I thought I would never be able to figure out how to do my slideshow, but it felt so rewarding to have it actually work. It may not be as pretty or as nice as I would want it to look, but finally publishing it felt so good. It reminded me that those “Eureka” moments are worth it when you put in the long grunt work.
My favorite part of this class was interviewing the two developers I found. It was a challenge finding people. I relentlessly reached out to people via LinkedIn, email and Twitter. Luckily, my efforts worked and I found two developers who said they would help me. One is a web developer and the other is a mobile developer at a startup. I love interviewing people. It is one of the reasons I wanted to pursue journalism, and both had such interesting paths. One decided not to pursue a traditional university path because he found a passion in coding and the other tried several career options before taking a 12-week intensive coding course. I always find it fascinating how some people land in the same career but take different journeys to get there. They were helpful in their advice about coding. Both basically said anyone can learn how to do it but it takes a specific mindset: You have to like problem solving and you have to enjoy learning how to figure things out. I’ve never considered myself a problem-solver but I would love to start now!
To build off of my last post, I still am unclear about what APIs do for our sites and whether I need to be worried about them or not. But I am confident that I can get some good things working by the end of this project. Also I have signed up for next semester’s class and that makes me feel better to know that I will have more time and teaching to get this perfect (or at least better!). I am a little worried about how little I feel that I have actually done and the looming deadline on July 21st (that is the deadline, right?).
I was having major troubles getting things done on my MacBook and decided to take the leap to Snow Leopard to try and make Github work for me and the MAMP work better for me. This has been a less than fun experience. I am in need of some technical assistance that might be beyond my expertise and I am hoping it doesn’t put my laptop on the disabled list. I am going to be away from the computer tonight, but I want to get this fixed ASAP, so when I get home late tonight I want to do my best to fix it.
Looking at the API tutorial article has again shown me how I can learn a lot in this class and then still need further explanation of something after reading it. I missed last class and I don’t know if we went over this, but I am unclear about what exactly an API is supposed to do for us as end-user journalists, even after reading the paragraph “The fundamental question: What can this API do for me?” several times. I would like to have a nuts and bolts answer to the question, what do I want to get out of the API, and how do I do that?
As far as the project is going, I have been thinking that the best way to go about it is to take the Twenty Twelve theme and fiddle around with the controls that WordPress allows us to do, and see where that puts me. Then I would like to get into a discussion (with myself!) about what I want the site to do that WordPress doesn’t have a specific allowance for, and then work on how to build it myself or whether it is implausible. I am pretty confident that WordPress can do a lot of the things that I want to have on the site because it looks pretty interactive from the controls that I have looked into.
I like that we are beginning to see results on our own webpages, because the conceptualization can only get you so far. I feel like we have learned a new foreign language (or several!) in a short period of time, and only now are we starting to talk to anyone in those languages.
One of the greatest skills in a work environment (like mine) with coders and management is the ability to be a liaison between the two. Seriously. Coders talk in these funny languages and everyone else talks in English (or French, or Spanish, etc) and usually neither side takes the initiative to try and understand the other. The ability to understand “code-speak” and translate it into real results is a highly valued commodity, and I think that this class is beginning to make it a reality for us.
In my normal coding experience, we specialize so deeply that once we send the code to production, we simply move onto the next project and rarely see the end result. To be honest, I have never really cared because all of the work I do refers to life insurance accounts and how their algorithms work. It has never really engaged me more than the simplicity of my work, and I have always wanted to get out of that business (hence journalism!), but with this class, it has brought me back to why I started learning about computers in the first place. I am very excited about what we are doing, and have already been envisioning building the website to host several things that can be related to a new business and journalism at the same time.
I am a bit intrigued that PHP is its own language rather than just part of the HTML syntax. I like that the PHP is self-closing and makes it easy to find and, hopefully, easy to work with the code. It makes me chuckle that the PHP language started because a coder wanted to write some code for his own webpage, and it grew into an incredibly popular language used by so many people. It just epitomizes the way that coders live and work.
This week seems to have less concepts to learn and more syntax to learn. I am glad, because I have been feeling like we are constantly building upon what we have already learned, but we usually only did the things we just learned once or twice. Now that we are doing things that allow us to practice using the earlier concepts, I am feeling more confident with the earlier material. I think this is because I learn by repetition and doing something just once or twice isn’t enough to make me confident in the practice.
I’m not sure if this is because it is the summer semester or just the material, but I felt that the first few weeks were a firestorm of new information, and the next few weeks will be figuring out what information was vital and we need to get proficient in.
The weeks that we have been doing this have shown me that I can be getting better at coding, while constantly being confused about one thing or another. As soon as I get the answer to something I don’t understand, the next thing we do reinforces the idea that I am learning via the “trial by fire” method. (Lots of fire.)
I really want to get into some actual web-based setup, so that we can see tangible results (including massive failures!). I want to attempt to make some things work on my website, realize that they don’t work, try to figure out how to make them work, give up and Google why it’s not working, and then laugh about how simple the mistake was that I made. This is how I learn best (hey, don’t judge me, haha!).
The only part I am confused about for this week was the web hosting and setup of our sites. I got the GoDaddy and installed WordPress on it, but I didn’t do anything that I remembered from class (I wasn’t able to do them in class because my laptop wasn’t able to handle the “newfangled” software, and so I wrote everything down). I’m not sure if we’re going to go over it again in class, or it was a “FYI” kind of thing, or if we will use it later?
I was a bit upset that GoDaddy couldn’t sell me the domain I wanted, and there’s nothing even on the domain, so I wanted to take it over, but alas, I think I will be able to move on from it.
I like the slow pace of the Codeacademy, because it is actually teaching a lot of material very quickly, but it makes it seem manageable and not overwhelming. I remember (and STILL have) many of those fat language books you referred to in class (right now I can see three COBOL books, an HTML for Dummies and a SQL book weighing down my bookshelf). The manner I learned COBOL was a trial by fire (and almost fired…) that really made me feel that it is so hard to pick up a language cold, and I wish I had found the codeacademy long ago.
In “Get Started with Web Coding,” I was surprised and, honestly, a bit horrified to read the author’s recommendation that we never go two days without coding. For someone like me, who wants to learn enough to be a casual, competent coder but not necessarily a full-time programming master, that seems like a lot to ask. By this rule, programmers would never even get a weekend off. I understand the thinking here, and as an amateur guitar player, I know the ease with which skills decay after a period of inactivity, but now I’m scared I’ll never become semi-fluent in code without dedicating every other day to practicing.
The articles on responsive and adaptive web design were interesting to me because, at work, my team is constantly trying to convince our higher-ups that we need the time and resources to create mobile-friendly designs for all of our communications. Their proposed solution is always the same—“Don’t we need an app?”—which is frustrating, because apps are not the best or easiest way to promote our services in most cases, but apps are what everyone thinks of when they want a mobile-optimized user experience. I think as programmers and organizations become more adept at responsive designs, stand-alone apps will become less necessary and less common.
Ethan Marcotte’s “Responsive Web Design” proved to me the idea that, paradoxically, it’s often easier to solve a problem when you have limited resources and choices available to you. I think organizations have been slow to embrace responsive design because it’s so much simpler to design three different sites for three different screen sizes, rather than conceiving a fluid design that can shift to match whatever dimensions it’s given. Folks who work in journalism, especially, are used to seeing exactly how a layout will look in print, and the thought of freeing the elements of a layout to resize and shift in response to a screen size change is frightening. We want to control what the user sees as much as possible—and responsive design is, the thinking goes, a threat to that control.