest platform I could use to create my final project. After browsing through all of WordPress’ options and capabilities, it appears there is no better place for a beginner to, well, begin.

Now if only I could crack the Codecademy lessons. I continue to go through the lessons without retaining much. I think it is because Codecademy doesn’t reinforce much. When is the last time we typed HTML? Of course, I do realize I can go back and do the HTML lessons again, but it would be nice if these were building blocks instead of just checks in the boxes. I find myself also wondering why I am learning how to write these codes. The idea is to understand how the codes are used, and perhaps be able to tinker with them? It really is a question I have, because that part is not entirely clear. I understand the general idea is for us to get a feel for these codes, but I think if that feel includes just knowing they are there and what they’re used for, then we could probably accomplish that by learning about them rather than barely learning how to write them. If I were to spend the time that I spend going through the lessons (a few hours, perhaps) reading or seeing the code in action instead, I think I would walk away from the course having learned a considerable amount more.

I don’t want to get down on the Codecademy guys too much, though. They put a lot of work into creating their site, I’m sure. If I think too hard about the code that is behind each lesson (the actual code that makes the page function), I can almost make myself pass out. It’s intense to say the least. My only real complaint is the bugs that cause the user to question his work. When I find those bugs I wish the site was actually a for-profit site, so I could complain to the developers for creating something that makes me feel as though I’m living the Twilight Zone. I’m extremely thankful for the “nerds” who identify those bugs and post the solutions in the Q&A. Without those nerds, I think I’d truly be lost.

That said, PHP is pretty interesting (especially the fact it came from a guy who was presumably annoyed with everyone else’s code, and decided to make his own). It kind of makes me wonder why everyone doesn’t use it. But then I read about WordPress and realized pretty much everyone does. Thanks for that. I look forward to using it more myself. It has by far been the easiest code yet.

Till next lesson …

Following instructions

This week I really started to notice a trend of merely following instructions. I set up the web page by following the instructions in the link, and got to the link by following the instructions in the e-mail. And although I may have understood part of what I did, I’m sure the bulk of it was lost on me. I actually think I even purchased something on that I didn’t need to. For example, why is it that I created my domain with GoDaddy and then had to pay extra to move my domain to GoDaddy? Or was that just the DNS that I had to move over? I may have been “bamboozled.” The other thing I don’t understand is why I have to go through GoDaddy to create my own domain using WordPress? Doesn’t WordPress have an option where you can create and use your own domain?

In Codecademy I found that one of the assignments wouldn’t accept my answer, despite it being correct (from what I could tell, anyway). It was the jQuery assignment that required me to make an object fadeTo when I hovered over it. Codecademy consistently told me the “opacity” had not been set to “1,” even though it had. In fact, in that part all you had to do was copy and paste mostly. I skipped it, and in the next portion it worked fine; the same exact code. Problems like this really lower the user’s confidence in the lessons, and make it difficult for someone unfamiliar with code to troubleshoot.

Despite all the problems, I still find it interesting that computer code can be used through servers to create such interactive webpages. I also have a newfound respect for people who have the painstaking job of keeping sites not only up and running, but also functioning the way the pages should. I am sure, once a developer begins to add databases and more interactivity in a webpage, it becomes increasingly difficult to predict how users will interact with the page and difficult to anticipate problems that may arise as a result.

Learning How My Credit is Judged

This week’s assignments, though very basic, revealed the complex functions that help businesses and organizations interact with their clients, customers, readers, or viewers through the Internet – the most obvious example being the “creditCheck” assignment. It was easy to see how more complex code (specifically functions) can help businesses make decisions and process information quickly, remotely, and more accurately. There is no doubt in my mind that I will forever think about what is going on behind the scenes when I visit websites, having now had a glimpse into the “inner workings.”

