The highlight of this week in terms of assignments was being able to do lessons on Codecademy! For the longest time I was not sure what HTML and CSS stood for or the difference of these languages. I am happy to say that I finally discovered that HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and the purpose of this language is to structure content on a page. As for CSS, it stands for Cascading Style Sheet and it is the style that dresses up the structure. These languages go hand in hand and often work together to create a beautiful web page. I think the reason why I have always been hesitant of code is because I was afraid of not understanding the purpose of each language. However, these two languages have names that speak for themselves once you know what each letter stands for.
In Codecademy, I was able to pick up on the material pretty quickly. However, I felt like the experience of doing these lessons had similarities to learning a foreign language. During undergrad, I studied Arabic and had to learn different rules in order to read and write. With HTML, there are different headings and tags that can easily go wrong if you do not follow the HTML rules. It is similar in learning Arabic, it is possible to completely change the meaning of a word by not following the rules of which letters go next to each other. It is important to continue practicing a foreign language daily in order to exercise this muscle in your brain. So far, it seems like it will be the same case for HTML & CSS. I feel determined to build the structure and let the rules flow after I continue to practice and revisit these lessons on Codecademy in the future.
Those multi-panel windows in Codecademy are honestly a genius and elegant way to show how what you do to the underlying code affects the displayed webpage. After learning a few basic tags and following the lesson instructions, it was interesting to toy around and go off-script to see how things changed. Only once or twice were the instructions difficult for me to follow and I had to use the hints.
It speaks to the economy of HTML that you can only know how to use no more than a dozen tags and be relatively well-equipped. With some basic research I found that there are only about 250 HTML tags that anyone would ever really need to know — this makes me more confident that learning this language will be a lot easier than I originally anticipated.
It was also revealing (and strangely powerful) to use the inspector tool. The example in the “Meet your web inspector” showed how it was easy to download a picture that the site perhaps wanted to prevent (obviously you could also screenshot anything). Not to skirt the ethical boundaries of the technology, but I did experiment with the tool a bit… I used the web inspector to delete a site overlay on The Boston Globe website when the paywall hit, but the site didn’t load any part of the article. The inspector did come in handy on the Wall Street Journal site, which will load the lede and second paragraph, but obscures the second paragraph making it hard to read. Using the inspector though, you can easily read the first two paragraphs within the HTML. I suspect that with more poorly-designed paywalls, simply deleting the paywall pop-up could reveal an entire article. Or we could all just start paying for subscriptions to newspapers…but I digress.