It's time to make nebulous promises to the new year. We're going to be healthier! We're going to spend more time with our kids! One resolution that's gotten popular lately is "learn to code!" Okay. Learn to code what?

"Learn to code" is in the same boat as "be healthier." How are you going to be healthier? Will you exercise? If so, what exercise? When will you do it? Do you need to join a gym? How often will you go? What results are you looking for? How do you measure "healthier?" It's the same thing for code. Do you want to build a website for your cat pictures? How about an app for chickens to safely cross roads? Do you want to build a flash game? Are you looking for a job in IT - or to bolster the one you already have? You need to know what you want to code before you can figure out which code to learn. There are hundreds of languages out there and there is no One Code to Rule Them All.

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Let's say we've decided to build our road-crossing app for chickens. We then need to decide if we want to put it on Android or iPhone - two different types of coding for that. We decide on Android because we want to go hard like the coders we soon shall be. Android offers a really nice basic training set of classes for beginners. We'll need to take them all - all twenty three classes - especially if we want to sell this app to actual chickens.

I'm not trying to intimidate you away from learning this if that's what you want to do. I think it's a great idea to learn to interact from the inside out with computers. However, like "be healthier" or "lose weight" or "spend more time with the kids" the "learn to code" resolution takes time, effort, and dedication.

After 15 years in IT, the best piece of advice I can give you is this: Learn HTML. It's not sexy but it is useful in your every day life as a net citizen.

What can you do with HTML?

  • Many blog engines allow you to use HTML to format your posts which gives you more features and better control over presenting your content.
  • Knowing how to force a resize of your pictures can save you approximately 10-12 grey hairs per year. More, if you blog regularly.
  • If you're an author, HTML is the best tool to format your ebook.
  • Make awesome bulleted lists.

Best of all, it's a ridiculously simple language with easy-to-remember rules and tons of resources on the net to remind you if you forget how to change a font size or make a horizontal rule. There is no code I've gotten more benefit out of personally or professionally than HTML.

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Update: I used this site to refresh myself on the bulleted list. It's a great cheatsheet.