Edit ModuleShow Tags

Written in Code

Twenty-three-year-old Zach Sims could very well be changing the future of the Internet (eat your heart out Al Gore) by putting the power of its evolution into the hands of the masses



(page 3 of 3)

The Colbert Effect

Inevitably, success paints a target on one’s hide. Message board snipers, mainly career programmers, charge that you can learn only rudimentary stuff on Codecademy, and thus its main effect will be to inundate the field with poor to middling programmers. (But nearly everyone concedes the lucidity of the site, which guides you through lessons via a series of prompts and tells you when you’ve gone astray: “Oops, try again.”) Others argue that most people have no more need to write code than they do to throw a pot or build a toaster. A programmer named Chase Felker wrote on Slate, “The fact is that no matter how pervasive a technology is, we don’t need to understand how it works—our society divides its labor so that everyone can use things without going to the trouble of making them.”

The media theorist Douglas Rushkoff rejects the case for programming ignorance. Rushkoff, the author of Cyberia and Present Shock, was a Codecademy admirer who later joined its team as a code literacy “evangelist.” “I’m not asking that people know how to open a computer and fix it,” he explains by e-mail. “[But] we are spending an increasing amount of our work and personal lives on digital platforms. We owe it to ourselves to know something about how these platforms work, how they are biased, who owns them, and what they are for. Otherwise, we end up at the mercy of those who do understand these places. It’s the difference between a driver and a passenger. If you don’t know how to drive, you have to trust the driver to take you where you say you want to go.”

But aren’t the drivers trustworthy? On the contrary, Rushkoff says, they’re often quite sneaky, and he’s not talking about the NSA. “Ask kids what Facebook is for, and they will tell you it’s to help them make friends. That’s not what it’s for. Go to the boardroom and you’ll find out what Facebook is for: It’s to monetize kids’ social graphs [the data trail they leave behind them].”

Rushkoff emphasizes kids because they’ll be living in a world far more digital than our own. But is Zach overstating the matter when he says that code will be “the literacy of the twenty-first century”? “Oh, it will be,” Rushkoff says. “That part is certain. What’s not certain is whether we will have a literate or an illiterate population. Chances are, when six Chinese kids hack Citibank, Americans will decide that code literacy might be a good idea.”

Code literacy has its bulls and its bears, but it’s the bulls who can expect to partake in the digital version of the American Dream. Codecademy has produced a number of them already—non-techies with good ideas. Michael Perry, of San Francisco, spent 126 hours on Codecademy, enabling him to build his app GVING, which helps merchants keep better track of their customers. “There’s dozens, or hundreds of stories like this,” Rushkoff says. Friends of his, inspired by the Occupy movement’s ability to collaborate and not break into bickering factions, wanted to build a web tool that helps groups reach consensus. “But they didn’t know any code, so they couldn’t build it. They went to Codecademy, learned to code, and now they’ve got a real, working, brilliant site—loomio.org,” Rushkoff says. “Codecademy isn’t doing this for people; it’s letting people do it for themselves. And that’s the signature achievement of the digital age itself.”

How Codecademy plans to make money is not entirely clear. Its site remains free and uncluttered by advertising. Zach himself is intentionally vague about financial matters—his sights are set on improving the product, and thus increasing its value. But he does speak of “connecting” Codecademy users with companies looking to make smart hires, so perhaps that will be its money-making role: as a farm system for a hungry tech industry. We’ll see. It’s all pretty early yet.

“Zach set out to do something that was going to make a difference,” says Jane, his mother. “That was his main thing.” The coverage Codecademy draws in serious media outlets, from Wired to The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal, intimates that he’s already begun to change the world. But to those who remember Zach as a college dropout, chasing after some pie-in-the-sky Internet dream, the true sign that he’d made it came last October 31, when he appeared as a guest on the Colbert Report.

“Some of my friends from high school and college finally think that what I’m doing is legitimate,” Zach says with a cautious smile. “I’ve been legitimized by Stephen Colbert.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

 

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Greenwich Agenda

  • Native American Heritage Month

    2014.11.23
     @ Bruce Museum of Arts and Science

    November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Bruce Museum will celebrate with a special Family Day dedicated to Native American traditions...