I can see why these lessons are important to those, namely journalists, who use the Internet to interact with others for work. For example, just as one written word in a newspaper can change the entire meaning of an article, one piece of code can change the entire meaning of a web entry. Knowing and understanding the construct of that web page can help journalists prevent errors, and quickly correct those that are missed. This helps them maintain control of and protect their written word and personal brand, two things that are vital to journalists that are seeing more of their work on the Internet.

As far as Codeacademy is concerned, I like the method used to teach code on that site. However, there are parts that are extremely difficult and require one to go to the Q&A section for assistance. The problem is that not all of the answers given in the Q&A are correct, and it can be a little confusing. I would like to see a page where one could go to see exactly how the code should be written. It’s true, this could encourage users to cheat, but that seems to be exactly what web developers do anyway – use code that has already been written. So why not just let users see the answer, and let them retype it and manipulate it as they go through the courses?

Death by Codeacademy … the New PowerPoint.

If the purpose of this week’s assignment was to reinforce last week’s class, then mission accomplished. The redundancy helped me commit nearly all the basics to memory, and had me typing away towards the end, barely reading the instructions. That said, it seems highly improbable that one could remember all (or even so many) codes without using HTML and CSS daily. That was probably the most disappointing thought – that I will probably forget a lot of what I learned.

I do see how at least the general use of HTML and CSS can be permanently committed to memory, though. And I do believe that is very useful for journalists who may find themselves one day having to tweak a website without the assistance of a web developer. I don’t think it would take much to catch up on the basics; just enough to fix or identify a minor problem with a web page. Also, once one knows how to use HTML and CSS, I think a simple reference guide, book or Internet search could fill in the voids.

Overall I like the way Codeacademy has put their site together. The tutorials seem to be just long enough to instill confidence in the user. I did notice, however, there are parts where even the wrong information could create a positive result and allow the user to advance. I also didn’t think it explained well enough the difference between IDs and Classes. I’m not quite sure why both are necessary.

Creating a Good Reading Environment

This week’s readings seemed to drive the point home that we can truly become marketable when we learn to manipulate our web-based platforms effectively. To take it a step further, we are actually unprepared to join today’s labor force when we can’t do it effectively. Most authors this week covered HTML and CSS. However, while some advised to just understand these concepts, many more stressed the need to practice them regularly. Again, the concepts only vaguely apply to my line of work, but I do see how applicable they can be to so many other types of work. As an avid online news consumer, I definitely appreciated the concepts that guide multi-platform content. I enjoy visiting sites that display effectively whether I am on my computer, phone or tablet. In fact, it significantly impacts where I go for online content. Learning the processes for getting it all to display seamlessly has already motivated me to learn to do it well myself. It seems it is the only way to ensure my readers are happy with the content, and always willing to return for more.

How the Internet works

How can one manipulate the Internet without understanding the technology and other forces that drive it? Thinking of it as merely a “cloud” limits one’s potential to use the Internet to make money, promote a cause, or motivate the masses. Furthermore, failing to understand the Internet leaves one far behind the many who currently do.

I am not a journalist by trade, but the lessons learned in this week’s reading are, however, important in my line of work. For example, if I don’t understand how my Internet “presence” is perceived, I could alienate co-workers or customers who find me there.

One very interesting and applicable point I thought most of this week’s authors made was the idea of not getting stuck trying to define the Internet. As many of the authors inferred in their articles, the Internet is a living expression of us and our culture. There is no good reason to “figure out” the Internet. What’s more important, and definitely more profitable (in all forms of profit), is to learn how you and others are using it — or how it can be used — and then start from there.

I think everything I mentioned above also ties in well to the question of how it can be used in web development. One could learn to, let’s say, paint. He could learn the brushes to buy, the paper to use, and the techniques that make an attractive painting. He could get lost in it, actually. But if he can’t learn how painting is used to express an idea or feeling, or how people are moved by paintings, then he will never create a true work of art. In that same way, one could learn to be a web developer and never create a successful web page. Or one could learn to craft a web experience that moves people.