Screw It, I’ll Learn Programming

By Daniel Scocco

I know how to tweak PHP code, but not nearly enough to build complete programs or applications. In fact every time I wanted to build a WordPress plugin in the past I asked some friend to do it for me. Some times it worked fine, other times it didn’t work at all.

The same is true for web applications. I had many ideas for them in the past, but I always had to hire coders to implement them. Even when I managed to find a willing coder there would be time delays, the program would not look exactly how I wanted, upgrading it was a problem and so on.

Recently I came up with another cool idea for a web app, but for the past two weeks I have been looking around for the right coder. In vain.

Guess what? I am pretty tired of not being able to code stuff myself, so I made a resolution for 2010: I’ll learn programming. That is, I want to be able to put together functional web applications by the end of this year.

Now do I think everyone must learn it too? Not at all. If you just want to build websites, you probably don’t need to code to be successful. There are plenty of bloggers and webmasters out there making six figures annually with zero programming knowledge.

That being said, if you plan to work full time on the web for the rest of your life, I believe that knowing how to code can give you a competitive edge over other people. So you mustn’t learn how to code, but perhaps you should.

Thinking about that I figured that it could be cool to launch a new blog about learning how to code. That is, a blog where I would document my journey in learning how to code. I am planning to teach it to myself using books and free resources from the web, so other people could follow the same foot steps.

What do you think? Are you interested in learning to code as well, and would you like to read a blog on the topic?

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82 Responses to “Screw It, I’ll Learn Programming”

  • Valerie

    I AM interested in learning to code, but haven’t found an easy and affordable way to do it. I can’t afford to pay for full blown training and just working by myself from a book doesn’t seem to be working so well.

    I would definitely be interested in a blog following your learning path!

    • Daniel Scocco

      I believe with the right structure it is perfectly possible to learn by yourself. I’ll be talking about that on the blog, if I launch it.

      • redwall_hp

        Go to your local bookstore or library and get a good, easy to understand primer for the language you’re interested in. PHP 5 for Dummies is a good one.

        Read the book cover-to-cover, and try some of the examples. You should have a good basic knowledge by the end.

      • Ishan

        I will definitely be interested in learning coding. I am in same situation like you! I have lot of great ideas but not enough programming knowledge.

        If you start a blog about it, I will be one of the first subscribers! πŸ™‚

    • A W Drake

      A blog about learning how to code is not a bad idea, but aren’t there already blogs full of tutorials etc ?

      How about something similar that allows other people to contribute to build a community of others wanting to learn?

  • Oscar – freestyle mind

    If I was in you, I would put aside php and learn something like ruby on rails, unless you specifically must make programs for wordpress. For reference, ruby on rails is what’s used by 37 signals and it’s a framework written in ruby.

    • Daniel Scocco

      Yeah I wouldn’t try to learn PHP as my first language. As many people say I believe it puts too many “bad programming habits” on you.

      I’ll be starting with Python, given that is what they use as introductory language on most universities.

      Plus the MIT has a lot of good courses available that use Python as base.

      After mastering Python I’ll learn PHP/MySQL, or perhaps just learn MySQL on top of Python. What do you think?

      • Oscar – freestyle mind

        Python is good as a programming language. I suggested ruby because it’s extremely easy to make web apps with it. But again, even with python there are many choices and frameworks, so you can go with that.

      • Daniel Scocco


      • redwall_hp

        I don’t know that it gives you too many “bad habits,” so long as you make an effort to learn OOP and the MVC pattern. I started out on PHP, and I’m not having too much trouble learning Objective-C and the Cocoa framework.

      • Sharninder

        Python is a very good choice and I have the absolutely opp dilemma. I know programming and have worked with perl/php/mysql/python but have absolutely no design skills. I’ve had a couple of app ideas that I can code up pretty fast but without design/css knowledge, I can’t present them to the world.

