Contact Forms with PHP

I’m in the middle of the WordPress Development track on Treehouse and so excited to get a proper introduction to PHP.  I had started the PHP track on Codecademy, but stopped mid-stream to switch to the Javascript module I’m currently in on that site.

PHP is my first introduction to a server-side language and luckily for me the syntax makes sense, so far at least.  That is one benefit of having already completed the Web Design and Front-end Development tracks on Treehouse.

I had always wondered how an HTML document “sent” its information to a server and luckily for me I learned how when we recently covered adding a contact form to the t-shirt shop website we are building.

The proverbial light went off and another small part of the front-end suddenly made sense to me.

I covered forms while learning HTML, but seeing how a small HTML snippet made up of label tags, input types, names and id’s could connect to a PHP snippet that Posts that name information filled in some huge blanks in my code knowledge.

Sorry if my code example is janky, I promise to get on Codepen this week and start showing some classy code examples.

Nonetheless, seeing how plain, old HTML “connects” with PHP really got the gears moving for me and made me even more exited to keep building on top of the HTML, CSS and Javascript knowledge I’ve accrued so far.

It’s great when one language you are familiar with gets built upon or connected to another you are just learning.  It reminded of how I felt when I learned that classes and id’s from CSS could be used in jQuery.

I know I have a ton more to learn, but little achievements and connections like these really make learning to code exciting every day.


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.



Resistance is Futile

I read a great book a couple of years ago called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  In it he talks about Resistance.  He defines Resistance as anything that keeps us from achieving our dreams.

The beauty of his argument is that Resistance is not an exterior force, but all the thoughts, emotions and millions of excuses that we create ourselves that keep us from achieving our goals.

I thought about this book recently because I can feel the Resistance building in me when it comes to my learning to code journey.  I know enough HTML/CSS, web design best practices and even Javascript that I could technically build a website.  I’m not talking about a massive responsive design behemoth, but rather a small multi-page site that I would be proud of.

But I haven’t.

And I like to think that I have so much more to learn (I do) and with all my work, family and social commitments I can’t squeeze the time out of an already hectic schedule.

The reality is though that I’m afraid to build something and have it look amateur.  The truth is I am an amateur and until I build things (and break them?  No, I’ll leave that to FB), I will be doing myself a disservice by learning all these great skills and letting them atrophy and wither away.

I’ve learned three cool things in the last ten years.  Golf, poker and Crossfit.  All very different and all opened up new and exciting worlds to me.  But I wouldn’t have learned anything about any of them if I didn’t try.

A golfer who doesn’t golf isn’t a golfer.  And a coder who doesn’t code is what, a project manager?  Kidding.

So along with my regularly scheduled Treehouse and Codecademy lessons, and my reading sessions and my late night surfing of Medium, Zite and Feedly, I need to make the time to build.

A goal without a date is a dream and another chance for Resistance to win.  So by the end of this month (July 2014) I will have my personal site at up and ready to show off.

It’s time to Build!  Resistance is futile and I won’t let it or me stand in the way anymore.

Learning to Code Journey

The first of July 2014 is an appropriate time as any for an update on my coding journey.

I’ve finished two tracks on Treehouse, Web Design and Front-end Web Development.  I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time the only way to properly describe it is using the following metaphor (or is it an analogy/simile/oh, who cares…) – I’ve come a 100 miles in the last month and a thousand in the last six months, but I know now I have a million miles to go.

I’ve started the WordPress Development track which means I finally started looking at some server-side language in PHP.

The absolutely amazing thing is seeing how HTML, CSS and Javascript fit together.  Then you throw in some Sass, along with jQuery and you start going.  But wait, there is more.  How about working from the command line and getting your Git on.  And then boom here comes PHP to build it out.

I’ve decided that my big picture learning plan will combing front-end (HTML/CSS/Javascript/jQuery) and WordPress in the middle (which I’m doing right now and will help me with some other blogs I manage) and close out with back-end stuff in PHP, Ruby (Rails), Python and touch on some MySQL and API work.

I know I should focus, but I’m a generalist in life and I figure why not shoot for that full-stack unicorn status. Maybe one bed will be too lumpy, but I have to sleep in it first to find out.

The main driver is just the wealth of resources available on Treehouse, Codecademy and the internet.  Google is indeed my friend.  I will consume everything they have to offer first and see what speaks to that little programmer in my head who whispers for loops in my head like “You can and will do this”.

The reader paying close attention will notice I left out mobile (Swift, anyone?).  I think I’ll get there, but I have so much to learn that I’m taking the tortoise approach and hoping slow and steady will win the race.

