Review — Coding Javascript

I was telling a friend of mine yesterday how much it bothered me that I don’t know the first thing about coding. My knowledge of math, English, science, and everything everybody needs to know is usually pretty solid. But, as both a writer and an improvisational actor, it isn’t enough. Those occupations require one to know a moderate amount of everything. I couldn’t write about a nerd, or play one in a scene, without knowing (or at least sounding like I know) how to code.

So, that friend recommended a website to me. I’ll link it at the bottom, but essentially they are free lessons on how to write in the more essential coding languages. The lessons obviously start very basic, and in fact the script I was working with didn’t really even start to look like code until I had been going through the lessons for an hour or two.

So far I’ve got the basic workings down, and right now I’m still working on how to write more complicated functions. I’ve made an “adventure game” (which was actually just a few text blurbs based on if/then statements), and the next lesson is for me to make a Rock, Paper, Scissors game. While it is fun and interesting to create, there’s a lot of information that needs to go into your brain in order to make that happen, so I’m not really enjoying it.

The thing that I like the most about learning Javascript is the enjoyment I get from knowledge. As an actor, I could probably fool somebody at this point into thinking I know how to code by using the correct words in the right places (though of course this won’t fool anyone that actually knows what they’re doing) but it satisfies me. I like learning for its own sake, but it needs to yield measurable results. I like learning because it means I gain the ability to take something and use it in a way I couldn’t have before, and I’ve crossed that threshold several times already.

The worst part about learning coding (especially self-taught, as I’m doing) is that when something goes wrong it can be very difficult to tell why things went wrong. The website I’m using does a good job of reminding me of simple errors, but its frustrating with coding because if one single character is out of place anywhere in the line of text, the whole thing doesn’t work right, because the computer can’t adapt to infer what the information means, it just reads it literally and returns what you gave it.

This translates to me staring at a wall of text for five minutes reading my code over and over again trying to find what I did wrong only to figure out I left out a simple semicolon somewhere, or just made a typo. The computer doesn’t tell you why what you did is wrong or where you messed up. It’s like on a math test when the professor gives you a zero on a problem when you come to the wrong answer even though the only thing you did was drop a negative sign. Technically, yes, the answer is wrong because the values aren’t equivalent, but the reasoning is still (mostly) correct. Tough luck.

I feel like once I put several more hours into learning this I could actually start to do my own thing without help, and maybe then I can enjoy the actual coding part, but for now the only fun I get out of it is learning how the things work in the first place.

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