        I’ve tried a couple of times but still don’t really GET css

  • Tmax

    Yes, yes and yes this is also what has been on my mind Daniel. Although theres so much we can do lately be tweaking php code from the many CMS softwares today i agree its a must to know coding to be ahead of your competition and to get the maximun of your website.

    A lot of times I’ve found myself to stuck too when trying to tweak code to get my requirements,you just feel helpless when you are not a coder it makes the whole process slow. Although i do know basic coding come 2010 i’ve also put in down on my resolution to master the art :). I’m starting with php at my end. This is a great idea from your end to blog about it here. I would love to follow and share what i am learning too.

    • Daniel Scocco

      I won’t be blogging about it here, cause I believe not all the readers would be interested in that. I think I’ll launch a new blog just for that.

      If things go well I’ll announce it next week already, so stay tuned.

  • Ali Hale – Aliventures

    Daniel, I’d definitely be interested in reading about your coding journey. Like you, I know enough to tweak PHP (I’m at the level where I can just about put together a blog theme, using the “keep trying stuff till it looks right” method…)

    I’d like to learn to program too. I’ve had a couple of attempts over the years, but never got very far (lack of time and too many other projects). It’s something I have tentatively on my to-do list for 2011, so I’d love to see how it goes for you!

  • Vincent

    I’d probably read if you start that new blog. It’s easier to get along with someone at the same level than reading blogs that are already teaching advanced stuff.

    The only thing is I don’t quite have the luxury of time. I believe it takes a lot of patience and time to learn to program.

    • Daniel Scocco

      Yeah you need to put the hours in if you want to see results. I am aiming to start with 2 hours per day. Would you be able to do that?

  • John

    I started off as a coder then moved into other stuff – it’s very useful being able to do your own code.

    Not sure I’d start with Python though if you’re going to be building PHP based sites. There’s nothing wrong with starting with PHP, bad habits come from bad habits not the language.

    • Daniel Scocco

      From what I’ve read Python is a good language if you want to learn the basic programming logic and reasoning (i.e., how to solve problems via computation).

      Plus most of the resources I have (books and online content) makes reference to Python.

      So the plan is to spend 3-6 months working with Python, then move to PHP.

      It will be longer, but I believe this will give me a better foundation. What do you think?

  • sachin

    PHP is great language to build robust web applications. but one should not start coding big website on first try.

    You can start with small programs or system. I strongly believe one year is enough to learn and gain the programming knowledge. would like to grow as a professional php programmer πŸ™‚

    Good Luck Daniel.

  • hileon

    interesting, but it will not be too hard for you

  • Young

    I think it’s worthy of a try. I used to learn to create a WordPress theme myself, but failed at last and I have no motivation to do that again. Look forward to your new blog and your new applications.

  • Mike Crimmins

    I’m in the same boat, I know how to tweak PHP to make it do what I want, but that’s about it. If I knew how to do more, it would save me from outsourcing a lot of work, so I’d love to read that blog. However, would it sort of be like all of those how to make money blogs, where the blogger has never made a dime? Either way, I’ll be reading the blog if you make it.

    • Daniel Scocco

      @Mike, I won’t create a blog claiming to know how to program or to be able to teach you how to do so. I’ll create a blog to share how I am learning, what resources I am using and so on. I believe there’s quite a difference there.

  • Fikri Rasyid

    definitely agree Daniel. if you blog about programming, i’ll definitely subscribe it πŸ˜€

    I develop WordPress Theme but at some certain point i also curious to know how those kind of things work from very scratch.


  • Herman dailybits

    It’s indeed a good skill as a blogger to have some coding basics and knowledge to get tweak/develop your own things.

    As a it consultant myself I’ve worked with a lot of the different languages (like php, t-sql and now abap in sap) and the basic programming-concepts are always the same and a good base-knowledge to learn fast a new language.

  • Dave

    You could be making a classic entrepreneurial mistake that ensures limited business progress.

    How long do your think Bill Gates lasted as a programmer while trying to grow the business.

    Do you also have a desire to learn Apache and MySQL too, the environment in which php lives?

