Look ma, I’m a coder now!

Speak and Spell tou
Last week I had the great fortune to attend Seb Lee-Delisle’s fabulous creative javascript course for non-coders. It was brain-bending and tiring and frustrating and eyeopening and amazing. What did we do? Over the course of two days we went from ‘so, er, what’s javascript?’ to ‘hey, check it out, I’ve made a simple particle system and it changes size and colour too!’.

There were 10 of us (8 gals, 2 guys) from a variety of backgrounds but all with the common thread of not really having much to do with code. Seb took us through some basic drawing commands (using HTML canvas, not that it made much difference what we were drawing on) and the first hour or so was spent making wobbly aliens. In fact, have a look at mine. (works best in Chrome). Better than that, I (mostly) understand what I wrote to make it happen. There was a lot of experimenting and happy accidents throughout the course. As an example, when I made that alien, I edited and re-edited several commands to work out why the circle I drew was the size it was, or why it was a random colour or opacity and then scribbled down lots of notes.

The thing that was so good about this course was not only was it very visual – you could see the results of what you had just done, then and there – but it was a great way to learn the building blocks of programming slowly, being able to ask dumb questions and finding others nodding along too. Being a nerdy child, I learned to code in Basic when I was around 5 and was pretty darn competent age 9 or so (before someone told me that girls don’t code and I was letting the side down). I was delighted to find the stuff lodged in the back of my brain – dusty and ignored for a couple of decades – were still relevant, things like loops and arrays and variables. Though the syntax and language was different the fundamental stuff seemed to be the same. Not that this gave me much of a head start, as Seb’s examples were really clear and almost everyone was ready to throw in their own ideas and tweaks in no time. Every new tweak elicited an ‘oooooooh!’followed by some frantic cog turning to work out why what had happened did happen.

This course doesn’t make you a fully proficient javascript wizard in two days but it does give you a working glossary of examples and ideas to understand what the hell your developers are going on about. I have a much deeper appreciation for the detailed eye required to create good clean code, and I’m much less impressed by people who can create wobbly aliens for show. And you can definitely go on from here to become a javascript whizz.

As for my next step, I’ve bought a book on Processing and I thought I might give Corona a poke about. That and my blog will soon have a big, blobby, random rainbow particle system for a background. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

And just to show how easy it is, Seb made this adorable video: