Monday, March 23, 2015

Codecademy: Accessible, Practical, and Useful

Let me sing the praises of Codecademy...

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with a fellow alumni from Rice University (I earned my PhD in Applied Physics there in 2002).  She is only a few years out of school and still weighing her future options.  However, we both came to understand a shared interest in coding...for fun and personal development.

So, as with everyone that expresses an interest to try out coding, I had to share with her the wonder that is Codecademy.

Is It Worth Your Time?

Yes, Because It Is Good

If you have any interest in understanding how to code or learning a new language, then yes.  I will quote Wired Magazine's review of coding sites, in which the complaint was:
"Too good to be free forever?"
I think most sites would kill for a complaint like that.

Yes, Because It's Not Just Teaching You The Language

How much French, Spanish, etc. do you remember from school?  If you never used it, probably very little.  The same holds true with coding.  If you learn java and then do nothing with it, you will forget a lot pretty quick and the lessons you did learn may not even take.  Codecademy has got you covered.

First, they walk you through the language while you create code that would actually serve a purpose.  Then, when you are done, they also provide:

  • Specific web developer skill modules
  • Projects in which you can apply your coding knowledge (and learn more)
  • Specific projects that walk you through (re-)building existing, commercial sites
  • Specific projects that teach you how to use a variety of popular APIs (application programming interfaces)

Yes, Because It's Free, In a Good Way

I have no insight to their revenue model, but it does not get in the way of the service/value I derive from the sight.  In fact, it seems invisible.  There are no ads, no pressure to sign up for a premium plan, etc.  They vow to always provide the service for free to the end user.

How Does It Compare To Other Options?

Fair warning, this is going to be short.  It may not be very new, but Wired Magazine's review of coding sites, which I cited earlier seems to be a relatively good representation of my experience.

Will It Make Me A Bad-Ass Coder?

Probably not, but it will definitely:
  • Teach you the important elements of a language
  • Do pretty effectively
  • Motivate you to keep going
  • Teach you some key techniques/considerations
  • Empower you to embark on the path to become coder gangsta #1
It's worth checking out.  Heck, even if you are not sure you want to learn a coding language, this is about as risk-free as it gets to try it out and play around.

Give it a shot.

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