Skip to content

Learning to Code

January 16, 2012


For those paying close attention to technology news, it’s hard to escape the recent emphasis on coding and education.

Like math, science or even language, coding is a learned skill that has many applications. Most of them involve creating something, which is a foreign expertise as of late. As we’ve seen the collapse of the finance sector, many are rethinking the trends in education.  As I studied classics in college, I can attest that my grasp of syntax and semantic range does little to improve daily life (of course, I can make a case for the other side as well).

In the science-math category is coding.  This is how everything digital is built and it’s what’s at fault when software doesn’t work.

More and more, computer science classes are popping up in schools.  When I was in school, I was always afraid to try the CS classes for fear of negatively affecting my GPA and, it seemed, coding was for the boys….

Well, times are changing.  Since coding is like learning a language though it requires no mastery of authentic accent, one can learn simply by sitting in front of a computer.  And that’s where Codecademy comes in.

Codecademy is an online resource for interested people to learn how to code.  It’s a free program focusing on Javascript (at least at the start) that promises proficiency.

Jumping on the resolution bandwagon, Codecademy started ‘Code Year,’ where participants are sent a weekly course that leads them through the basics (and not so basics) or coding, so by the end of the year they will actually be able to create something.

The program caught on quickly and nearly 350,000 users have signed up to participate (myself included).   Reinforcing the importance of keeping coding in America and New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also signed up for Code Year.

This weekend I sat down to do my first lesson, expecting something that wouldn’t force me to flex my muscles for too long.  Welp, I was wrong.  The first lesson took me over and hour and the LAST exercise has me stumped.

I’m about to embark on Week 2 and look forward to learning more.  I am not confident I’ll make it through the whole year (this is hard!), but I’m looking forward to trying.

Sheryl Sandberg on Working Women

November 27, 2011

In today’s world, women are outnumbering men attending college.  More and more women are entering the workforce and becoming equals with male counterparts.  However, they aren’t rising to the very top.

Our moms worked to break the ‘glass ceiling’ however we aren’t taking advantage of it.  I’m not entirely sure why, expect that maybe we are simply wired differently.  Little girls aren’t praised for being ruthless and tough, but instead for being nice and quiet.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is a woman who is doing things differently.  She is brilliant (Google her and be stunned) and is giving Facebook the parental supervision it so needs.  More than that, she is speaking out, giving advice to women on how to rise in the ranks.  And she’s right.

Hope that helps motivate you to go to work tomorrow after the holiday.

Into it: Pinterest

September 20, 2011

As my long-time readers know, I am fairly cynical and critical of trendy social media tools.  Though, once I am convinced, I am a vocal advocate.  Well Pinterest did not take much to become one of my favorite social media tools.

For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of exploring Pintrest, it’s a platform/social network for creating and sharing digital mood boards.  Mood boards are what marketers use to set the tone and find inspiration.  Pintrest allows users to capture and share photos of anything and everything.  Users categorize them by boards, provide captions, like and re-pin favorites.  You can follow your friends and your favorite influencers.

For me it’s great because I am constantly sending friends links to great images and they are a pain to aggregate.  I also read so many blogs a day that I find myself only looking at the pictures – and now I can share the best of them.

I fear my description isn’t doing it justice, so I suggest heading to Pintrest now to check it out for yourself.  Note, you must be invited to join, but you can request an invitation and receive it quite quickly.  Enjoy and follow me – lizwalton!

The Value of the Second Screen

September 11, 2011

These days it seems that everyone multi-tasks. We are overstimulated and easily bored. Though, that is absolutely an opportunity for brands and media, not a limit.

Traditional experiences are brought alive by the second screen.  This means, simply watching the Bachelor isn’t enough – you have to check Facebook and Twitter to see audience reactions to have the full effect.  For media and the like, this presents a chance for leveraging your existing audience to create more content, engagement and viewers.

At the recent MTV VMA’s, I knew within minutes that Beyonce was pregnant.  Did I watch the show?  No.  Do I care about Beyonce?  Only as much as the average twenty-something. But viewers of the show were able to create a conversation in a different arena, pulling in those who might not care about the show.

Conversly, it’s a missed opportunity when events/brands/media don’t take advantage of the second screen.  This past week was Fashion’s Night Out, the third-annual shopping bonanza organized to create hype around fashion and fashion week and to get consumers spending. It’s grown in popularity such that cell service was blocked.  That’s right, in my ‘hood (next to the high-end shopping) there wasn’t any cell service.

This means, friends couldn’t call/text each other to meet up (tragedy in and of itself), but it also meant that they couldn’t utilize the second screen in real time.  We couldn’t check in on foursquare, couldn’t share pictures on Instagram and couldn’t tweet about what we were seeing.

As we are multitaskers, the second the event was over, we stop caring.  And without the digital footprint, there’s no lasting memory (because we all know memories fade from the mind). And, really, fashion is mostly about voyeurism anyway, so if your friends can’t be jealous of ‘all the fun you had’ then what’s the point? JK.

For those of you still watching TV the traditional way, try logging into Twitter, using GetGlue or foursquare, or posting on Facebook.  See how that changes your experience and let me know what you think.

Do you have a favorite website?

August 14, 2011

Do you have a favorite website? What website do you visit the most?  Are they the same?

