Sep 29, 2013

Can you really learn to code in a month?

[Topic - this post is about learning and coding, and relates to the post about 'attitude over aptitude' observation.]

Can you really learn to code in a month?

It has taken me a hell of a lot longer than one month to learn to code. Am I just dumber than other people? Or is this a marketing gimmick?

Who am I to talk about this?

As I have been learning to code for a several months now, I've become quite familiar with various tutorials and resources about coding. For example, I worked for a few months at a local coding bootcamp, and ended up writing a short e-book to help people think about choosing a full-time program.

And I am fortunate to have experienced mentors who give me good advice about my progress - as I highlighted in attitude over aptitude.

Are we brainwashed as a society?

More recently though, I realized that many of us (including myself) have been conditioned to rely heavily on others for our education. We have limited time; it is wise to use existing systems for our education. (In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb points to neuroscience research and points at that this is part of how our brains work (primarily our left-hemisphere). We reduce complexity by overlaying patterns and order. We need structure to keep things simple and be able to absorb information.)

So, it's not surprising that we often rely on others to make things easy for us.  For example:
  • Textbooks - Why do we use something called textbooks in schools?
  • Teachers - Aren't we our best teachers ... how can someone really know how we learn and what we find interesting?
  • Schools - Why are we paying an ungodly sum of money in tuition to attend schools? Are we trying to stoke our ego by paying for a piece of paper? Or are we genuine about what we want to learn inside of walls of some remote institution?
  • Tutorials and courses - Again, rather than determining how best to pick-up a topic based on our own learning patterns and need for structure, too many people simply "pay" for content or a course, in the hopes that it might lead to accelerated learning.
I realize these are simplistic questions. I simply make the observation that many exhibit a behavior of dependency and fail to think independently and originally. And the reason often is: we are lazy!

This is 'Murica. Get rich quick!

The polar opposite of paying someone to help you learn is the Do-It-Yourself learning. I think the term DIY was popularized by home owners making fixes and home improvements on their own. One can apply it to education as well. Today indeed is a good time in history to do things yourself.
  • Internet & accessibility - Internet has made niche knowledge as accessible as common knowledge. Just google it.
  • Commoditization of knowledge - With that accessibility, things like tutorials and online courses have proliferated. These days, you could take an entire career's worth of education on the web using,, and similar resources.
  • Curation - Good news! Someone else already has done the hard work for you! Just checkout something like to get started on JavaScript.
Even so, there is this thorny issue of time. We don't have enough of it. And capitalizing on the accessibility of knowledge, DIY attitude, and need for effective use of time, I have seen various offerings that promise learning quickly.  Just check out the claims of "I learned to code in a month" genre:
But, is it true? Does it work?

As I shared above, I feel dumb. I certainly couldn't learn Rails in one month. (Yeah, I could generate a rails app on day 1.  But, it was just monkey-see-monkey-do. It took me a while before I felt comfortable writing code and understand what was happening. And I'm still learning.)

I don't mean to gather the case here against learn quick programs. However, I am sharing my skepticism about learn quick in the same way you should be skeptical about "get rich quick from home" claims. I saw this blog post of someone who tried one month rails and still couldn't program.

The truth is that good tools, good books, and good communities help us learn. No doubt.  For example, I respect and consider Daniel Kehoe's RailsApps to be a valuable resource that builders can use to kick-off rails projects. (In particular, check out

That said, my life experiences convince me, that there are no short-cuts. There are no free lunches in life (unless you work at Google). In the end, you have to invest the time and effort to learn.

Learn for yourself.

On education and schooling

There is a Mark Twain aphorism: I have never let schooling interfere with my education. And this points a finger at the culture of dependency in learning that I didn't know until I got older and wiser.
We have been conditioned to rely on others to make things easy. We want a short-cut. We want to be a programmer in one month. Well, good luck! At some deep level, schools, degrees, and courses are a hoax that prey on our insecurities or fear to tread into the unknown. You need good mentors in life, but certainly no diplomas.

Think of it this way. Did the first climbers of Everest get certified or take courses to get to the top? Hell no! It was just blood and sweat and years of training to prepare. Today, of course, you can pay a guide to essentially take you up to the summit - it has become a tourism destination.

I think this guy gets it -  See? The "hard" way. The right way.

Let's get edumacated!

Good! Let's get started then, and start building! Or try Code School and start learning by doing.

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