Learning to code will not make you rich (or particularly powerful)

I used to evangelize blogging the way people now promote the idea that everyone should "learn to code." I never said learning to blog would mean people would listen to you -- they're separate things. Blogging, imho, is good to do even if no one but you reads what you write. You formulate your thoughts in a different, more complete way, when you write as if someone else could understand them. But people didn't hear that. They thought if they blogged they would become influential. That people would read them. And when they realized this wasn't so, there was a backlash.

I think when people hear "Learn To Code" they think "Get rich like Zuck or Steve Jobs." When they learn to code their next question likely will be: "Where do I collect my millions of dollars?" Of course most people who code, if they make any money at all, make a modest living. When you reach a certain age, you're put out to pasture to fend for yourself. People seem to think "coding" is a young person's activity (even though it isn't), and if you're lucky enough to get a job doing it, you'll have to find something else to do when you're 35 or so, and that's not going to be so easy.

Learning to code is good if you have a calling, if you feel it's what you must do to express yourself. If you have ideas that you can implement in code that no one else is doing. Or if you just love the puzzles that programming is constantly presenting you with. You have to have a certain amount of self-hatred to love programming, btw, because it's a grind. And to do it well you have to have a lot of all of these things.

You might think that by learning to code you get to be the Man Behind the Curtain, the all-powerful person who makes the digital world work. But that's not what coding is about. If you want power, and I've said this many times -- rather than learn to code -- first learn to run a server. That's real power. And it's far easier than programming. You can learn to run a server in a few days or weeks. There's not much to it. Servers are just computers, like a laptop, that are always on and have a net connection that never goes away. They run software that's a little different from the stuff you run, but if you can install a word processor or a graphics program, you can learn how to run a web server. And you will be able to publish whatever you want. But then you kind of have to be a blogger to appreciate that, so we're back to the beginning.

Also, running a server is a good gateway to becoming a programmer. Sooner or later you'll want to customize your server and that's done (drumroll please) with programming!


Last built: Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 10:38 PM

By Dave Winer, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 1:46 PM. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.