Info Tech

I am not a programmer. Except I am. What I mean is: I never sat down to study how to code, or ever wrote anything from scratch. However, at some point I discovered that this code stuff isn’t that difficult. I think it was when I was trying to automate something on my computer and figured out I could do it with Applescript. I never thought of Applescript as real code — since applications weren’t really written with it, it was just a simple way to automate tasks. But at some point applications started to be written with it. I even wrote one (although I never updated it).

Same thing happened on the web. I learned how to throw together a web page using HTML, and then somewhere along the line started to realize that all the really nice software was run on PHP. PHP is what runs this blog, and my wiki, and the software I use to track my to do list. In order to install and run PHP applications I had to learn enough about PHP in order to be able to modify the code to suit my individual needs. Turns out that it wasn’t much harder to do that with PHP than it was with Applescript. Code, after all, is logical. Good code even tells you where you need to make the changes, so there isn’t really much to learn — just a little patience, and some help from people on web forums. The people who write code have little patience with stupid questions, but over time you learn how to ask questions well so that they give you the answers you are looking for.

But I really hate code. I’ve spent entire days trying to find out why something isn’t working, only to discover that a single semicolon was preventing my code from working, or a misplaced quotation mark. When you make a punctuation error in English people are usually pretty forgiving — and programs like Micro$oft Word can even find most of your mistakes (and then some). But with code it can be much harder to locate the mistake, and failure to do so means that the whole thing doesn’t work. Period.

The other problem with code is that it keeps changing. My PHP skills have gotten me pretty far — but all of a sudden all the really neat software is being written in Javascript (not to be confused with Java). Somewhere along the line Javascript learned how to update a web page without reloading it, making it much, much more powerful as a tool to write web code. And it turns out Javascript can now run certain Mac OS X applications as well.

I have no intention of rushing out to buy a book on Javascript. I know it will happen slowly. One day I will say to myself: Why doesn’t this application do what I want it to do?” Then I will look at the code, maybe visit a few web pages and forums, and I’ll learn how to tweak the software ever so little. The next time I might do a bit more. And if there is a really big task I need to do, I might even roll my own application from scratch. I hate coding, and I’m not going to set out to do any of these things. There are more than enough coders out there writing good code and I can usually get what I need by donating a little money and submitting a few feature requests. But sooner or later the itch to customize, or perhaps just to procrastinate (although all in the name of getting things done quicker and more efficiently) will likely have me fiddling around with the code.

Actually, I already have fiddled around with Javascript. Specifically, at some point I learned about all the great things that can be done with bookmarklets,” and made a few to search my favorite web pages. More recently I discovered Greasemonkey — which runs cool tools like Book Burro. Sheesh, given all the cool things that can be done with Javascript now, I wish I did know how to write my own code. But I’m not a programmer. Really, I’m not.

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