    Businessman or programmer? The famous book “The E-Myth Revisited” is just about this multiple hat error made by many people.

    • Daniel Scocco

      I agree with you that once the business is going most founders/programmers need to stop coding and start managing the business. I’ve read “The E-Myth” too.

      But, I am starting to think that you need to be able to build the first product/prototype yourself (with or without some help). Here is why: building a successful web app or software takes a huge amount of work/effort. Most of the time it will be something that you believe in, but other people might not. So to hire someone to put all those hours/energy into developing that will be quite a challenge. In the best scenario you’ll need to pay a heck lot of money, and even then the development will be slow/not exactly how you wanted it to be.

      Think about the largest tech companies around: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Netscape, etc.. All of them were founded by programmers, and not by businessmen.

      • Cherran

        I completely agree with you Daniel, that’s my opinion too. Very rarely people succeed without building the prototype themselves.

  • Cathy Reisenwitz

    I would definitely read a blog about learning to code. I think it’s a great idea, and something that hasn’t been done to death already. I too am interested in learning to code. As an SEO, not having programming knowledge limits my usefulness. I would at least like to know how to go about learning while I work a day job.

  • Dez

    I’m actually developing a new Twitter app that is serving as my “reason to learn”… more. I know the basics and can do SOME intermediate stuff, however the efficiency stuff (like classes and error logging) get me caught up and slow me down. Also, the fact that I’ve been a software tester since 2000 slows me down quite a bit since I’m constantly thinking like a tester.

    But yes, if you find yourself constantly doing tweaking on your blog or thinking “I need an app that can do ” then you should learn programming. And believe it or not, Google and W3C are the best places to learn.

  • highnurse

    yes sure Daniel Scocco .i want to learn it as you justify ….

    information about this is very less and difficult to get it …..

    if you get it.
    it is difficult .boring

  • Rocky Supinger

    “If you’re not a programmer, you’re one of the programmed.” -Douglas Rushkoff

    I’d totally read this.

  • Rocky Supinger

    Crap. “programmed” that quote should say

    • Daniel Scocco

      I fixed it.

      Good one.

  • Dan

    Not only would I read your blog, I’d be happy to contribute as I made a similar resolution. I am focusing my PHP efforts on developing for WordPress just so I have a practical place to put my learning to work, but the overall idea is to learn PHP.

    Somehow, I also want to gain some Python/Django knowledge as that seems to be the way of the future…

  • Vivek@InfoEduTech

    learning a programming language is always a difficult task for anyone. My blogging journey is something that does not start with programming i hate all the things like photoshop and the programming langauges but when i get serious about blogging then they all becomes my passion and i have learned a lot in tweaking out the php codes and sooner i will launch a wordpress theme just working on it

  • Cesare

    Well, what else can I say? Good luck. If you need some help/explanation feel free to drop me a line. Happy studying!

  • Baloot

    When it comes to programming, I just need to learn how to code PHP. I just don’t need to learn Visual Basic, ASP or .net. Do you agree with me?

  • Eric

    I think it’d be killer for someone to blog about programming. Maybe it could really help people understand how to program better and it would be fun to watch how the blog is set up and writes about it.

    Good idea!

  • Emma

    Awesome Daniel I really wish I had the time to learn PHP knowing how to code would make our lives much easier.

  • redwall_hp

    DailyCodeTips? The .com TLD is already registered, though:

  • Thursday Bram

    I’ve found myself to be in a pretty similar place Ò€” I really want to learn more PHP. It’s been a case of actually getting around to it, for me. I’ve got a couple of resources, but I’ve mostly been just looking up things as I need to know them.

  • Richard Scott

    Daniel you are a genius. This can apply to any topic any field. I am blown away by the posibilities. I’ve always been under the assumption that you should only blog about what you know. But now… You have opened my eyes. If there’s something you want to learn, teach yourself and write a blog about it to teach others as well. It really is genius.

