3 months ago in Jersey a new Python User Group was set up and, as far as we know, it is the first Python User Group in the Channel Islands. For the first time I met like-minded people who would talk about Python with the fanaticism reserved for a church pew. Without realising it I began to feel I could participate in discussions around coding and half understand what was going on!
My journey began with coding when I was around 13. At that time it was mostly HTML and playing with flash to produce pretty dire looking websites. With the advent of Wordpress my interest then moved in to trying to grasp PHP but in the end, all I really did, was take a theme and tinker badly with it.
Something about PHP turned me off wanting to really learn ‘coding’. I think having no real understanding of the basic constructs of a programming language, combined with syntax, really threw me off. I went back and forth wanting, and trying, to learn PHP but never really got to a point where I knew first principles.
Then along came Python. I will not bore you with a poor version of events around how Python came in to being, as wikipedia has this covered extensively - Python (programming language) - Wikipedia however there are some key reasons why Python became the Eureka moment:
- Firstly it was written to read like English. If you can read you can more than likely look at a Python script and be able to talk through what you think it does
- Python uses indents to define code blocks. For me this meant I could actually start to look at like for like with other people’s codes
- From the Zen of Python - Beautiful is better than ugly
- Python comes with a load of built in libraries. Basically there is a tonne of stuff you can do with very little code
- At the time I had not heard much of Python but looked around and could see it was on a big trend of popularity - Python is becoming the world’s most popular coding language - Daily chart
So due to some of the core principles laid out in Python (and the fact it was growing in popularity) I all of a sudden went from learning programming basics (Boolean, data structures, loops etc.) to actually writing stuff that did something! OK, granted, some of the ‘stuff’ I first wrote was basic and ‘technically’ was badly written but it worked! Being able to write a script from scratch (and a lot of googling) that could take a list of websites and check if Google Analytics was implemented all of a sudden made me realise I could write code. Not only write code but feel empowered to start exploring where I can automate my daily work tasks.
Now I just write Python code pretty badly to do more complex tasks across a far greater range of use cases. Recently I have written scripts to automate management reporting in excel, look out for, and flag, potential e-commerce fraud, reduce a few hours of menial jobs and even power this blog! So this blog has really been borne out of the sense of achievement and productivity that learning to code and, specifically, learning Python has created. I am a pretty poor Python programmer but I intend to share my successes and how I came about them as well as my many fails (which will outnumber the achievements!) in the hope that talking about it will help others starting out.