To boldly go where no tech writer has gone before (one can dream, right?)

Get Technical, Have Fun, and Become a Coding Ninja

As technical writers, we must constantly develop our technical skills to keep up with ever-evolving technologies. While reading books and technical articles can introduce us to new topics, there is nothing like hands-on training to fully grasp a subject. As a permanent employee, I could get that training through seminars or conferences paid by the company, but as a consultant I find these courses very expensive.

But there’s hope. I recently came across a fun way to learn new programming languages. And it’s free.

Codecademy is a new startup that offers free, web-based, interactive programming courses for the non-technical. Their objective is to turn non-programmers into “coding ninjas.” That may not be what we all want, but the world does need more techie tech writers.

If you’ve never programmed before, the first Codecademy course–Getting Started with Programming–teaches you the basic principles and concepts of programming, such as if statements and while loops. This class is also a pre-requisite for the other courses.

What makes Codecademy different from other web tutorials I’ve tried is that it’s actually fun. The interface is simple and beautiful and the instructions are clear and well written (although some sections might benefit from a little editing). Every lesson includes hands-on exercises that you must complete to move on (no cheating possible :-). Short quizzes help you determine how you’ve assimilated a topic, and you can track your progress through badges and scores.

Codecademy is not only a great way to get more technical, it’s also training documentation at its best.

I’m now learning JavaScript, which is the only course currently available, but Codecademy is working on developing courses for other programming languages, including Python and Ruby.

I can’t wait :)