Looking at Code as Words

During a past podcast Abha Thakor was chatting with Kim Coleman about her journey as a developer. Previously she had talked to her and one of the things that Kim liked about code, it is words and when you look at code, that is what you see. For those who are especially struggling or wanting to learn more she asked Kim to elaborate.

Oh, this is code. I can’t understand it.

WordPress itself in the early days and even to today, is largely built in a language called PHP. And it is a human readable language. If you get over the fact that you’re looking at code, it reads in English words that we all know and we can understand. But I think the hurdle is getting past looking at code and saying, “Oh, this is code. I can’t understand it.” You’re not looking at zeros and ones, you’re looking at words you can understand. For me, I got my start doing graphic design. I was creating print products, I was using Adobe tools to create them.

And over time I started working more with my husband, Jason. He was my boyfriend at the time, building websites. He was studying computer science and he himself was more doing the backend in the code work. I was designing things as kind of a static mockup of the site and then I realized I could go a little farther, I could take another piece of this from his plate, I could do the actual HTML and CSS markup.

Again, both languages that really are human readable languages. And then over time started doing some of the PHP work. I would call myself a front end developer at this stage, but it was really a granular process of using the resources I could find on the internet, using Stack Overflow, using what we called the WordPress codex at the time, now, the developer resource library.

And finding examples of code where people were extending WordPress, where people were adjusting the appearance of a theme, copying it, pasting it into my editor, reading the code and deciphering the code enough to say, “Oh, I just need to tweak this one little bit, this ID or this selector or this location to my term and then it will work.” So there’s a bit of a daring aspect to doing that. And it feels scary because you could potentially “break” something, but luckily we can undo things. Command Z, control Z often is your best friend when you are beginning to develop and not quite sure if you’re going to break something.

You can listen to the full show or read the transcript here.

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