Coding for Girls

Vidcode is “a coding app created with girls in mind” according to the Kickstarter page for it. “Vidcode teaches girls computer programming by enabling them to create video effects with code.”

There are not very many women working as programmers, and this needs to change. Well, that is the premise. Unfortunately, girls think coding is boring. But this new thing will make it seem like it is not boring. “When girls code effects for their videos with Vidcode, they’re excited to see that they, too, can be computer programmers. It opens up a whole world of possibilities for them in creative technology,” says the blurb, so they “created Vidcode, a video coding app that is not only self-expressive, but paired with a hobby girls love – creating and sharing videos.”

Because that’s girls for you: self-expressive, and with a love of creating and sharing. The program itself seems to be some sort of drag ‘n’ drop video effect application using, sigh, Instagram. After applying some effects, which have been pre-written in javascript, you can mess with the numbers to change these effects. Maybe a bit like Firebug, but with videos instead of CSS.

vidcode-userflow

“User flow:” Coding is easy! Sharing on Facebook is the ultimate purpose in life!

Somehow I don’t associate drag ‘n’ drop with coding, I don’t know why. I do know that I am not the target audience for the app, being neither teen nor interested in Facebook and its ilk (though I have made some [unmodified, effect-wise] YouTube videos). I am also not a coder. I date from the era where computer class wasn’t just yawn boring, but more or less forbidden for all but the most obnoxiously bold. That makes me the target audience for the funding, I suppose.

But I would never want to help fund this.

vidcode-login

A Chinese knock-off Apple logo stickered over the Dell brand mark makes for so much more empowerment

Dumbing down what is considered coding to the point that girls can go “wow i was like coding yah and like, omg, i’m instagramming it on ur facebook now!” is no help for anyone. If computer class is dull, and I dare say it is, and I also dare say there is little gender discrepancy in that observation, then what is needed is for girls to realise that just because something seems dull, or hard to learn, doesn’t make it worthless, it just means you have to knuckle down a bit more.

The Kickstarter page has some “Testimonials from the girls” that illustrate my points nicely.

“I now know that I can actually use code for something that I’m interested in.”
— Lily, 13 years old

“At my school there is a class for coding filled with guys. After using Vidcode, I’m realizing something may seem complicated but also girls can do it. ”
— Sarah, 16 years old

barbie computer engineer yah

Role Model

“[Before Vidcode] programming used to be a jumble. But now that I see the vocabulary, and how it works, it’s a lot more simple and I feel confident to continue coding.”
— Emma, 14 years old

Sharing videos on social websites is something Lily is interested in, and applying effects to them has now been equated with coding, so Top Programmer’s Gold Medals all round. Both Sarah and Emma think that complicated things are not suitable for girls, and they can only feel confident when it’s been simplified. Gone are the days when nobody taught teens to code, and instead they would work their way through a book if they couldn’t find a way forward. A book, goddammit! A big fat book that was so godforsakenly expensive that you wouldn’t dare give up on it anymore… And then there were classes, and courses, and whole university degrees, to get the pupil up to the level of the material. Now the material is brought down to the student instead.

Not to mention that the same drive that makes girls so fond of showing off, sharing photos and videos and what have you is also what makes them averse to things that have a reputation of being for boys only. If computer coding started being female-dominated, it wouldn’t be the same anymore. Not saying worse, necessarily, but it sure would start paying worse.

I have spent many happy moments during the past thirty years or so revelling in the black screen with the blinking cursor, and have plenty of experience with “feature bloat” and the difficulties inherent in managing 15000 lines of badly commented (“oh, I’ll remember what this subroutine is for, it’s so obvious”) executableness. I solve little computer problems by writing little programs. I would not dare call myself a coder. This whole thing that’s being done now, where writing “<?php Print "Hello, World!"; ?>” makes you a web programmer, just reeks of participation diplomas.

Oh, and before this sounds anti-womyn, or something, let me just pull out my gender card again.

Ebola in England

Public Health England (…) stated: “It is important to remember that for Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another contact with blood or other body fluids are needed.

“As such, if England was to see a case of Ebola this would not result in a serious, extended outbreak here.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-29656462)

Because no English person has ever, willingly or unwillingly, shared body fluids.

New Hard Drive

Shopping time again! I was looking for a new hard drive for the NAS. Since all that messing about with 500GB drives is becoming a little tiresome, a 4TB drive seemed like a good idea. The cheapest of these drives are situated in caddies, which means the question becomes: is the warranty worth £20-£30? I have never yet owned a drive that broke down within the warranty period (except for one, back in 1999, but I have tried to block out that particular memory because it caused the loss of all my hundreds of digital photos taken up to that date. Because backing them up in them days meant floppy disks). The second cheapest way to get a drive is buying OEM, but that gets f’all warranty too. So my answer to that question was ‘no.’ Time will tell. Read the rest of this entry »

Modern Browsers

From Cloudflare, who are pleased to present free SSL for the unwashed free masses, the following graph (from here). SNI means Server Name Indication, and its use correlates with modernity of the browser. In this world map, therefore, countries are coloured by overall browser up-to-dateness, as witnessed by the requests seen by Cloudflare’s servers. Which immediately poses questions, of course. Read the rest of this entry »

Anonabox

No tool in existence protects your anonymity on the Web better than the software Tor, which encrypts Internet traffic and bounces it through random computers around the world. But for guarding anything other than Web browsing, Tor has required a mixture of finicky technical setup and software tweaks. Now routing all your traffic through Tor may be as simple as putting a portable hardware condom on your ethernet cable. (source) Read the rest of this entry »