In the Beginning

Published on January 18, 2016

In the beginning…. There was a blog. Well, really, there wasn’t. It’s only just now that there’s a blog. But now there is. I’ve made a blog for myself. I don’t think I’ve ever had one before, and I never really envisioned this being something that I’d do. But I figure it’s worthwhile to keep a bit of a record about what’s going on at the moment. Maybe I’ll want to read it in the future? Maybe you (if you’re actually reading this) will read it and find it interesting or funny or depressing or some other adjective. Who knows. But that’s half the fun.

Anyways. Here I am. Just started my second week at Bitmaker Labs Web Development Bootcamp. Having decided that being a barista, while sweet in a lot of ways (all-the-coffee-you-can-drink-kind-of-ways), wasn’t the challenge I wanted, I sought out other opportunities. I kinda stumbled onto Bitmaker and the concept of coding bootcamps by accident. I thought it’d be worthwhile to learn a bit about coding and stuff (ya know, so that when the computers rise up I’ll at least be able to communicate with them), and it got me thinking that maybe it’d be a cool thing to pursue more seriously.

So I did my research. Lots of it. Visiting offices, emailing former students, countless hours Googling — yes, dear reader, I did it all. I landed, finally, on Bitmaker as my choice. After a rather intense week, I certainly think I’ve made the right choice. But more on that soon.

So what’s a “web development bootcamp,” and why am I doing it? Baaaaasically, it’s a 9-week, super-full-time-intensive-all-day-all-night-all-weekend-learn-to-code-bonanza! It’s more fun than it sounds. Seriously. Basically myself and 40-ish other people of similar age and interest pack ourselves into a room for 40+ hours a week and learn to code. It’s intense, it’s hard work, it’s unbelievably frustrating at times, and it’s an absolute blast. The instructors are knowledgeable, the facility is top-notch, my classmates are interesting, motivated, and fun folks, and the successes are hugely rewarding. Today I spent a long long long time trying to write a little program that would turn words into pig-latin. When I finally figured out why it was turning banana into anabanay instead of ananabay I may have squealed a little bit. There’s a bit more to it than just pig-latin, but you get the picture.

For those who have made it this far (the brave, the few), I’ll touch briefly on what we’ve learned so far. Day 1 (last Monday) was about navigating the computer with the command line (you know, the scary black screen with white text and the solid white rectangular cursor)(really it’s not so bad), and how to use software called git, which works together with a website called github, to allow for sophisticated and efficient collaboration on projects, as well as provide a backup of your own files. Days 2 and 3 were focused on the basics of Ruby, the language we’ll be using throughout the course to build apps. Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Bleacher Report, Bloomberg, FunnyOrDie, Goodreads, Hulu… all Ruby (and Rails, which is a kind of add-on for Ruby that we’ll be learning about starting next week, I think). Then Thursday and Friday were more Ruby, but using it to build out slightly larger, more functional projects. The assignment for Friday was to build a little address book app that runs on the command line. Definitely the biggest project most of us had ever done, and appropriately difficult.

Today was an introduction to testing. Writing code to test your other code seems a bit redundant sometimes, but it’s actually a super useful way to keep yourself in check, especially when it comes to refactoring (editing) your code down the line, or adding new features without breaking everything (surprisingly difficult). This week we’ll start to touch on HTML and CSS (languages used to actually build the websites themselves), as well as basic introductions to web servers and databases, so that we’ll be able to host our apps online. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s never dull.

So this was a bit longer than I anticipated, but it’s a first go-round at something I’ve never really done, and I had a lot to catch up on (I meant to start doing this a week ago). So if you made it this far, I appreciate it. If you didn’t, well I guess you’ll never know how I feel about it. If you’re really brave (or just mildly curious as to what coding actually looks like), you can look at all the work I’ve been doing at I can’t really predict right now how often I’ll write one of these, but I think once a week is a safe bet for the moment. Thanks for reading, and may the force be with you.