Odd Opinions

August 27, 2015 at 9:15 pm

How I’m learning to code (and how you can learn too) – Part 1

How I’m learning to code (and how you can learn too) – Part 1

Why I’m Learning To Code

I’m learning to code. I’ve wanted to learn how to code for years, but I never made the commitment. While in college I took Visual Basic 6, C++ and Visual C++ classes and to be honest, I didn’t do great. They were not my best subjects and quite frankly didn’t keep my attention; too many “SQUIRREL!” moments.

But now I’m committed (or should be committed) to learning to code. I’ve made the commitment and now I’m making it a priority.

In this article I’ll share my journey to code and the platform I’m using to learn to code.

The reason I want to learn how to code is simple.

  1. I want to develop my ideas without having to hire developers.
  2. If I ever do hire a developer, I want to be able to decipher their code and understand what the heck they mean when they say there is an E_USER_DEPRICATED error. They always look at me funny when my eyes glaze over.
  3. I’ve always wanted to be a developer.

Learning Code Platform

Team Treehouse is my code learning platform of choice. There are other online training solutions available like OneMonth, Codecademy and Lynda.com, but I liked the organization of content and the reviews Team Treehouse has received.

To get the value and skillset I need to become a developer I started with the basics of HTML5 and CSS. I was able to complete the HTML5/ CSS track within Team Treehouse easily. Their gamification of online training and great videos made it fun and easy.

The HTML5 and CSS training wasn’t enough to make me an expert though. It’s basically enough information to get me started and I’ll need to practice and take more classes.

Going through the Team Treehouse training process is very helpful. As I stated earlier, their gamification keeps me motivated to learn more. You earn more points and achievements the further along you go. Of course, I WANT MORE ACHIEVEMENTS! But more importantly I want to learn.


The HTML5/ CSS tracks were very thorough and well organized. Team Treehouse has a workspace feature that allows you to code while watching the training videos. This has not only helped me learn some of the basics, but helped me retain the information.

I can also download the videos, transcripts and workspace files to continue expanding on the knowledge I have gained from the online training.

Deciding What Code to Learn

I’ve finished the HTML5/CSS training and am ready to move on to something more challenging. In my career I have employed great developers in both PHP, .NET and Ruby. These developers also had great skills in mySQL, SQL and MongoDB. I was always watching and learning from them and probably annoying them a bit too. They have gone on to develop great mobile apps, web apps and several API’s and I like to keep in contact with them as well. They’re good people!

But I digress, my next decision was what language do I really want to learn. I decided the three best options are Python, PHP or Ruby.

I went online to research each of them and was surprised at my findings. Developers are basically split and passionate about each platform. To avoid the “this one is better than the other debate,” I needed to stay focused on my goals. So I decided to move forward and begin with Python, and then I changed my mind and decided on PHP.

While researching which language to learn first, I discovered that Team Treehouse offers a basic module for all three platforms (Python, PHP, Ruby). As you can see if the following screenshots, the modules provide a good start to learning the platform.


One note with regards to Team Treehouse’s format. They provide you with video training that you can follow along with and code at the same time. Here are a couple of screenshots of both the video and the workspace in which you can code.

learning-to-code-team-treehouse-video    learning-to-code-team-treehouse-workspace

I found this format to be a great way for me to learn and help retain that new knowledge. To launch the workspace to start coding, click on the link at the bottom right titled “Launch Workspace.” If you look at the workspace screenshot you will notice an eye looking icon at the top right. Once you click on it you can then preview your code in action. This makes it very handy to see if you are coding correctly or not.

Take the basic modules of all three platforms was a smart move on my part. This opened me up to the different options and made me realize what a difficult task I have ahead. I felt very comfortable with Python and PHP and thought I could move on with either one. I ultimately decided to start with PHP.


The exercises and discussions are going well. I am finding it difficult to grasp some of the concepts, but I think the more I practice, the more I will learn and become more comfortable with PHP.

I was hoping that my brain would just CLICK and I would become a coding genius. Turns out I am a genius in other things, like going to the beach with my pups and eating cereal. I’m not sure those skills will help my coding goals.

The PHP Development track consists of the following modules or what Treehouse calls achievements.

  • How to Make a Website
  • PHP Basics
  • PHP Functions
  • Object-Oriented PHP Basics
  • Building Websites with PHP
  • Database Foundations
  • PHP & Databases with PDO
  • Console Foundations
  • Git Basics

I am on the Building Websites with PHP achievement which is about halfway through the PHP Development track. As difficult as this can be at times I am finding that I’m having fun.

I’m pushing myself to learn the concepts and continue to practice coding. I like to try what the video instructor teaches and then I like to see if I can take a bit further.

My skills and knowledge are still in the fledgling stage and I’m taking my training step by step. Being in the technology field for as long as I have been, I know I need to continue my education to stay current with today’s trends and technology.

I’ll continue practicing HTML5 and CSS and eventually learn Python, Django, PHP, Node.js and RoR. I will be honest, it feels like a ton of work but this is my plan and I am very motivated and dedicated to learn.

In the Next Article

In the next article I’ll continue regaling you with my successes and challenges with learning to code. I know this journey will be fraught with danger and intrigue; OR me getting frustrated and drinking more coffee. Either way I will continue to tell my story and hopefully have a minimum viable product (MVP) for people to use when it’s all said and done.

A Word About WordPress

I wanted to create a blog, but I didn’t want hire someone full time to develop and maintain it for me. I needed a template and a solid CMS platform. What better platform to use than WordPress? But I didn’t know WordPress. Oh what to do? *SQUIRREL* and then Team Treehouse, which offers a track for maintaining a WordPress site.

There are a few things I wanted to share about WordPress.

First, I was amazed at how easy it was to get the platform loaded and launched. I was happy to see the “Hello World!” message on the new site.

Second, once I bought my theme from Themeforest it was even easier to install and make live.

Lastly, I would also like to note to all of my fellow newbie bloggers out there, when searching for a theme be sure it is mobile-friendly, responsive, and loads FAST.

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