My dream to work towards civic efficiency using the power of technology seems to be slowly dying and crumbling at every attempt to download ruby. Initially, I battled with font-size on Codeacademy.com and now I am waging an all out war with the Ruby on Rails kit. For whatever reason, I am unable to download the updated version of Ruby. Like a good little student, I followed Mattan Griffel’s directions and downloaded the Ruby kit off railsinstaller. However, my issue is that my MacBook Pro only downloaded version 1.8.7 and the video stresseed the importance of version 1.9.3. I went on various other sites in attempt to download the up-to-date version; the directions on the WomenWhoCode forum led me to http://installfest.railsbridge.org/installfest/. I skipped the Rails kit option and attempted to download Ruby manually. Once again I am unable to move past step 1, Xcode apparently requires OS X version 10.7 or later and my Mac is OS X version 10.6.8– so annoying.
So what am I to do—I turn to Google. I Google “download Xcode on OS X 10.6.8.” The Mac support took me to a site with a list of different development updates—it was all so very confusing. I made a valiant attempt to download Xcode 4.2 but it popped up as a four hour download. At that point, I had already experienced angst for the last six hours and chose not to sacrifice another four. So here I am sitting on a Sunday night, feeling as if I am the ONLY person unable to download Ruby (there are about 408 projects up on Mattan Griffel’s course) and thus feeling quite defeated. I am banking on finding help at Tuesday’s WomenWhoCode meetup.So far, programming: 2 Nabihah: -5. Slowly realizing this whole programming thing is going to be an uphill battle…or war. But rest assured, I will win this war and become a woman who codes.
Week one of my new programming hobby proved quite challenging, primarily because of a minor issue I’m still unable to find a solution for. After a two-day binge of Codecademy and my excitement in learning to program, the novelty wore off and the adventures of picking up HTML again began (I say “again” because I use to customize websites in 7th grade so I could create “dollz” with HTML, and that’s how I first picked it up). Though mundane to many, I found the process of learning to create ordered and unordered lists to be rather thrilling. Unfortunately, the excitement was short lived as I entered into HMTL Basics II. HTML Basics II was the sole frustration for an entire 48 hours. I had the assumption that font-size and font-color would be a bit more manageable but was quickly proved wrong. Each font-size exercise was met with a vexing size error; when asked to create font size 8, the error informed me that my size was 7.57832942384982, or some number extremely close. When asked to create font size 15, the error informed me that my size was 14.58493423. This error occurred repeatedly with every font size. I tried every variation to configure the code. I Googled tirelessly searching for a solution, and I sent a screenshot of the issue to people in desperation. Finally, with no solution at hand and impaired in frustration, I decided to stop programming for a day. Here’s the screenshot of my issue:
This minor road block proved to be a blessing in disguise. I couldn’t stop reading about programming and how it can be used to solve problems and create useful things. This led to discovering an entire sector called civic technology. I was stoked about my new discovery, all these different companies and an entire market where my passion for policy and government collides with my new found interest in programming. I knew I needed to know more, learn more, and discover more about this whole new world.
From what I have seen in Oakland and read on the web, civic technology seems to be a market in which companies partner with city governments to improve efficiency and civic life. That definition is incredibly vague, but in Oakland, civic technology was engaged with an Open Data Day hackathon, where developers, activists, and government employees spent a day “hacking” to find innovative ways to make information accessible. I am a believer of this movement that is Civic Technology, but the more I read the Code for America vision, the more I could not stop questioning the sustainability of this government-tech sector partnership. During strained budget quarters (which seems to be every quarter), will city governments, notorious for slow technology (my computer, an HP, looks like an ancient device that belongs in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View), continuously shell out money for update/efficient technology? Clearly, this is a very superficial inquiry of civic technology and perhaps I need to do more research, but we will see how this all pans out. As for now I will keep googling to learn more about this world of programming and continue to work on Codecademy. I will say though, that I am really glad Mattan Griffel’s class starts tomorrow because I’m extremely frustrated with Codecadamy right now.
Government girl goes geek.. well kind of. But that’s the name of my new blog. This is the beginning of my 30 (or more) day challenge, where I take my previous code knowledge, which is basically nothing, and learn a whole new skill. This is where I’ll chronicle my ups, downs, frustrations, and wins as I embark on this new hobby.
Like many other 20-somethings, my desire in life is to do what I’m passionate about. For me, that’s city planning, and working for the Housing Department in a major city. In the meantime, between my current full-time government position, volunteer work, and trying to live life, I decided to learn how to code. Programming first piqued my interest when Code for America (the peace corp for geeks) recently launched their partnership with Oakland. And following Jennifer Pahlka (the CEO of Code for America), on Twitter, has been incredibly inspiring. But what really pushed me to do something about this interest was the recent viral marketing video from code.org featuring Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, and will.i.am. Code, or, programming, has always been incredibly intimidating to me – as if it was only for nerds, which I’m clearly not (I wish I was a nerd). I had this assumption that you had to be an expert or go to school to code. But that video told the stories of all of these successful people that didn’t initially get formal training – they just, picked it up. And that’s when programming became less intimidating, and more accessible, to me.
The code.org video was so inspiring, that I knew I had to do something about this interest to learn how to code – so I turned to my friend, Google. The problem was that the internet has an overwhelming amount of information – should I check out code.org? Or codecademy.com? What about Skillshare? Or Khanacademy? Perhaps Coursera – the list goes on and on. I started somewhat blindly by googling websites people have referred to me. After extensively researching (read: scanning the homepage of each site while browsing Facebook) each of the sites listed, I decided to use codeacademy.com. It seemed the most user friendly for someone who has very little experience programming. I also signed up for “Teach Yourself to Code: One Month Rails” by Mattan Griffel on Skillshare. I’ll document my experience learning to program, so wish me luck as I embark on this journey and attempt to use my government and programming knowledge to change the world (yes I know, overambitious)!