Codecademy / Code Year (2012)

I’ve recently been following Codecademy‘s ‘Code Year’ project:

Code Year is a series of weekly emails, starting at the beginning of 2012, which support (but are not necessarily exclusive to) people who have made new year’s resolutions to learn (at least the basics) how to ‘code’ (when I was at school, in the UK, we used to refer to this as programming, which I assume/understand to be broadly the same), starting with JavaScript.

Coding, or programming (per my simple, home made definition which follows!), refers to the building the list of instructions that you give a computer, possibly via some sort of assembler/emulator, to run a program (ie, have the computer do something for you, typically resulting in output to a monitor/screen, and engaging in some form of interaction with the user of the computer).

Why sign up for Code Year?

The best reason I’ve so far read is from Fred Wilson, a New York based venture capitalist, in the comments under his blog post “My New Year’s Resolution: Start Coding Again”, January 1, 2012:

“it’s like reading and writing to me. everyone should know how to code”

I think the background to Fred’s comment lies in coding being:

  1. a core skill in achieving greater control over creating/developing computer-based content (although there are indeed many other ways one might also engage in online content creation/development – WYSIWYG blog tools, HTML website developers, etc.),
  2. a key part of the software, and the internet, that we use on a daily basis (and therefore something worth better understanding), and
  3. a key building block driving economic growth, underlying much of the technology sector (and also being the core platform behind relatively recent sector titans such as Google, Facebook, etc.).

As such, don’t we owe it to ourselves to ensure we have some understanding of what coding is, and leading on from that, isn’t the best way to do that to learn, at least some of the basics of, how to code?

This quote, from “Codecademy Offers Free Coding Classes for Aspiring Entrepreneurs”, by Jenna Wortham, September 14, 2011 (in Bits, New York Times’ Technology Blog)  also helps define the point being made:

[…] the high demand for the site is an early indicator that there might be a lucrative opportunity in offering people ways to see if they can build the next Facebook or Google — or simply to become a more competitive modern office worker.

“In 20 years, programming will be just another blue-collar job or related to almost every major employment field,” Mr. Sims [a co-founder of Codecademy] said.

It may be the above thinking that has also attracted the attention of the White House (see link below). I personally don’t aim to try to build the next Facebook, nor do I aim to have programming become a core part of my own employment, but I do believe that having a better  understanding of it can help make me a more competitive modern office worker.

Also, as I grew up I was part of the generation that learned to program in ‘Basic’ (in my case BBC Basic, using a BBC Micro model B).  I later learned some Fortran, to support a university class (Mathematics). Coding is therefore a little bit of who I am (“part time geek”).


I first heard about Codecademy (which I think is pronounced ‘Code academy‘, but all as one word) from Fred Wilson, via the blog post linked to above (the venture capital firm in which Fred is a partner, Union Capital Ventures, is an investor in Codecademy).

What is it?  Well, I like the way that the Codecademy team geekily ‘defined’ Codecademy on their ‘About’ page:

var The_Gist =

“Codecademy was created out of the frustrations Zach and Ryan felt with learning how to program. Tired with less effective text and video resources, Ryan and Zach teamed up to create Codecademy, a better, more interactive way to learn programming by actually coding. This is just the beginning. Join us as we make it easy for everyone to love and learn how to code.”

Codecademy investors/partners (at time of writing) include Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Social+Capital Partnership, Thrive Capital, CrunchFund, Collaborative Fund, Founder Collective, Joshua Schacter, Vivi Nevo, Naval Ravikant, and several others.

Codecademy has recently generated a number of high profile news articles, including for example:

So far more than 360,000 people have signed up to CodeYear (although, it’s probably fair to say that not all people manage to stick to their New Year’s resolutions!), with many more already using Codecademy.

8 Responses

  1. Short update – ‘Business Insider’ infers that Codecademy has passed 1 million users as of last week (January 11, 2012):

  2. Further follow-up – this post, from Scott Gray, has some detailed thoughts on Codecademy (including some criticism):

    I’ve also identified some limitations of Codecademy (eg, successful coding is not just about the code, but critically about the planning and design phase, importantly before any coding begins – so far Code Year focuses on the code itself). That said, I’m accepting Codecademy for what it is – a free introduction to coding (and on that basis, in my view, definitely good value for money!).

  3. I wonder whether coding will become a part of every office workers’ competency profile. I certainly think a basic knowledge would help one to be able to understand what is feasible. But I don’t see the signs that the working environment is going that well. On the contrary I see coding becoming a more niche activity in the bigger technology landscape.

    • I hear you – unfortunately I don’t have statistics to back it up either way. I suspect some of the support that this type of initiative is getting is to partly address the trend that you describe.

      I have read a lot of comments that there is concern, in the UK for example, that ICT teaching is not keeping pace with developments in the sector.

      I also believe that the skills developed from coding are highly transferable (at school level, coding is a very practical way to teach, and to generate interest and enthusiasm in topics which are otherwise dull or dry to many students: mathematics, logic, etc.), so schools would do well to address the niche trend that you describe, even if not to send an army of future coders into the employment markets.

      That said, the rest of us likely only benefit from greater awareness, and personal interest.

  4. […] I recently posted about Codecademy, and its Code Year’ initiative. […]

  5. Nice post by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology correspondent – “Learning to code” (April 2012), where he talks about ‘Decoded’ a ‘coding club’:

    Also, another BBC article, “Programming project comes to primary schools” (April 2012), about ‘Code clubs’:

    Finally, an older article by Rory Cellan-Jones, “Coding – the new Latin” (November 2011):

  6. Try Its a great site that also teaches Javascript but is FUN and EFFECTIVE. Would like to hear your feedback about this site.

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