i’ve talked to a lot of people over the last year about “what they should do next”: some want to get into technology; some are wondering what to study in school (or, even, whether they should stay in school at all!); some want to create a product. no matter what we talk about, it always seems to come back to one thing: making stuff. and i feel like i always give the same advice: that no matter what you’re doing, no matter what field you’re in, you should learn to code.
it’s been talked about quite a bit before  and a conversation with fred recently brought it back up: i like to see coding as being a bit like art. it’s one of those skills for which you should at least learn the basics. you may not get very good at it, and that’s fine, but in learning how to do it, you’ll get three things:
- it’ll make you appreciate how it’s done and how an engineer’s mind works;
- it’ll give you a different perspective on whatever it is you do during your day job;
- it’ll give you the ability to make something out of nothing – like painting on a blank white canvas!;
the follow-up i tell people is that they should “learn by doing” . that is, to pick a small project of some sort and to see it through to the finish. the smaller and easier, the better, as you’ll be able to realize a working product you can hold, appreciate and show your friends. it almost doesn’t matter what language or platform you pick, as long as you pick something that you can finish and that you dreamt
over the last couple of sundays, i’ve started to make stuff on the side again. i take a sunday here and there to try to learn something new. sometimes these projects are foursquare-related and, sometimes, they are things i’ve seen others do and was curious to learn. nearly everything i do on a day-to-day basis exists in the digital world, so i’ve started seeking old-school, slowed-down, hand-made experiences that we haven’t done in a while.
recently, jealous that mari can paint so well, i decided to try my hand at learning to paint. i decided to take my own advice. i’m aiming to learn and to make something that i can hang on a wall: be it a painting or some other sort of programmatic art. i’m trying to bring my knowledge of code to art and to programatically create art from data. my first project is one i’ve been thinking about for a while: i’m trying to visualize what i know of my dna. i hope to hang this on a wall someday soon.
last week, my buddy steve shared a quote with me:
“building software is the last thing we do by hand.”
it’s a clever way of looking at how art has progressed.
it’s the last art that will allow us to make something out of nothing.
1. pg, hackers & painters.
2. i watched the eames documentary last weekend and i noticed they talk a lot about this ‘learn-by-doing’ philosophy. it’s a great doc, you should put it on your list for 2011.