You May Be Illiterate If You Can't Program

There was a time in our past when reading and writing were a luxury reserved only for the rich and the well-educated. Now, it is freely accepted that the ability to read and write is the rule, rather than the exception. Or at least it should be.


But there is a new movement afoot that is pushing the idea that literacy should also include the ability to program. ReadWriteWeb describes this concept in a great blog post. Proponents of programming as a measure of literacy explain that we are rapidly moving to a standard of interaction that rates the communications between man and machine and machine and machine at equal importance as communications between man and man. He or she who can master machine language will control two-thirds (or thereabouts) of the flow of information.


Others argue that it is more important to master fundamental communication before worrying about coding and mastering the ability to speak machine. In other words, learn to read, write, perform math, and hold a conversation, as the article quotes creator Jeff Atwood.


I think there are good reasons for embracing all forms of communication. Whether we measure a person’s literacy by their ability to code or whether we relegate coding to vocational status is largely irrelevant. If you want to maintain a degree of control over the new communication landscape that includes conversations with and between machines, then there is plenty of reason to learn to code. At the very least, perhaps we should view coding as another “foreign” language to be offered to young children in school, along with French, German, Spanish, Latin and English. At the very least, children should be given the opportunity and be encouraged to learn so that they can more readily engage in these machine-based conversations in meaningful, active ways rather than passively watch the end result flow by on their computer and smartphone screens. If the means and methods of communication are controlled by a small group of interpreters, then much of the conversation may be lost.


I started my love affair with computers learning how to code in Basic language. When I wanted to make changes to my web pages and blog, I taught myself enough HTML and CSS to get the job done. Why not? If you are interested in learning to code yourself, check out Codeacademy, a great project by a couple of guys who tired of the difficult process of learning to code. The site simplifies learning and makes coding fun.


Studio, +1

Back in March, 2011, Google trotted out its +1 button – a little widget that shows up next to your search results enabling you to “vote up” a particular result with the click. It is essentially another sharing button, but it comes with some strings – Google gains the ability to “tailor” your advertisements and results based on what you +1 (I see a new verb in the lexicon). In order to use and track them, you need to create a Google Profile, and your +1 saves will show on that profile, either publicly or privately. It isn’t a bad way to keep track of things you like, much like a Google bookmarking system, with benefits.

Now, Google is releasing the code to its +1 button and rolling the button out to major sites. Publishers can drop the code into their sites to make it even easier to mark down +1’s – if you click on a search result and view a page that you like, you can then hit the button there, instead of on the search results list. Check out the tutorial over at Mashable on how to add it to your site’s CSS / HTML editor. Or, you can do what I did on my self-hosted WordPress blog and add a plug-in that automatically adds the button to each post.

If you already have share buttons on your site, the +1 is a no-brainer. If you happen to garner a lot of +1’s, the number will show in the search results, which further impels your content in a viral direction. Like a universal recommendation icon for the Web. With these options, adding the button is easy, and encourages sharing, which, as they say, is caring. Hey – feel free to +1 this post, and click the little button at the top left!