    Like me for example, I’ve always wanted to teach myself how to handmake wire jewelry. It’s huge in the jewelry field, just go to any artshow and see. And now I have a huge lightbulb over my head. I can see myself learning about it and blogging about my experiences along the say. Like a show and tell. Awesome! I can crack this field.

    Thank you for expanding my mind. This is why I read your blogs! πŸ™‚

  • David

    Learning basic PHP is always a good idea. When I get stuck on code and can’t seem to get a template to do what I want I search for the string. I think that even people who already know basic PHP would find your new blog interesting because there are hundreds of ways to do the same thing. I know I would love to take some time to figure out how to develop my own WordPress themes. Good luck and I’ll be reading your new blog!

  • Onibalusi Bamidele

    This will be great cos you are a smart blogger and I will like to use the smart plugins you will be creating. I will also have learned programming but i think it needs concentration and dedication and i don’t think i will be able to put that in it now, maybe later in the future.
    Thanks for the nice post.

  • Ryan

    This sounds like a great idea. I’d definitely follow your journey as I am in a similar boat. I know just enough about development to come up with ideas and have a high level understanding of how best to approach situations, I just can’t write the code. I also would like to learn more about development, but have been wondering where’s the best place to start. I was thinking PHP too, because of wordpress, but am interested in what others have said about starting with python or another language. At any rate, I thinks you’ve got a good idea here.

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Yes, please.

  • Liz

    That is a great idea — I did the same thing a while back and made a series of PHP videos while I learned the basics of it, and it was incredibly helpful!

    They say teaching is the best way to learn, and my experience with my blog has definitely supported that theory. Sharing what you learn is great motivation to keep learning more, and it really embeds it into your long-term memory. Not to mention the fact that you get to help other people at the same time (and they often help you too!)

    I’d say you should definitely make a blog about your journey. I love seeing other people sharing what they learn. πŸ™‚ In fact, I think everyone should do it!

  • Keith Davis

    Count me in Daniel
    I’m OK with html and CSS but PHP code!
    Frightens me to death.
    I would certainly follow a new site devoted to learning coding – presumably PHP.

  • Cindy

    I’m also interesting in learning more coding, but I’m honestly not sure I have the aptitude for it (way too much logic and math). I’d love to read a blog about your process and see how someone without a coding background is able to pick it up. I always seem to hit dead ends when I read books and practice it, and am just not able to troubleshoot my way past certain things.

  • Marija

    I love the idea of a new blog about coding. I would definitely follow it closely! I feel that my lack of programming skills is affecting my blogging in a bad way, as I often encounter dead ends.

  • Mel

    Count me in as a follower when you start up that blog. I’m just starting to learn PHP/MySQL and would love to read about your coding adventures.

  • Eric

    I think it could be a great idea to learn to code. If you can learn a new skill that will either increase your revenue, or decrease your costs, it makes perfect sense. The time you spend now can translate into completing valuable projects in the future that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

    Although I’m no coder, I would find it fascinating reading about your journey. Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

  • Lady Hawk

    It never ceases to amaze me. I was thinking along these very lines today. Since I’m teaching myself how to blog, I thought,”I need to write about what I learn while I blog.” In essence, it’s the same thing.

    I learned very early on that blogging isn’t simply about blogging (see earlier Guest post on Blog Tips). Indeed, learning something on your own is so much more.

  • Pinoy @ How to blog

    I definitely agree with you there Daniel. Knowing how to code will really give you a big advantage. By the way, Programming was one of two choices i’ve had before i went to college.Unfortunately i chose the other one πŸ™


    I remember telling myself that one day I would start learning how to program (PHP to be specific) but having a daytime regular job, a blog to maintain and having several directories that plan never materialized. Which I am glad I never did or else all those time and energy would have gone to waste.

    Soon after reading some articles, books and blog posts (including this blog of course), I realized that focusing on what you really want and doing the things that will make you happy is enough to bring you self achievement. By putting your energies in a funnel you will do more and achieve more that scattering your energies to different endeavors.

    It’s like choosing the right niche for you, I went some trial errors, I put up several blogs before but later on abandoned them cause I realized I am not passionate about them. So did with my plans in learning PHP, I realized it was not my forte, the plan was just brought about by some excitement and human impulse that I would do programming but in reality it was a thing I was not passionate about.

    Well I wish you luck Daniel and keep me posted with your new website or blog about programming, PHP is thoroughly used in the Web and I might hire your services OR you companyÒ€ℒs services one day :).

  • Ricardo

    ‘Lo all. I’m a coder and I’ve working with Perl, PHP and Ruby for the past 12 years (well Ruby only the past two years). If you need any help on PHP, do drop me a line. I’ll be more than welcome to help you back (since I’ve learned a lot from your website).


    • Samuel

      nice one man!! Am intrested gimme ur contact lol

    • Pinoy @ How to blog

      That’s s nice of you. That’s why i love to blog because i could have more friends that are willing to help you πŸ˜‰

  • Hilmy

    I love coding but never seriously get into it. I also think doing “other” stuff may be more profitable.

    There are times when I have ideas and can’t find someone to code, learning to become one may be worth it.

    I sure like to follow your blog about the subject..

  • Dana @ Blogging Tips Blog

    Knowing the code is surely give advantage to blogger. It even can become source of decent earning.

  • Samuel

    Am 100.5% intrested in learning programming! Umm…just thinking how i will spare time in learning it because am always busy in school

  • Ricardo

    The “spare time” issue is a synonym of procrastination. I’m sorry about being so direct. That’s just the way I am πŸ™‚

    I’ve learned that “the need” is the best teacher of all. If you need to learn, you find the time. So it’s a matter to in your head that you really need to do it. Everything else will come by.

    All the information is available on the internet. php main website has full documentation with user comments that are a lesson each page. And provide you with thousands of code examples. A lot more sites have lessons like tizag (google it).

    But there is only one way to do it by yourself. Decide what you need to do. A tool. A simple one, don’t go for a wordpress replacement. Try something simple like a to-do list. Then change it to a multi list to-do. Then authentication. Then, then, then, then.

    In no time you’ll be discussing architecture with other php gurus πŸ˜€

  • James D

    Hi Daniel,

    I can code xhtml/css, and am currently learning Jquery.

    I got in on Sitepoint’s 5 for 1 sale at (no I’m not a member of their sale’s team) and bought their Jquery ebook as well as a couple of PHP and SQL books. As soon as I learn Jquery, then on to PHP and SQL.

    I have a good team of freelancers, but as you said nothing is the exact same as you envision it. Secondly, if you want changes, you have to pay for them or not have them done, simply you don’t have the knowledge.

    I would read your blog and would be happy to contribute. I’m working on my own design related blog, but if you’re interested in me doing a guest post or two if you do the blog, just hit me up at my email address.

  • Rian Orie

    The more the merrier, I make a good living from developing PHP applications for clients and would advice anyone to at least learn enough to understand the basics.

    As with Ricardo above, I’d be happy to pitch in and help out.

  • Tammi Kibler

    I would love to follow along with you. I think you learn faster when you share what you learn with others.

  • Pascale

    Great idea !

    I’ve started learning a bit of html and css to design my website years ago, and each year I try to learn a bit more (and get a nicer website).

    I am struggling with php though, wich is much harder I think.

    Would love to see your journey and learn as well.

    have a nice WE

  • Gabriel Meissner

    I too am willing to learn how to code. I´m teaching (x)html/css myself and my next step will be learning php. Reading a blog about that would be very useful, for sure.

  • Barb

    Yes, I would love to follow a blog that has info about code. I am a new blogger and have already realized how much there is to learn and that knowing it myself will probably save me money and headaches in the future. I would definitely follow your blog.

  • Om

    I had the exact same idea and even bought a domain name three months ago. Seeing how many people think it’s such a good idea has convinced me that I should start my own blog too. Thanks for this Daniel!

    I’ve taught myself PHP, MySQL and a lot of other programming languages and would be delighted to share things I’ve learnt, as well as learn from you and others too. Learning never stops!

