Learning from Beginners

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Ladies Learning CodeI spent yesterday mentoring an eclectic group of students at a Ladies Learning Code workshop, which introduced HTML and CSS – the building blocks of web design – to a roomful of 40 eager learners. LLC is an amazing cross-Canada nonprofit – with chapters from Newfoundland to Victoria – “working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way.”

There was one mentor for every four to five participants – an incredible ratio that allowed us to spend plenty of hands-on time with each student, giving more one-on-one attention to those who needed it.

My group included a Java programmer who’d barely touched HTML before but caught on quickly; a graphic designer encouraged by her company to learn more about what happens to her mockups after they get sent to the website integrators; a married couple consisting of a PhD film student and a social-media specialist at a nonprofit (the couple that learns to code together stays together?); and a Master of Library & Information Studies student who realized she needed to up her game on the tech front, with her school symbolically about to dump the word “Library” from the program’s name.

Venturing outside my usual sphere of WordPress geeks was refreshing. It reminded me that more people than I think use PCs. That not all men taught themselves programming at age eleven. That semi-colons are darned important. That the music HTML and CSS make together is magical. That watching people have lightbulb moments never gets old. That getting women excited about technology is a worthy endeavour.

P1010909

Backslash No More

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Dear CBC Radio,

I have some news for you – a role-reversal, I know.

It’s not a backslash. When you’re reading out a show’s URL on the air, that character after your domain name, you know the one I mean. It’s not a backslash.

Unless you’re a computer programmer, if you’re under 40 or started using computers later in your life, you likely don’t even recall the need to ever type a backslash. For most folks, the backslash’s usefulness was relegated to the dustbin of operating-system history when Windows supplanted the dreadful DOS as the PC’s OS du jour. The backslash’s glory days were over by the late eighties, early nineties at the latest.

Just in case you’re not clear about what I mean, see the \ character in the middle here:

c prompt

That is a backslash.

The Web has been a daily presence in many people’s lives for nearly twenty years. It’s common knowledge that the slash in a URL goes to the right – in other words, forward.

So, dear CBC radio announcers, could you please stop reading out URLs as “CBC.ca backslash show name”? It makes you look antiquated and out of touch. It makes listeners cringe. And it’s just plain incorrect.

By the way, I’m only bringing this to your attention because I care so much about you. I’m not picking on you – it’s like telling a friend she has toilet paper stuck to her shoe: a brief moment of embarrassment followed by gratefulness and relief.

xoxox

kp

xkcd comic strip

xkcd perfectly encapsulates my feelings on the matter

Late Adopter

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I have an embarrassing confession to make.

I provide tech support to bloggers for a living.

Before that, my career was building WordPress blogs for clients.

But this is my first blog.

I don’t count the bare-bones, default-header-bedecked site that mainly consists of beginner WordPress resources, nor will we speak of the single-subject and now inactive, anonymously penned site on some other blogging platform that shall remain nameless.

This is my first blog.

The milestone has made me reflect on all the other technology I’ve embraced kicking and screaming much later than most.

In rough chronological order:

rotary phone

rotary 4EVAH!
photo courtesy of Clemson via Flickr

  • Touch-tone phone
  • Cordless phone
  • Voice mail
  • Cell phone
  • Laptop
  • Facebook
  • iPhone
  • Microwave

No, wait, I still don’t have a microwave.

I’ve…

…been giggled at by store employees (“You want a… phone with a cord connecting the handset to the base? Do they still make those?”)

…been glanced at surreptitiously with a mixture of pity and disbelief (my heavy white Macbook at a company-wide meetup where I was the only person with a computer over a couple of years old)….

…been addressed like I was completely insane, or perhaps just senile (Bell Canada: “Madam, are you quite sure you don’t have a touch-tone phone? We would be willing to take the $2.55 charge off your monthly bill but I highly doubt you are not using it.”)

…had my tape-answering-machine beeper stared in bafflement (a piece of technology so outdated and apparently un-memorialized – not even qualifying as hipster-retro, like the venerable cassette tape – I cannot find a single image of it on the interwebs)

…had my little retractable-antenna-topped Nokia and later my scratched-up iPhone 3 stared at and outright mocked (with affection, since these were my friends we’re talking about).

I wore it all with a badge of stubborn pride and irony.

But now, with the new blog, and the arrival of an iPad mini in the household this week, I feel a small sense of loss and sadness. Now I’m just like everyone else, you see.

Except for the microwave. There’ll always be the microwave.