Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Why Google (and others) should support massive online open education

Software is eating the world – Marc Andreessen

I’ve been learning how to code for the past 10 months. I’m doing that first out of curiosity, and secondly because I believe knowing how to code is a new literacy barrier, but that topic deserves a post of its own.

Although I have tried doing this in the past (some 2 or 3 years ago), I never knew where to begin. It is no different than trying to become self-taught in a new language. It can be done, but it is hardly productive for most people.

At that time there where many languages to choose from and many books and online sources about the subject. But none where very comprehensive for a beginner with limited time available and limited starting knowledge about computer science.

Today this is different. We have great sources of free online education for people interested in learning computer science. My best experience was with Udacity, taking a couple of courses (CS101 and CS273) from their CS curriculum. After a few weeks I had a better grasp on programming than I’d had for a couple of years trying to put together bits and pieces of code (and hardware) on my own.

Since then I’ve worked on a few personal projects (SoapBox, Orbtz and others) to develop my programming skills. One of them, Udacious Projects, was ‘adopted’ by Udacity transforming into after some great improvements.

Udacity is only one example of the great content available for people seeking CS education. We also have Coursera, Treehouse, Udemy and many more.

This has been my experience after a few months and only part-time dedication. Like me, I imagine there are thousands of people who would love to put their own projects online, but always end up depending on third parties (pro developers and investors, mainly). I can tell you that I’ve lost some good opportunities in the past due to the lack of coding knowledge…

But education in only a piece of the puzzle. Along with more access to information, today a beginner developer can depend on a great deal of services and open source projects that enable them to prototype even faster and easier than a few years ago. Cloud Computing has helped take away many complexities that previously would be managed by programmers, but now can be delegated to other companies. Some of these companies (and revenue lines) are big such as Amazon Web Services, Heroku and Google APIs, others smaller like Gravatar, and Sendgrid (which I bet soon will be with the big guys).

From my experience Google’s Cloud services, especially, are very noob-friendly. App Engine allows developers to deploy – and even scale – applications with amazing ease. No wonder Udacity’s CS273 was based on it…

It should be clear enough by looking at the successes of Heroku, Github and Amazon Web Services that these kinds of services (that some are starting to call B2D – business to developer) have the potential to become big businesses. They achieve success by helping not only professional developers but also beginners who are looking for speed and less management complexity to get things done.

With these pieces in mind it seems obvious that Google (and other companies) would benefit from dedicating even more energy on educating not only pro developers, like they constantly do with great documentation, webcasts and conferences; but also these beginners that have the potential to use their services as paying customers and launch new and interesting businesses online.