Coding: An Inner Life

Cracking the code at The HTML500

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Last Saturday, Lighthouse Labs presented the HTML(500) to a crowd of over 900 Calgarians. Shivering from cold, excitement and the anticipation of pizza, novices and experts sat down to peer into the inner-workings of the web.

I subconsciously washed my hands of participating in the tech world the first time I opened Internet Explorer. The simplicity of an internet page belies the complexity of its interior. I feel cautious asking about the internet because I’m afraid the answer is in a foreign language. I can settle into my ignorance if I never explore it.

The presenters and mentors at the HTML(500), however, speak in the simplest english and their goal is to break down the self-imposed barriers people like me put around code. They transform coding from a multi-headed monster into a familiar pal. We can all code and we can all benefit from it.

Who is Code?

Code and those who write it are stereotyped and stigmatized: the math nerds from high school have been reanimated as adults, ruling the world from dank basements, effecting immense change on a world they barely engage with. Indeed, there were a bunch of nerds sitting around computers at the HTML(500) event, but we were all nerds sitting around computers. “They” had turned into “us.”

Coding is not the solitary pursuit I had imagined. Saturday’s event was abuzz with words like: collaboration, curiosity, creativity, mentorship, entrepreneurship. None of our current technology would be useful if it was severed from daily life. Technology and coding are about engagement and interaction.

Most enlightening was to learn that code is not math, it’s words, it’s english. The cloud lifted and my eyes sparkled with demystification when I saw that writing code is not writing binary or algorithms, but writing sentences.

Why does HTML Dance?

Jeremy Shaki, co-founder of Lighthouse Labs, commenting on tech in Calgary said that, though Calgary is known for other industries, the city does have a thriving tech community. Tech doesn’t start and end in Silicon Valley. It helps all industries gain world-renown.

Calgary is built upon creative entrepreneurship and that innovative attitude feeds into the tech industry. Calgarians have the golden opportunity to get involved with tech and to be a part of creating the industry in the city.

With HTML(500)’s mentorship I could see that ideas were sparked in people’s minds. Coding takes minute details, minute information and builds it into large, multidimensional structures that we experience every day. Entrepreneurship runs on the same fuel; we take small questions, the nagging feeling that something can improve, and we build that sensation into companies, technology, invention.

Code does not need to be foreign and when I gathered the courage to interrogate it, I felt empowered. Though many of the jokes from the HTML(500) event went over my head, though I went in to the Red and White Club feeling like an outsider, I left feeling like I could make the world’s ugliest website. And I feel good about that.

written by: Hannah Chevrette-McIvor