I also need to start building stuff, using Codepen and Github to show it off.  I won’t be that life-long learner that consumes knowledge, but doesn’t do anything worthwhile with it.  And the whole purpose of this exercise is to make a career pivot and that means building up my portfolio.

Finally, getting a feel for the rhythm of coding and seeing how the languages work together has been amazing.  Wait, I can use classes and id’s in jQuery???  Mind = blown.

At the same time I want to leave a learning road map behind me so anyone who wakes up one day at 40 (or 20, 30, any age really) might not make the mistakes I made and go down the wrong alleys I did as I create this part of my life.

And now, a story.  I played in a poker tournament once when I first started learning how to play cards and I won the thing.  The funny part is years later after I learned the “right” way to play poker I realized I would have never played the way I did in that first tournament.

I had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner and this site and these posts will be my breadcrumbs to not only those that come after me, but to my future, wise programmer self on what it took to learn a valuable skill with life happening all around me.

Speaking of life happening, the baby is crying, gotta go…



Learning to Code – 4/12/14

I finished the HTML piece of my Web Design track last Friday.  So long @nickrp, you will be missed.  Treehouse is my defacto training source currently, as I’ve been away from Codecademy for a few weeks now.  I think the short (5-10 minute) videos on Treehouse, along with the quizzes and objective challenges are great for those short bursts of time where I can focus, complete something and then move on.

I continue building my library of coding books, technology books, design books and business narratives.  I finished 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know last week.  I’ll try do to at least a short review of every book I read.  97 Things seemed more geared toward an experienced programmer, but as part of my immersion program I’ll read everything and anything I can get my hands on.

I’m going to try to build out my lesson plan section of this site to include all the websites, tutorials, books, podcasts and whatever else I’m finding useful on my coding journey.  I know personally that there is so much material out there that just knowing where to jump in is a big decision itself.  I want to make that decision easier for others.

Finally, I heard a great interview on Dann Berg’s Novice No Longer Podcast with Steve Young (no, not that Steve Young sports fans) from Mobile App Chat.  Steve talked about wanting to start a podcast for a long time, but it wasn’t until he just booked a guest that he figured out what he had to do to actually record a podcast.  I loved that he just jumped in and it was either sink or swim.

He also talked about going from someone with a passion for a subject to an expert just by hanging out and interviewing other experts in the field.  I have no designs to start a podcast, but that mindset can be helpful in so many ways when we are trying to go from beginner to pro.

That’s it for now.  I’ll try to post more, even if they are shorter updates.  

My coding journey continues and I wish you all the best on yours.

Learning to Code – 3/25/14

So I’m a few weeks into my coding journey and here is my latest update:


  • Codecademy and Treehouse are great resources and their material, and especially their different methods of teaching, are proving useful and have kept me interested.
  • I’ve been listening to great podcasts that have helped with my immersion program.  The deep technical conversations lose me, but overall they are worth the effort.  The biggest take away has been the realization that although coders are capable of amazing things, they are still people like me.  Hearing Mark Otto of Bootstrap fame tell Jeffrey Zeldman that he feels intimidated by Javascript (or something to that affect) actually made my day.  Maybe my week.
  • I’m reading great books on coding, which I will add to my Lesson Plan page, and the few times when I read something and have not only heard of it before, but understand it, is such a great feeling.


  • There have been more days than I’m comfortable with when I haven’t done any studying.  The Treehouse blog had a post recently where they talked about keys to remembering the code you are learning.  I kept thinking you have to learn it first before you worry about forgetting it.  What I keep in mind is with a full-time job, a six-month old at home and other responsibilities, there will be days when I can’t stick to my learning plan.  I just need to remember we find time for those things we value, and I value learning how to code.
  • I used a great video from Dash that walked me through setting up a website on Bit Balloon just by dragging your site files over.  I used it to build my Mom’s retirement party site, but I haven’t cleaned it up enough to share it with others.  I keep waiting for this mythical block of a few hours to show up so I can sit down and totally focus on it.  I just need to work on it in bits and pieces and ship it already.
  • HTML and CSS are making sense.  Javascript I understand after clicking the help button on Codecademy, but I need to stop using that crutch.
  • I want to blog everyday about my journey, and I would if I accepted the fact that every post doesn’t have to be a world-altering manifesto.  I love reading about other’s journeys in learning to code and that is what I need to remember.  It is the journey that counts and it is my journey that could have value to those that come after me.