The #1 Way to Learn to Code

The #1 Way to Learn to Code

My first foray into computer programming was a blackjack game written in BASIC back in 1982 on a TRS-80 computer.  It was insanely complicated, but by the end of the semester it worked and I’d learned how to think in BASIC.  That experience taught me something important:

[bctt tweet="The best way to learn is by actually creating or fixing something you care about."]

When you care  about something, when you want to fix something, you are motivated to learn and what you learn sticks with you.


We saved our programs on cassette tapes.

I learned HTML back in the 90’s because I though having a website was cool.  Through books and questions on forums (probably BBS back then) I created my own site, revised it and re-created it.  When Blogger came out I eagerly began blogging, learning about templates by customizing my blog.  Blogger was pretty limited, so I tried a couple of different systems before getting my own domain and hosting and installing my first WordPress site.

Learning PHP and MySQL followed naturally from experimenting with dynamic sites, followed by Javascript, JQuery, AJAX and now various frameworks such as Angular.

It Takes Time

My First Browser

My First Browser

For me, learning to code was a hobby that became a career.  I couldn’t guess the time I put into it, but it was probably less than I would have spent if I’d gone to school to learn to code.  I made the time because there were things I wanted on my blog and website.  Silly as they seem now:

  • I learned to pull data from other people’s sites because I wanted to put the current weather on my blog.
  • I learned how to manipulate dates because I wanted a countdown timer on my website.
  • I learned about reading and writing to databases because I wanted to keep track of the membership of a group I belonged to.

Building WordPress Plugins

One of my goals for this year was to start writing WordPress plugins.  I am familiar with WordPress, of course, and have written custom functions, but never an entire plugin.  A couple of weeks ago I had an idea for a plugin that I cared about.  Inspired by the Expire Tags plugin, I thought about building a plugin which would add a box to the edit post page for choosing a category and assigning a date for when that category would be deleted from the post.  Neither the category nor the post would change, just the relationship between the category and post.  It could be used for “Breaking News” or announcing other time-expiring information.

I’m almost done with that plugin and I’ve expanded my WordPress development skills.  I learned how to add a table to the WordPress database, add an information box to the post edit page, collect information and save it to the database.  I learned how plugins are installed and uninstalled.  I learned how AJAX works within the WordPress system.

Most important, what I learned will stick with


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