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Designer Olivia Cheng and her Codecademy team's project Mars Watchtower was selected as a winner for Virtual Participation in the International Space Apps Challenge. We interviewed her to find out how the magic happened.
What led you to apply for the hackathon?
I saw it on Twitter and thought to myself, "Wow, it would be so awesome be involved in that" and then, "Well, why not?" I couldn't attend any of the physical hackathons, but I saw there was a virtual location option. Couldn't hurt to try!
How did you find your team?
I reached out to the Codeacademy group The Open Source Project to see if anyone would be interested, and got positive responses. I thought it would be a good fit since any project submitted to the Space Apps Challenge would be open source, and our team ended up with 5 members total.
What was it like to working together virtually?
I always planned on contributing to one of the GitHub projects started by the group, but I hadn't expected to work with other members in real-time—there's a big difference.
Because of the time zone difference, we took shifts coding—one of us about to sleep would fill the other people in on the progress and what tasks remained. There were hiccups, of course—occasionally someone would accidentally overwrite another person's code, and sometimes a whole page of code would get wiped if Cloud9 IDE crashed while saving (oops!).
Any advice for people who want to do a hackathon?
Plan well. Do as much planning as possible ahead of time or in early hours because you have limited time to do what you need to get done. If you're in a team, have a project manager to coordinate everyone's efforts. Collaborating online can be a lot harder than in person, especially when you can't just walk over to your teammate to quickly discuss something, so set up a workflow ahead of time.
We ended up using Workflowy for managing tasks and Cloud9 IDE for sharing code. Cloud9 IDE allowed us to write, edit and run our code with other team members simultaneously without the hassle of setting up individual local environments.
So... what's next?
I'll keep the project up on GitHub here so that team members (or anyone else) can continue to contribute. Although we didn't win any global awards, our work paid off—we were selected as one of four winners for Virtual Participation.
As for the Codecademy group, I've been talking with the leaders of The Open Source Project and there are some ideas floating around to kickstart some projects in a hackathon-style… so we'll see where that goes :)
This is a guest post by M.K. Carroll, Crochet Editor at Cooperative Press and Knit Edge magazine. Have something you'd like to share on our blog? Drop us a line.
It's a popular hobby, practiced by people all over the world. At its most basic, it's a loop of string and two pointy sticks. The loops can be combined in various ways to create a wide variety of things, from the practical and useful to the whimsical and just plain weird. In other words, knitting is a lot like coding.
*k2, p2, 2/2 LC; rep from *, end k2.
What you see above could be described as a line of knitting code: a set of instructions that you can use to execute a row of knitting. Combined with additional lines of code, these instructions (commonly referred to as a knitting pattern) can be used to create a recognizable item, such as a sweater or a pair of socks.
Knitting — like coding — gives you the freedom to create
You can buy a sweater ready-made with a lot less effort than it would take to knit one, but there are a lot of reasons why you might want to knit that sweater yourself, like having one that fits you perfectly. You could also spend a lot of time trying to find one to buy, or a lot of money getting someone else to design and knit it for you. Sometimes - like learning how to code - learning how to create is how you get exactly what you want.
One line at a time...
Knitters and other "yarncrafters" (like crocheters and weavers) understand what it means to build something one stitch (bit) at a time, and yarncrafting pattern designers (coders) know what it means to code, use an API, design, test, debug, and maintain the source code - even if they don't realize it yet. Daniella Nii says that:
"Just as in coding, attention to detail and syntax are crucial to a successful execution of a pattern (program). An overlooked parenthesis, comma or repeat can result in a piece of code that doesn't compile and will interrupt the flow of the program, possibly discovered when the next line of instructions will not work with what the knitter has on the needles."
Knitters know how to learn and "speak" a different language already, and learning how to code could mean being able to design and build the knitting app they want, without having to hope that someone else will. Not bad for something that starts with two sticks and some string!
Know how to knit? Learn how to code!
If you are a yarncrafter, you are already predisposed to learn how to code. Do you think it would be awesome to play a video game based on knitting? You can learn how to make one. Would you like to sell your crocheted mustaches on your own website? You can learn how to build a website and storefront too. Do you think PlaceKitten is an awesome API, but would be improved with yarn? You can learn how to use APIs to make the app that you want, instead of settling for an app designed for someone else.
Know how to code? Well...
If you are learning how to code and enjoying it, you may also enjoy learning how to knit, crochet, or spin. After all, if you want to build a website to look and function in just the right way for you, you may also be the kind of person who would want to knit a pair of Dalek patterned mittens that fit you perfectly.
Thanks to the yarncrafting coders LeTonBeau (on Ravelry.com), Daniela Nii (nikkisstudio on Ravelry.com), and Megan of stockinettezombies.com for volunteering to check my analogies and make sure they were accurate!
We're looking for a few good fellows to come join our team!
The Codecademy Fellowship gives curious college students the chance to spend one year as professional software engineers working at a startup driven to change how people learn.
This spring we've had the pleasure of having Bob & Louis with us. Learn what they have to say about the experience below!
Meet the Current Fellows
Louis, MIT '14
Bob, UIUC '14
Why were you interested in becoming a Codecademy Fellow?
Bob: It seemed like an incredible opportunity to work with a very talented team working on a great mission.
Louis: Gaining some practical industry experience that would apply some of the things I learned in school seemed like a great next step to shape my career.
What projects are you working on at Codecademy?
Louis: I am working on the interactive evaluation environment for languages like Python, Ruby and recently released PHP.
Bob: I've spent most of my time here building the new Learning Interface.
How has the fellowship met your expectations?
Louis: They have been more than met. My expectations were to work with smart and driven people on problems that challenged me and gave me the opportunity to learn.
Bob: Definitely. It's an incredible learning experience to ship code everyday at a fast paced startup like Codecademy.
What is the best part about living in New York?
Bob: The energy of the city really is undeniable. There's always something going on, new things to experience and learn.
Louis: It's been exciting to be part of the diverse and growing tech community in New York.
Any advice for future fellows?
Louis: Think about yourself and your education critically - what are you good at, where do you lack experience? The fellowship is an opportunity to learn things that you couldn’t learn in a classroom or internship.
Bob: Be very specific with your application. Show us your personality, emphasize what makes you unique.
Editor's note: This post is about our NYC Meetup. You can find a Codecademy meetup near you on our Meetup page! To get help hosting a meetup, reach out here.
Learning to code on your own can be tough.
That’s why each month we host meetups for people to come and learn together. This month we were lucky enough to have journalist and Code Year veteran David Bauer come and present.
David wanted to do something better with code than creating arrays of zoo animals; so he decided to create Instacurate to visualizes tweets using Twitter's API. (To learn how to use Twitter's API yourself, try out this course.)
After a brief Q&A we broke into groups to explore the questions the group most wondered about:
1. What language should I start with?
2. How do I get started coding on my own computer?
3. What should I make with what I’m learning?
If you can learn, you can teach, and this gave everyone an opportunity to help out. Bravo!
Until next time, happy coding!
Your profile page on Codecademy started as a list of the courses you had taken, but it quickly became overly complex as we expanded the variety of ways to interact with Codecademy and each other.
We've recently taken a step back and reworked your profile to better serve its most important purpose - to showcase who you are and what you've achieved on Codecademy.
Show who you are
We wanted to make your profile really easy to personalize. You can upload a photo, write about yourself, and share some basic information without leaving the page. To make it easier to share, you can access it at www
Show what you've accomplished
The old profile, like a report card, emphasized your progress - which courses you still had to do in a track. The new one highlights your accomplishments and contributions. At the moment, completing a track is the biggest accomplishment on Codecademy, so we show the tracks you've completed and are working on front and center.
And if you've created a course, everybody should know about it, so we spotlight the courses you've contributed.
Make it look good!
We've cleaned up and streamlined the new profile to make sure that people looking at it are able to get the important information they want. The visual style is also now consistent with the one first introduced in the new learning experience.
How can you get it?
You can opt in now, or wait until Monday at 4:30 PM EST, when we are going to switch it over to everyone. Let us know what you think about it and how we can make the profile best represent all your hard work and learning on Codecademy.
This is a guest post by our team of moderators. Special thanks to Michael Rochlin, Alex C, Alex J, Nick Edwards, Haley Higgins, Dustin Goodman, Daniel Seymour, boring12345, Giacomo Sorbi and Jacob Andersen. If you see them in the forums, be sure to say hello!
Hello fellow Codecademics!
As you may have noticed, there is a mysterious group of people who frequent the Q&A forums and have a little badge next to their names. We would like to explain who these moderators are and what they do.
Back when Codecademy was still in its infancy — before PHP and even before jQuery — we realized that the Q&A forums needed to be managed. Someone needed to be responsible for making sure the community maintained a friendly and helpful atmosphere. Codecademy staff were busy building the amazing site you all know and love, so they reached out to the community for help. The most active, eager, and helpful Codecademics were tasked with making Codecademy even better than it already was, and this small group became “moderators.” The site has since grown, and so has the need for moderators. We are now 20 moderators strong and growing.
So what exactly does a moderator do?
As the name suggests, we moderate the forums. Knowledge-hungry learners post hundreds of new questions and answers every day. It is our job to create a friendly learning environment by removing spam posts and looking out for disruptive users, especially those who use profanity, insults or are just plain mean. We also try to make sure that people are not simply posting working code, because we believe in learning by doing; which is a process that usually involves trial and error. We also sometimes step in to correct people’s posts and show users how to format code snippets.
Moderators are here to provide extra help and answer people’s questions. (In fact, this is what we spend the most time doing.) Each moderator has proven that they can be helpful in answering people’s questions, and we all try our best to provide as much help as we can, to as many people as we can. When you see the “moderator” badge next to our names, you can rely upon that answer to be correct.
Additionally, we are in close contact with the Codecademy staff, especially the Community tag-team of Linda and Karen. We let them know what is going on from a user’s perspective, as well as point out issues that we have noticed across the site. We help to brainstorm on ideas for the future, discuss user reaction to recent changes, and try to provide insight into how Codecademics think.
