One Book to Rule Them All

You would think that with all the resources online to learn how to code it would be hard to find a book that could compete with the immersive experience that the web offers.

And you would be wrong.

If any newcomer wanted to learn HTML and CSS  and they asked me where they should start, I would point them to a handful of online resources (Hello Treehouse, Codecademy, Shay Howe and Dash).

I would also include a book.  Yes, a book.

Jon Duckett’s HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites is unlike any other book I’ve read on HTML and CSS.

It is beautifully laid out, presents information at an even pace and makes use of colors, typography, layout and all the attributes that HTML and CSS make possible on the web to make learning front-end skills a pleasure.  And it’s a book.

But wait, there’s more…

Mr. Duckett just released his next book that covers Javascript and jQuery.

Which means once you get your HTML and CSS ninja skills you can jump to Javascript and jQuery and make your beautiful sites truly interactive.

I just received my copy today and I’ll be sure to share a review once I finish it.  Stay tuned.


Learning to Code – Inspiration

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

-Jim Rohn

Sometimes all the fire and motivation in my learning to code journey seems to ebb.  It could be a long night taking care of our 9 month old son, it could be a rough day at the office or it could be just one of those days when I have a case of the Mondays (HT Office Space).

When I hit those rough patches it helps to take a quick break and find some coding inspiration.

If you are like me it just feels good to read about other people who were once in your position who learned how to code and are finding success in the industry.

Below are three links that I think will help anyone dream of better days and get back to the business of changing their life through learning how to code.

1.  Riley Hilliard – How I Learned to Code in 10 Months

I don’t remember how I came across Riley’s site, but his detailed explanation of how he learned to code is always motivating to me.  He talks like someone who cares about the success of others and is using his knowledge and skills to help those who are coming after him.  I’ve never met the guy, but I consider him an inspiration and role model.

2.  Joshua Kemp – How a Blacksmith Learned to Code

Imagine getting kicked by a horse and 9 months later getting a junior developer job.  Joshua Kemp did it and his story is not only inspiring, but full of helpful hints for those focusing on Ruby and Ruby on Rails.  Reading his blog almost makes me want to change my learning plan and jump ahead to Ruby.  Almost.

3.  Codecademy – Codecademy Stories

When I first found this page on Codecademy’s site I spent the time to read every single story.  Reading about people just like me who changed their lives by learning to code motivates me every single time.  I’ve also gotten into the habit of following other learning sites RSS feeds just so I can read stories like these.  I recommend you do the same so that when you need that burst of motivation you know where to look.

Those are just three of the sites I go to when I need some inspiration in my learning to code journey.  I plan on creating an Inspiration/Motivation page on my site so others can have a place to come when the motivation engine is running low on fuel.

In the meantime code on and if I can help in any way just reach out to me here or on Twitter at @feardatree.



Popping a Wheelie

One of my favorite podcasts is Reuben Ingber’s How to Hold a Pencil.  He continues to deliver interesting interviews with web designers and developers with a focus on how they got started and how they learned the skills they have today.

I highly recommend it to my fellow coding beginners.

I was listening to his latest episode with Aubrey Johnson and heard them talk about an issue I faced when I began learning how to code.  And still do to some extent.

Aubrey called it a “Pop a Wheelie” moment.  He went on to explain that when he was so excited to learn to code and his motivation was at its highest the problem with the resources he was using was they showed you the basics of how to ride a bike – whichis boring if not terrifying in my opinion – when they need to show you how to pop a wheelie.

I couldn’t agree more.

Software is eating the world and there is a huge gap between what companies need (more programmers) and what those learning to code need (some inspiration) and if we solve the second problem we just might start solving the first.

I’m not arguing that every new student of code needs to think they are the next internet hero, but if code is beautiful beginners need to see how that beauty can come from them if they learn the skills to master it.

The wheelie might not get us through the dark times (and here I equate dark times to searching for that missing ; or ? or / or #), but it would help stoking that passion when it is most needed – in the beginning of our journey.

I’m still trying to learn to ride the coding bike, but I know I have a few wheelies in me and I think Threehouse and Codecademy and CodeSchool and Skillshare and all the rest would be well served to remember that a small push in the beginning can pay huge dividends down the road.  For them and their wheeling-searching students.


Learn to Code HTML & CSS

One issue I had when I first started learning how to code was where to begin.

To hear the old-timers tell it back in their day you didn’t have all these free resources and learning videos and electricity like we do now.

That may or may not be true, but having too many resources can deliver a set of problems just as frustrating as having too few.

In order to deliver some value to my millions of readers I’ll cover some of the resources that I’ve found the most helpful in my coding journey.

Your situation may be 180 degrees different from mine, but having limited time and money is a universal problem and these free and/or low-cost resources are perfect for those bootstrapping their own coding education.

One great resource I came across when I first started learning to code was Shay Howe’s Learn to Code HTML & CSS online tutorial.  I’m such an old-timer myself that when I read the lessons (they are all in text format) there were 10 lessons.  He has since added 2 new lessons for a total of 12.