I’ve been thinking about what makes a good website recently.  Some websites are easy to use, some have great content, some need to be checked frequently – but what does it take to generate traffic?  Let’s break it down:

Ease of use:  You probably don’t know a good website when you see it.  But you definitely know a bad one.  User interface is one of those things that goes unrecognized unless it’s done poorly.  Navigation, links, aesthetic all are important.  To paraphrase Tolstoy, all good websites and alike; all bad ones are bad in its own way.   Try it yourself – what’s the best website you’ve used recently?  What’s the worst?  Which was easier to answer?

Content is king:  We visit websites to find something, though that something varies by the site.  Many websites (this one included) depends on updated content for visits.  I find that when I post, I receive many more views in the following days than relying on SEO for previous posts. We visit news sites daily/weekly/monthly for the new content.  Sometimes we stumble upon great sites with old content, but we aren’t likely to continue visiting.

As you might expect, Google is highly trafficed because it’s the aggregate of content and Facebook only receives visitors when YOU update your status or photos.  Some sites that I find myself checking frequently for the content, unexpectedly, include my gym’s website as the classes are always changing.  Of course, once I am there I find myself playing with the other tools, cataloging my workouts digitally in ways I never knew to do.  Content can be the lure, but be sure to give the visitors something to do once they are there.

Frequency: This leads us to the question of how much is enough? How many visitors?  How frequently should you update your content? The answer is mostly that it’s always evolving.  As I’ve mentioned before, I read blogs religiously on my Reader.  Gawker is one of my favorite sites, but I almost never visit the website – I just don’t need to.  Luckily for them, the ads in the posts pull through to my Reader, so they can still make a few dollars, but you have to decide what your goals are for the content.  Do you want to create the (fleeting) viral video?  Where do you expect your readers to read it – mobile? Tablet?

The bottom line is, if you have good content, they will come.  But, if you can optimize your content, MORE people will come.

Obligatory Google+ Post

July 17, 2011

As we all know, Google recently launched Google+, another social media attempt.  On the heels of the failed Google Buzz, Google+ expands Buzz into something most comparable to Facebook (and boy are they comparing it to Facebook).

For those who haven’t signed up, Google+ helps solve the issue of oversharing by placing your friends/contacts into different circle with which you can share specific posts.  So you can post to all your contacts, just your family, just your work friends etc.  Like Facebook you can post different media, have friends reply in thread and 1+ your posts (like).

So far there are small integrations into the other Google products (like the notification bar in Gmail/Reader etc.), however there will likely be much larger ones in time.

I’ll start with my criticisms/apprehensions:

Categorizing friends into circles is inherently counter to healthy relationships.  It makes me rank my friends when I fear that’s impossible.  Certain people should know certain information and I don’t want an unlimited number of circles to choose from or to create.

Similarly, it’s fairly time intensive to create the circles at the beginning.  You have to put some thinking into what types of content you will want to share and how you might want to censor that.  Frankly, I like services like Twitter and foursquare because you don’t have to think much (especially Twitter).

At this point, it’s duplicative.  Right now Google+ isn’t unique enough for me to know what kind of information to share or how to interact. I’ve found myself choosing between publishing on Facebook or Google+.  Though, this might be resolved with time.

Now, for the positives:

It has the potential to become huge.  I don’t mean 750 MM users huge, but as far as presence in our lives.  Google is already a daily (let’s be real, hourly) part of my life, so Google+ has the potential to be as well.

One of the issues with Facebook is that it’s shady.  I mean, I think it’s weird to spend lots of time on it and inherently narcissistic (this comes from the person who updates FB for a living).  Google has an air of legitimacy that will be a welcome change for social media.

Finally, it’s nice to see something challenge Facebook’s dominance.  The are other social media platforms out there, but none as large and reaching as Facebook.  By the same token, Facebook controls an incredible amount of information and no one has come along to force them to check that.  Maybe this will be just the thing.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you think?  Are you on it?

Are we in a bubble?

June 26, 2011

Technology, like any industry in a ‘healthy’ economy is cyclical. Recently, the media has been spilling a lot of ink about technology’s recent upswing, labeling it a bubble. While not unjustified, the language is a bit strong.

Recently, VC’s have been handing out money like it’s water (easy for me to say as an outsider looking in).  They seem to be willing to invest in anyone with past successes or a reasonably good idea for a consumer-based technology.  This marks a shift from the last boom, where anything related to the internet was considered gold.  Now it’s all about users and engagement.

Jonathon Kaplan, the creator of Cisco’s Flip, announced that his grilled cheese scheme has raised $10 million. Now, I like grilled cheese as much as the next person, but it’s hard to believe that it’s worth $10 million no matter how 2.0 it is.

On the bright side of this technology upswing is the number of smart people attracted to technology who may have just turned up their noses at it for dignified finance positions.  Similarly organizations are springing up to support the talent and ideas (and to get a slice).  In New York we have General Assembly, which is an organization that supports startups by providing business and technology insight as well as precious office space.  For us lay people, it also offers seminars on all things tech.  Across the country there are groups that bring together smart people with relevant skills to stimulate ideas.

Who knows how long this boom will last, well, maybe Schumpeter and his gale knows, but I am excited to see what comes from these great minds, especially after the funding stops.

Business Week is more eloquent than I:

%d bloggers like this: