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United States Programming

Why President Obama Was Held Back a Year Before Starting Code School (quora.com) 117

theodp writes: Microsoft is boasting that UK Prime Minister David Cameron learned to code during this year's Hour of Code thanks to its Minecraft-themed tutorial, much like US President Barack Obama learned to code during 2014's Hour of Code thanks to Disney's Frozen Princess-themed tutorial. Interestingly, according to a recent Quora post by Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, plans to have President Obama 'learn to code' a year earlier were torpedoed by the Healthcare.gov debacle. "We launched the first Hour of Code campaign, in 2013," explains Partovi. "We launched the first Hour of Code on the home page of Google, in every Apple Store, and we had convinced the President to issue a speech about computer science. But it was impossible to get the president to actually write any code that year — the administration had just launched its Healthcare.gov website, and after the infamous technical failures, nobody wanted the visual of website failing while the President is learning to code."
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Why President Obama Was Held Back a Year Before Starting Code School

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:03PM (#51134757)

    I request an image of Obama learning to code on healthcare.gov

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:31PM (#51134843)

      If he can code, then he can fix healthcare.gov

      • Hulk Hogan is a better programmer than Obama . Maybe you should ask him.
      • by GodelEscherBlecch ( 4321991 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @12:25AM (#51135007)
        Went on it last week and it worked quite well and was a damn sight more informative and easy to use than the sites provided by my own insurance company / employer. Just sayin'.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mysidia ( 191772 )

        I think being able to type moveForward(100); is a far cry from actually being able to code.

        Being able to write off a few lines or follow a tutorial, or hold a sword, and slash some rabbits, does not a Jedi make.

        • > I think being able to type moveForward(100); is a far cry from actually being able to code.

          It's not even as good as that. The Anna and Elsa skating thing he did used block programming, that would generate JS code for you based on how you clicked the lego blocks of code together.

          We did the exercises with 1st and 3rd graders during the Hour of Code this week.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            That is even worse..... Block programming with a GUI might teach some fundamental concepts, or they could just "point and click randomly until it starts working"

            I'm not sure that it's possible to create a "GUI" for programming that would actually be approaching remotely efficient to write meaningful programs in.

            But writing the code in a logically/procedurally precise structured language is part of the necessary discipline for coding: it's hard, and it's an essential element.

            • What I've found is that success in introductory computer science is highly correlated with a student's pre-existing knowledge of "how to think like a computer" - i.e. being able to logically break down a task into a series of steps. I think that the hour of code activities are pretty good at teaching that.

      • If he can code, then coding obviously isn't very hard; politicians generally aren't the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree.

        I never understood this passion for teaching people to code. Writing code is like drawing with crayons, language-wise. In fact, it's problem is that it is too simple, so simple that there are absolutely no ambiguities or shades of meaning. Normal language speakers have to train themselves to NOT think normally, in order to code well. It's like giving a painter 64 crayons and telling him or her to draw the Mona Lisa. Well, that's 3 strokes of Blue, 1 of Yellow, 2 of Green, 1 of Purple and a dash of Black, then Grey. There. That's the color of that shaded portion under her right thumb.

        I've written two such "languages" of my own, and have learned about six more. I never found any of them particularly difficult. Programming is thinking. Thinking -- not coding -- is what's hard.

        • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

          I never understood this passion for teaching people to code.

          The more people who can code, the less worth a coder is. Plenty of companies would like to reduce their software development related costs.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:03PM (#51134759)

    what the internet actually is

    • Maybe teach Carly encryption on an HP Itanium server running HP/UX
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You'd probably have better success teaching iCarly.

      • Show her how to install HP ux first..
        • Show her some high tech equipment and say "these are the products your company used to make before you sold it all off in order to make ink instead."

          • That was a bit at the back of my mind. Maybe do something on one of those old PA-RISC workstations in front of her, and when she wants to engage w/ you in conversation (I know that's not what she engaged in @ HP), ask her about it, and tell her that this was one of your product lines. Demonstrate that she was more of an outsider in HP than she is in the current race, where she's very much @ home amongst Bush, Kaisich, Graham and Huckabee

        • Show her how to install HP ux first..

          It comes by default preloaded on any Itanium, since Linux, Windows and probably even FreeBSD has dropped support for that platform. NetBSD was not even supported in the first place

      • by deniable ( 76198 )
        Let her start on an HP calculator.
        • She only knows how to stop them.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I went to school at Kents Hill which is, well, a prep school. Yes, yes I lived on campus, we had our own observatory, ice arena, ski slope, etc... Anyhow, we had these really early computers (not a lot of them) that took magnetic stripe cards, punch cards, a plotter, and you could hook it up to a TV. I don't know when they came out but this was the late 1960s that they showed up - we could program them. We used them in both Physics and Planer Geometry and then again in Trig and Calc though I think those mig

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              Something something bees for a quarter and an onion on our belt which was the fashion at the time. Yeah, it's what I do. ;-) You *must* be new here if you're unfamiliar with it. I seem to recall that /. has a character limit now. I've not hit it in a while. I probably should find it again.

              If us old people don't tell you the stories then how will you kids remember? It's my way or writing it down.

              Ha! I just noticed your signature. You are, indeed, the audience. *nods* Maybe not the intended audience but you'r

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

      They're still looking for the "Off" button.