  • Antonio Díaz

    Everyone can code, but few people can code correctly. Just as everyone has a blog but few write good posts.

    My advice is this: first learn how to structure correctly a code or a website. That knoldge will be useful fo any programming language, and then learn the languages.

  • AW

    Good for you, as someone who trained to be a web developer it often surprises me at the number of people who run sites yet know little about how the code works. It makes sense to learn how to do some coding because then you can fix things and make new add-ons without the expense of having to pay someone else to do it all for you. Plus with the amount of free information out there on the net from blog sites all about coding itÒ€ℒs easy to learn.

  • Julius

    I think the fear of having to learn programming is what holds most people back from starting a blog or an online business. But like what you said, we can always have someone to do it for us, or you can choose to learn it step by step. Given the large amount of online resources, it is indeed possible to learn programming even just enough to do the applications you want to have.

  • Melvin

    Im a programmer myself and some of my blogger friends are programmer as well and I can say knowing how to program gives you a decisive advantage over every other blogger in the sense that its an added value for you that others don’t enjoy.

    From a business standpoint though, there really isnt much difference. I mean we are marketers and if I know how to design, program and everything, I don’t think I can still do it all w/c concludes that I still need to outsource. Even though we know all, we just need to focus on the one thing that we are knowledgeable the most.

  • Kristoffer

    I already know how to code, and would be glad to learn someone else about coding in PHP and possibly soon in Ruby on Rails.

    However, I think I would tell my readers about it if you came up with the blog, and still follow it.

  • Shubh -Regular Blog tips

    I don’t think developing web apps is easy. just learning PHP will do no good. You also need to design good interfaces. For that you’ll surely need some good knowledge of other stuff like xHTML, CSS, JavaScript etc. Or you’ll need to outsource this work to other people like me(and I do it for free because I love developing web apps) πŸ™‚ [Does this post seem like shameless self-promotion? Well, it is..]

  • TomR

    Daniel, I’d love to subscribe to that blog. If you’re sending out an e-mail announcement, add me to the list. If not, I’d appreciate your posting the details in the comments so I can find & follow-up later.


  • Harsh Agrawal

    Programming is something which I believe every pro-blogger should learn.. If not a complete programming but atleast basics of it.. I’m not a coder but I know a bit and now I have hired few people full time to code what ever I think of.. I will rather suggest the same..else tie up with any company which can provide you complete support at fixed price…

  • Erwin Santoso

    Well, speaking about programming. I don’t really think a common blogger needs to learn about it. Almost everything is available and easy to use right now, and importantly, most of them even come with GPL license which means “free to use”. However, if you want to be a more technical blogger (like Daniel said that he sometime wants to build his own plugin), then you should learn how to do programming. Programming actually is not hard, all you need is a good logical thinking, as it is the core of programming. Learning PHP and learning how to design a web is completely different as PHP have nothing to do really with the design. Many blogger choose to learn how to design a web instead of how to program a web (well, it is harder in fact).

  • Aditya Kane

    I think learning coding will be something that will have to be done by a blogger if he/she is looking to start a web based business. Most successful bloggers will get opportunities where they can further get into web services or apps so a business can be founded.
    So in that respect I guess it does give a person a very strong added advantage.

  • Louisa

    The thought of learning code terrified me at first but with baby steps and many hours of frustration and tantrums I’m actually able to to write well structured code which actually works!!!! I’m even at the point where I can actually enjoy custom designing each page of my site and even getting into a bit of jquery! So if your a designer pondering on whether or not to take the leap… do! My words of wisdom for today!

  • Daquan Wright

    Taking scripts from websites and coding html/css is simple if you put in a little time.

    Actual programming is hard because it requires good reasoning and logic (which most of the time must be developed, unless you already had it). Programming is an either yes or no situation, unlike English, you can’t do anything with it if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    If you’re dedicated to really being a good coder, it’ll pay off. Just don’t half ass it, otherwise you’ll forget everything and it’ll be a waste of time. Just like math.

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