The lessons are quick reads on different topics in HTML and CSS and are perfect to read during a work break or lunch hour.  And he includes helpful links at the end of every lesson for further study.

Once you finish the beginner module there is another module of 10 lessons on advanced HTML & CSS in Learn to Code Advanced HTML & CSS.

I just started this module but expect more great content from Shay.  I see he wrote a book as well called “Learn to Code HTML & CSS”.  That is what makes this community so great.  He has already delivered a ton of free, useful content and knowing his lessons are so beneficial makes me want to buy his book even more.

You can’t go wrong with reading these tutorials and they won’t cost you a dime other than a half hour here and there.

My learning style is to immerse myself in whatever skill I am learning and Shay’s HTML & CSS tutorials are a perfect fit as I began to make sense of the nuances in HTML and CSS.

Before you shell out any money for books, videos or any kind of learning technologies go old school and read the great content Shay has delivered.  You will not be disappointed.




Paralysis by Analysis

There is just so much out there these days when it comes to learning to code.  I keep hearing there is a shortage of programmers, but you wouldn’t think that with all the resources being built and advertised to teach anyone to code.

I will build a “Resources” page with this blog because others who come after me might find it helpful.

And I love organizing information.  I mean love it.  Give me a mess and all I see is all the fun I will have organizing it.  No joke.

Just since yesterday’s post here is what I have come across:

1.  Dash – learn to make websites with HTML/CSS/JavaScript (HT How to Hold a Pencil podcast)

2.  Again from HtHaP, Jennifer Dewalt built 180 websites in 180 days.  Wow!  She blogs about it here.  Can’t wait to dive in to that.

3.  I asked Reuben Ingber from HtHaP about other useful podcasts and almost immediately he gave me a few, including Novice No Longer.  Listened to the first podcast and it looks perfect for someone who wants to build their own app.  Which of course I do, along with 10 other things.  And thank you to Reuben for continuing to be awesome.

4.  I’m a big reader so I’ve started compiling a list of books to read.  One that caught my attention and held it after I read the introduction was “Learn to Program” by Chris Pine.  May have to swing by B&N on the way home.

5. is a cool looking realtime HTML/CSS editor.  Nathan Bashaw is the proud creator of it.  Another HtHaP interview btw.  Seriously, if you are starting out like me, listen to this podcast.

So yes, I will not want for information in my coding quest, but I need to decide on something and commit to it.

Front-end, back-end, what do I want to build, etc. etc.  I think I’m going to finish up Codecademy (PHP and JavaScript) and then pick one program and stick with it.  In the meantime I’ll continue my research to make sure my time and money is well spent.

I know after picking up golf and poker over the years I get addicted to learning, I just want to make sure I learn the “right” stuff at the right time.

More to come.

Where I’m At

Here is the Cliff Notes of my coding journey so far:

About six months ago I started at Codecademy.  I did the HTML/CSS tutorials and started PHP (because my blog is on WordPress).

And then my son was born in September 2013.  That is a whole other story, and probably a whole other blog.

So I’m finally getting into the swing of work, baby duty and husband duty.  My wife is amazing and so far we have been lucky enough to have her stay home with the baby.

But a few things happened that have brought me to this point:

1.  I wanted my blog at to look cool…

2.  So I read “HTML for Dummies”…

3.  Which helped and allowed me to make some basic changes to my posts and pages, but I realized I needed some CSS education.  I like the way Codecademy says if HTML is the bones than CSS is the skin of a website.

4.  Codecademy helped, but I didn’t learn how to take the limited HTML/CSS knowledge I had and actually change my blog.  In other words, what the heck is an editor?  I’m still working on this btw and have started reading WordPress for Dummies.

5.  I discovered WordPress (which my blog is built on) uses PHP, so I started the PHP tutorial on Codecademy.  But the baby came and coding was the last thing on my mind.

6.  So I’m at work one day recently and I get my daily email from Very Short List.  And one of the links is to How to Hold a Pencil.  I forget why I clicked it, I think it was something about a guy who built his own app after he taught himself to code.

7.  Eureka!  The saying is when the student is ready the master will appear.  So I download one podcast and another and another.  These people are doing what I want to do.  Reuben Ingber, I don’t know if you drink, but if we every meet, I’m buying you a beer.

8.  So one of the podcasts is with Natasha the Robot.  She is amazing.  I went home that night and bought her e-book.  And I reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads.  Loved it!  She makes you feel like learning to code is worth the sacrifice and can be done by mere mortals.

9.  The latest podcast on How to Hold a Pencil is with Mattan Griffel, founder of One Month Rails.  I’m thinking I may sign up for the course, although I’m still researching options and haven’t decided just yet.

10.  I also read Josh Kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours and one of the skills he teaches himself is programming and the language he chose is Ruby.

And finally, as I mentioned in my About G page, I had a relative tell me that learning to code was near impossible if I didn’t study computer science in college.

I’m learning to code for myself and my family’s future, but that comment really stuck with me and just made me burn.  Still does actually.

It may take even longer than I think with all my responsibilities (I’m thinking 2-3 years easy), but I’ll see that relative someday and we will have a much different conversation.