Program or be Programmed

More than 14,011* People Resolved to Learn Code This Year with Codecademy

The fun thing about writing this headline is that more than 100 people are currently signing up to learn to code this year with Codecademy’s new email program. So expect that number to grow rapidly. It’s at 14,011 right now, we’ll let you know where its at when we end this post.

Codecademy is a service that hopes to teach users to program over the web. They graduated from Y Combinator and raised $2.5 million from an impressive group of investors.

Today they introduced a new feature pegged to New Years. It’s called Code Year, and it’s a year long cycle of lessons that arrive in a weekly email. It will expand the services current curriculum, which right now is limited to an introduction to programming and working in Javascript, so that by the end of 2012 users can create both web sites and web apps, which will require more than JS.

“What we had up till now was very self-directed. The biggest problem with that is motivation. The email gives people a way to direct their learning so that they know what they have to do and by when,” said Codecademy co-founder Zach Sims. “We are also hoping to tell people a little bit more about why we are doing what we are doing,” Mr. Sims said. The new site makes reference to Douglass Rushkoff’s book, Program or Be Programmed, which lays out am argument about why coding is a new form of literacy and the importance of knowing how computer programs work, even if you don’t intend to work in the industry.

Ok, since we started more than 1,000 new people have signed up to learn how to code this year. We’ll update in the morning with some fresh stats and perhaps some more thoughts from Mr. Sims and the community at Hacker News. For example, this gem from entrepreneur Aarlo Fish:

“Something cool to think about…coding well takes a certain type of mind that most people don’t have. Code is, as Fred Brooks says, ‘pure thought-stuff.’ You need to be able to build and understand multiple layers of abstract stuff all at the same time.Coding is like having a vivid dream in that you’re occupied with something entirely mental and disconnected from your physical reality. But unlike real dreams, it’s coherent and rigidly structured, and fits in your conscious mind.Some people can think this way. Most people can’t, even if their mind is advanced in other ways. I don’t think most people, even the ones who are interested in Codeacademy, realize this. That said, I think it’s useful for people to try to learn to code to understand the basics. And surely lots of people out there could code, but haven’t learned yet. But most people will not be able to build complicated apps and websites.”

UPDATE: Day 2 and nearly 60,000 people have signed up. There continues to be some mild pushback from engineers. Foursquare’s Harry Heymann joked on Twitter, “Make 2012 the year you learn to be a lawyer with 1 interactive lesson emailed to you each week! http://lawyear.com.”

Codecademy founder Zach Sims isn’t bothered. “We’re not saying that it’s magic. It still takes a lot of work.” He also shared a link to Peter Norvig’s classic post, Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years, which highlights that there is always someone offering to teach you in less time, be it years, months, weeks or days.

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