  • The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Junior League of Greenwich presents 2014 Enchanted Forest! Holiday Boutiques Gingerbeard Workshops Santa's Breakfast...

  • Junior League of Greenwich The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    The Junior League of Greenwich (JLG) will host its annual holiday fundraiser, The Enchanted Forest on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Holiday Craft Sale

    2014.11.22
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    Annual Holiday Craft Sale in Old Greenwich, Nov. 22 and 23 The Annual Holiday Craft Sale at First Congregational Church of Greenwich is a great...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    "IN FOCUS" OPENING RECEPTION -  Thursday October 30, 2014 6-8pm. "IN FOCUS"features seven artists' visions in...

  • Antarctica: Photographs by Diane Tuft

    2014.10.28
     @ Bruce Museum

    October 28, 2014 - February 1, 2015 Selections from Gondwana, Images of an Ancient Land Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT...

  • Exhibition: Northern Baroque Splendor

    2014.09.20
     @ Bruce Museum

    Northern Baroque Splendor. The HOHENBUCHAU COLLECTION from: LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vienna September 20, 2014 - April 12, 2015...

  • "Paper & Stone" an exhibition by Ellen Gordon & Sary Backer at the Loft Artists Gallery

    2014.11.01
     @ Loft Artists Gallery

    Paper and Stone” An exhibition by Sary Backer & Ellen Gordon November 1 - November 30th Artists’ reception: November 8th from 4 – 6 PM...

  • Exhibition: Native American Pottery from the Bruce Museum Collection

    2014.11.22
     @ Bruce Museum

      Generously underwritten by Gabelli Funds and The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund Over the years, the Bruce Museum has...

  • The Best of 2014: Cecile Chong, David, Ruth Hiller, David Licata, Loanne Mattera, Jill Parisi, Kristen Thiele

    2014.11.08
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY I Dates: November 8 – December 22, 2014     Opening Reception: November 8, 6:30 – 8:00 PM Public Invited THE BEST OF 2014:  Cecile...

  • Family Gallery Tours

    2014.10.26
     @ Bruce Museum

    Designed for children ages 6-10 and their families, these tours will provide an interactive, discussion-based tour of the museum’s current...

  • 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival & Santa’s Workshop

    2014.11.28

    Santa and his LIVE reindeer - Dancer, Dasher, Prancer and Blitzen, are coming back to town for the 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival &...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Christmas Tree and Wreath Sale for Charity

    2014.11.29
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    O, Christmas Tree; O Christmas Tree Buy your tree and help those in need this Christmas! It’s time for the annual Christmas Tree and...

  • Tuesday Toddler Tours

    2014.11.04
     @ Bruce Museum

    Children ages 3-5 and their adult caregivers are encouraged to come explore the Museum’s collections and exhibitions through picture books...

  • Greenwich Gives

    2014.12.02
     @ Greenwich Avenue

    Looking for a fun way to complete your holiday shopping and give back to your community?    On December 2, 2014, local non-profits...

  • Holiday WOW At Your Front Door!

    2014.12.02
     @ Garden Education Center of Greenwich

    Beautify your entrance way with luscious holiday evergreens, berries, pinecones and more, sure to last throughout the dreary winter...

  • Exercise as Treatment for Chronic Pain

    2014.12.02
     @ Noble Conference Room Greenwich Hospital

    Presented by Greenwich Hospital and Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery Specialists Exercise as Treatment for Chronic Pain Tuesday, 12/2/14 at...

  • Israeli Film Series | Bethlehem

    2014.12.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    Join us throughout the year for award-winning films direct from Israel that will show you Israel through the lens of a movie camera. Following each...


Show More...
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular Articles

  1. Greenwich Hospital Venezia Gala
    Greenwich Country Club
  2. BCA Annual Luncheon + Fashion Show
    Hyatt Regency Greenwich
  3. Greenwich Happy Hours
    6 places to go in Greenwich for Happy Hour
  4. Greenwich Restaurant Week Opening Night Kick-off Party
    Miller Motorcars
  5. AmeriCares Airlift Benefit
    Westchester County Airport