Welcome to “Can’t Code”

February 10th, 2014 by Search Influence Alumni

Lessons, Musings, and Complaints about Digital Technology

I started working at Search Influence a few months ago. Before that, I had a lot of web design experience, but all of it was very informal and self-taught. Due to budget cuts at the University of New Orleans, my graduate department asked me to volunteer as their “web guy” when they were unable to afford a real administrator. This meant that I had to do some very quick, ad-hoc studying in order to fulfill this role. Up to that point, I’d learned a lot about the most basic architectural features of the internet, like HTML and CSS, but it took a lot of research before I could make sense of the web’s more sophisticated components. At the time, PHP, Javascript, the infamous WordPress “Loop,” and other institutions of cyberspace appeared to me like confusing, mystical clouds of information.

Image of Indonesian Students Using a Laptop

I felt simultaneously intimidated by these topics and ashamed to inquire about them because I felt I should already know the answers. Finally, out of necessity, I set aside my ego and asked my more well-informed peers to share their skills with me, a request that was, of course, met with enthusiasm. The process of learning these skills was still challenging, but being open and honest about my ignorance was my shortest path to success (think I saw that on a poster somewhere).

That experience made me reflect on the “digital divide.” Even as someone who was raised on computers, I struggled to understand how people operated behind the point-and-click Windows interface that I grew up on. I could only imagine how difficult this same endeavor would be for, say, my grandparents, or my childhood friends whose families were too poor to have a Nintendo, much less a laptop. Even though digital technology has permeated some of the hardest-reached socioeconomic crevices of our society, the standards of what constitutes “literacy” in a rapidly evolving economy is a moving mark. While many people are becoming comfortable with the Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) created to help them interact with digital information, knowing a little code helps to fully participate in and understand the digital spaces of our lives.

What Now?

Image of binary data

Beginning with this post, I’d like to share what I’m learning as a Junior Web Developer at Search Influence, in the hopes that others with a low to moderate level of computer literacy may learn something. Future posts will appear monthly on the Search Influence blog and cover various facets of the digital technologies that I use to complete my daily tasks. Some posts will describe what these technologies are used for, some will provide a tutorial on how to use them yourself, and others may simply give commentary on the history and social implications of these technologies.

Next month, I plan on covering the very basics: ones and zeros. We commonly see long strings of 1’s and 0’s in the popular media that are meant to represent some form of digital information. But where does this code come from, and why is it used?


Stay tuned for the answers next month! And for any code questions you want answered, comment below.