Here are a few (unofficial) stats about us:
- Number: 19 moderators plus Linda, Karen, Eric and Codecademy staff
- Countries of residence: USA, UK, Belgium, China, Germany, Israel, Italy, Kenya
- Languages spoken: Chinese, Dutch, American English, Texan English British English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
- Ages: in range(15,99)
- Programming Experience: Novice to expert
We are users passionate about fostering Codecademy’s vivid community.
We find it rewarding to contribute and share our knowledge.
We enjoy helping fellow users learn how to code – and learning from them.
But most of all, we’re Codecademics just like you!
After releasing our new coding interface, a number of users have had difficulty running code and loading exercises over the past week. I apologize for this. These issues are not related to the new interface, but instead are deeper issues with how we evaluate code submissions. I wanted to share the background of what is happening and what we are doing to build a stronger code evaluation platform going forward.
We ultimately found this approach to be too fragile to use in production, and last summer we launched the Python language track on top of a server-side code evaluation service that we call Codex. Codex was originally designed to run Python code in a secure environment. As we added new language tracks like Ruby and PHP, we began to push it to its limit.
When we designed the new interface, we built it to be more responsive. Unfortunately this strained Codex in ways it wasn't intended to be used, resulting in spotty performance. Making Codex more robust will let the new interface deliver on its promise.
What we're doing about it
Codex has gone through some significant growing pains as we've rapidly expanded both our user base and the ways we use the service.
We pushed a series of fixes to take it off life-support and are doubling down our investment in it as the backbone of our coding experience. We are refactoring core aspects of the service to handle much larger loads and adding support for multi-process environments (i.e. running mongodb, node.js, and redis together in a single app).
This will ensure that Codex is prepared to grow with users as they tackle an ever increasing variety of topics and technologies. Thank you for your patience, and we're excited to see what you build!
If you are experiencing these issues, please see our support article here.
Today, we're introducing an updated interface that makes learning to build something easier than ever.
Here's what you can expect:
An immersive experience
We've simplified the interface to let you focus on what matters: the lesson, your code, and what you're building.
A better feedback loop
It's easier to learn when you can see you're doing. For most screen resolutions, you can now always see a visual preview of any webpage you are coding, or a terminal output of your code.
A responsive layout
Our new layout fills your screen, making it easier to code on both a small laptop and a large monitor.
We're rolling out our updated interface to everyone over the next week. When it becomes available to you, you'll see a "Switch now" link at the top of any Codecademy course.
We can't wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!
Since the beginning of Codecademy, we've worked with the programming community to help them share knowledge. People posting tutorials to their own blogs started to move over to Codecademy, benefiting from the millions of people taking their courses and the status that came with being a teacher with one of the largest audiences in the world. You, as users and contributors, are empowered to choose what to learn and who to learn it from. We've heard endless requests for PHP—one of the world's most popular programming languages—and we spent the past few weeks thinking of an experiment to help you both learn and teach PHP.
Today, we're kicking off the launch of PHP on Codecademy with a lesson we created. We're opening up the entire track for contributions from the community—help pick up where we started and let's build the web's best PHP course together. If you're more interested in taking PHP than helping to teach it, you can help, too. Share PHP with your friends and ask them to help out by tweeting or emailing them.
The content and collaboration that make Codecademy a great place to learn are all thanks to you, and as we work to achieve the best possible learning experience for all users, we're calling on you to help shape the future of the community and its course offerings. You'll notice that only the first course in the PHP track has been completed; we're looking to you, the millions of users who work to make this site awesome, to help direct and build tomorrow's content.
Go ahead and start learning PHP, and if you're ready to take charge of your curriculum, tell us what you want to teach!
Last month, we started hosting lessons on APIs to teach people all over the world how to harness the power of real web apps. Codecademy users have integrated videos into their websites, called/texted friends, shortened URLs, and much more. With Codecademy, we think we can bring the power of programming to everyone. That's why we're working with more companies you likely interact with every day in order to show you how programming can affect your workflow and daily life. Use Twitter? So do tens of millions of other people. Most of those people tweet from the Twitter app. With today's new courses, you can tweet from Codecademy or write your own cool scripts that tweet on certain triggers. That's just the beginning.
With these new API offerings, you'll be able to:
- Control the cloud. With courses from Box and SkyDrive, you'll be able to store and access files from anywhere in the world.
- Authenticate with other apps using OAuth. These days, countless web applications (including Twitter and Facebook) use OAuth to authenticate users. Let GitHub be your guide to the OAuth2 protocol.
- Become a consummate consumer. Find the latest fashions with Gilt, the best restaurants from Ordr.in, and pay for it all with Dwolla.
And much more!
Whether you're looking to learn an API that will underlie your web app or you just want to pull in some data for your site, you'll find a ton of useful, customizable, and fun services in our latest batch of API lessons. Our partners have worked hard to bring you a host of new tools to integrate into your own projects—check them out!
(And if you're interested in teaching your API, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.)