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Why 2013 is the Year I Learn to Code

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I have a confession to make. In a moment of youthful indiscretion I chose to study law. It wasn't a decision informed by any regard for the actual profession: just the vague notion that being a solicitor or barrister would be a prestigious path to big pay. What a mistake that was.

The economic dislocation of 2008 and the years since have viciously assaulted the once cushy-big profit world of law. The profession is oversubscribed and in parts haemorrhaging jobs.

Against this toxic backdrop law students now have to face the up to one of the fundamental laws of economics: the law of supply and demand. Demand for lawyers has decreased. The number of law students has increased.

Put these two realities together and it makes for pretty easy arithmetic: a law degree is pretty much a worthless asset. And it's not just me saying that. Michael Todd QC, Chairman of the Bar Council has said that many have students "no hope" of a job in law.

The head of the American Bar Association, William Robinson has said that law students should have known what they were getting into. I fundamentally disagree. But that's a discussion for another day.

What I want to talk about today is the need for digital literacy and specifically the need for literacy and fluency in coding.

As a law graduate I've had to exercise a bit of creativity to get some value out of my law degree. And so I've started a business that helps law firms to get online. Get them a website and help them with social media etc. But this has been a little harder than I had originally thought.

As a law graduate I'm pretty well read. But that's well read in a subject that is wholly antonymous to the world of coding. So I know absolutely nothing about what goes on behind the monitor screen. So when I tried to create a website I was stumped. And then when I asked someone to create a website for me I was hit with a massive quote of over £4k.

But this makes me uneasy. The terms of digital engagement are totally skewed. I'm not comfortable with the opaqueness. The fact that others know how to create websites, news platforms and online infrastructures and I don't. There's a great wall between the digital consumers and the digital creators and those creators could spin any story and we digital illiterate consumers would be none the wiser.

Are you happy for the Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs of our lives to stonewall something that is so ubiquitous to daily life? I'm not happy with coders and programmers controlling what we can or can't see, can or can't use.

And I don't think that anyone should be happy with this.

We're living in the age of algorithms. An age in which digital is creeping into every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The majority of us are passive users. Yes we can navigate around a computer, but under the screen we know nothing.

Just as the Gillian Tett of the FT said that you "have to understand money to understand the world," I firmly maintain that you need to understand coding in order to properly understand the new digital world in which we live.

So we need to become active users. We need to become a people who cannot only consume digital content but a people who can also create content and understand how others have created it.

Fortunately I don't think I'm alone in my sentiment. The Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg resolved in 2012 to learn to code with Codecademy. The Education Secretary Michael Gove has been very keen on pushing full digital literacy and the Education Department has called coding educationally "vital".

Technologist Tom Armitage is another particularly noisy advocate for coding literacy who has set out a number of interesting arguments for learning code.

In spite of these efforts it still remains that only a small fraction of society truly understand how computers programming and software works. So long as the lack of digital transparency continues a minority will be in control of what the majority.

I'm not happy with this, and so like Mayor Bloomberg my resolution for 2013 is to learn coding with Codecademy.

And for me things have been progressing quite well so far. I've created a website for my business and one for my personal brand. Boy it was hard, but it was rewarding!