Will Mozilla Webmaker Make Everyone a Coder?

About a week ago, Mozilla decided they wanted to teach everyone in the world how to code. Learning code, they claim, is as important in the 21st century as learning to read and write. Everyone uses the web, yet very few know how it’s built. Mozilla want to change this and educate everyone, from the 45-year old man whose web history is mainly made up of ‘Megan Fox’ image searches to the young girl who thinks Twitter is Justin Bieber’s personal fan site, on how the web works.

Mozilla Webmaker is a program that will offer tools, projects and events (including a hold-your-own-wherever-you-want ‘Summer Code Party’) all aimed at educating people on the joys of coding, as well as bringing together the web community. Tools that’ll be available through Webmaker include Popcorn (for video), Hackasaurus (for remixes) and Thimble (for building web pages).

The project seems to have a heavy focus on bringing together the web community and envisions a world in which professionally-trained ‘Web ninjas’ emerge from the shadows to stroll hand-in-hand down the coding highway with Joe Public, creating lovely content all over the web together and generally existing in a peaceful web world where everyone loves each other very much.

I’m going to go out on a limb now and say that the idealistic, if slightly bizarre, scenario I outlined in the previous paragraph isn’t going to happen. Whilst I love the sentiment behind Webmaker, most people I know don’t care how the internet works, they just want to post pictures of their dog on Facebook and play Farmville. It’s the same way most commuters don’t care how their car works, as long as it gets them to work on time.

As much as Mozilla are pushing their ‘teach the world to sing’-esque ‘everyone can code’ message, I think the real strength in a program like Webmaker is nurturing talented individuals who feel a bit overwhelmed when faced down by a page of script.

An admission; I didn’t learn to code until a couple of years ago. In fact, I’m still not the best coder – I’d much rather leave the complex work to our incredibly talented web development team. But I do know some HTML and CSS and for the role I undertake at Fluid, its fine.

I trained as a journalist and actually stumbled across coding (and SEO) through a chance module in my first year. Previously, I’d seen coding as a bit of a closed shop, the preserve of people who enjoy things like hacking tournaments. When I realised that the basics were easy to grasp, and what’s more, actually quite fun, it set me off a different career path entirely. I’m now putting my main talent (writing…what do you mean it isn’t obvious?) to use in a way I didn’t think I would be four years ago, but in a way that I’m finding incredibly satisfying.

Of course, this isn’t my autobiography and there is a point to the last paragraph – programs like Webmaker, as much as it’s easy to sneer at them, serve a great purpose. There’s a potential goldmine of talented individuals out there who may fall by the wayside simply because coding can seem like an elite club – by opening up the doors to the club, we encourage these individuals to expand on their interest and nurture their talent, and that can only lead to exciting things. I’m still paying fees for the opportunity I had to learn coding – if I’d had the chance to learn for free, I’d have no doubt snapped up the opportunity and hopefully ended up in the same position I am now.

This is all, of course, speculation. Webmaker could be the biggest success story in the history of the internet and turn everyone into hotshot coders overnight. But the chances are it won’t. What it will do, and what I think will be its real triumph, is provide the first step on the ladder for talented people who are interested in code but are too afraid to ask. And that, I believe, makes the project incredibly worthwhile.

fluidcreativity
  • Written by on 31st May 2012 at 08:46
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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  • http://twitter.com/robinmoore_me Robin Moore

    Thanks for bring this initiative to my attention – I will go take a look in a moment. 

    I tend to agree with your sentiment that most people ‘use’ and ‘play’ with the web. On the whole Joe Public don’t ‘create’ the web they add to it through user generated content. 

    I can also see where Mozilla are coming from; they are a not-for-profit organisation (funded by Google et. al.) that I would suggest are being actively encouraged to create tool-sets to aid the development of better websites. Mozilla Firefox is their flagship consumer-product but they have a range of products aimed at current web nerds or those that would like to become web nerds in the future. 

    My cynical side would suggest that Google are using their significant funding to lean on (and in turn squeeze) Mozilla out of areas which compete with Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS.

  • http://twitter.com/robinmoore_me Robin Moore

    Thanks for bring this initiative to my attention – I will go take a look in a moment. 

    I tend to agree with your sentiment that most people 'use' and 'play' with the web. On the whole Joe Public don't 'create' the web they add to it through user generated content. 

    I can also see where Mozilla are coming from; they are a not-for-profit organisation (funded by Google et. al.) that I would suggest are being actively encouraged to create tool-sets to aid the development of better websites. Mozilla Firefox is their flagship consumer-product but they have a range of products aimed at current web nerds or those that would like to become web nerds in the future. 

    My cynical side would suggest that Google are using their significant funding to lean on (and in turn squeeze) Mozilla out of areas which compete with Google's Chrome browser and Chrome OS.