    • by Pax681 ( 1002592 )

      what the internet actually is

      Ah I doff my hat to you Sir!
      yeah teach them they can't turn off the inter...[connection dropped]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:06PM (#51134775)
    Every administration tries to orchestrate their "message." Unfortunately, they let it happen in ways that undermine their own goals. The system is designed to reward those who best manipulate the media. When I see other nations sliding toward American style campaigns, I wince. One of the side effects is that the campaigning never ends.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      Sadly it's happened in the UK with televised "debates" becoming a thing in recent years.
    • by 8086 ( 705094 )
      Yeah that voter manipulation trick has has been imported to India from K Street with some enhancements and is wreaking havoc here. We now we have a genocidal fundamentalist running the country with a perfectly astroturfed social media based campaign. For example, he circulated a false jpeg on WhatsApp claiming that Julian Assange says Modi is incorruptible. This was happening at a time when social media had just hit critical mass in India, e.g. the average 40+ year old citizen and the middle class had just
  • Give me a break (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:15PM (#51134797)

    Hey guys, I learned how to dress a wound with my triangular bandage, I've obviously learned medicine.

    Obama didn't learn to code, neither did that useless twat Cameron. This is all stupid publicity garbage to make leaders look like they're "hands on", but I doubt either one of them could write a program worth anything. This is just insulting to the men and women who have spent thousands of hours gaining the skills.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Guy Harris ( 3803 )

      Hey guys, I learned how to dress a wound with my triangular bandage, I've obviously learned medicine.

      Obama didn't learn to code, neither did that useless twat Cameron.

      Yeah, but have you learned how to fuck a pig [youtube.com]?

    • Politics never has a single agenda for their "messages" to the public, there are many. We know that people don't want to pay a living wage to US Citizens to code. This is why companies like Microsoft (mentioned in TFA so not picking on them) push like hell for more Visas and Green Cards, more deregulation on moving projects overseas (including DOD work which is expressly prohibited by law, but lobbyists have been working that for 15 years), and of course more people who can "code" to reduce the market va

      • Oh I know the rhetoric. "Everyone should because", and "If you can't you don't deserve to work in IT" which is fine...

        Ah, no it's not. I can't stand that "you don't deserve to work" shitty argument.

        Here's lets try this one on for size. Every aspiring doctor should be a proctology intern. I mean, if you can't do that, you don't deserve to work in the medical field.

        How's that sound, assholes?

        • Re:Mostly sure (Score:5, Insightful)

          by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @04:32AM (#51135609)

          As a physician, I can tell you that every US medical student I've seen had to do/learn all the basic proctology tasks/diagnoses, and residents must learn the entire general range of proctology tasks/diagnoses. While most schools don't let a student do, say, full hands-on supervised colonoscopies for liability/inexperience/billing reasons, their residency will expect them to. A proctologist (as you term a board certified internist, with further training leading to a board subspecialty as a gastroenterologist) is an expert, there are no "proctology interns".

          I say this as someone who feels US medical care suffers from our excessive (sub)specialization, at the expense of trained generalists.

          As abusive as I feel the med school/residency system is, this is one part I agree with: any physician SHOULD have a thorough grounding.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Imagine you just learned how to dress a wound after one of the major explosions in Iraq (in the middle of Operation Iraqi Freedom). If you are not in the media eye, great! You learned a valuable skill which might help you in later life.

      If you are in the media, perhaps the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, you get a different reception. It looks like (or could easily be made to look like) you don't know what you are supposed to be doing. Instead of coordinating a successful defense strategy, you se

    • he probably hasn't even herded enough sheep or eaten enough haggis to be a scotsman, either!

    • Re:Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @04:35AM (#51135625)

      Hey guys, I learned how to dress a wound with my triangular bandage, I've obviously learned medicine.

      I have a Black & Decker drill and a can of spackle.

      I guess that makes me a dentist.

      A long time ago, I was "given" a CS student to manage. I quickly noticed that he hated programming, so I asked him why he was studying CS. He answered: "Because of the money."

      I really hate it, when politicians pop up, write a "Hello World!" one liner, and then claim that they can code. They don't understand what programming is all about, and want to dismiss it as a simple skill that anyone (H1Bs) can do. Just because you can speak a few words of English as a foreign language, that doesn't mean that you can write works of Shakespearean quality.

      That, is what politicians don't get about programming. They don't understand it, so they want to dismiss it as something trivial.

      • Re:Give me a break (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:07AM (#51136523)

        I really hate it, when politicians pop up, write a "Hello World!" one liner, and then claim that they can code.

        Who has claimed that? Obama certainly didn't claim that -- the press release said he was "the first president to write a line of code." There's no claim that he became an expert or fluent -- he just participated in doing something that many people of his generation have never done. Because he thinks it's important, as he said:

        Part of what we're realizing is that we're starting too late when it comes to making sure that our young people are familiar with not just how to play a video game, but how to create a video game.

        And it wasn't David Cameron claiming he "learned to code" -- if anything it's the Microsoft press release that used that phrase. If you read the details, they say just that these politicians "had their first experience" of coding, not that they had somehow become an expert in an hour. If anything, the emphasis with Cameron was how much he learned from OTHER KIDS who had clearly invested more time in this stuff.

        They don't understand what programming is all about, and want to dismiss it as a simple skill that anyone (H1Bs) can do. Just because you can speak a few words of English as a foreign language, that doesn't mean that you can write works of Shakespearean quality.

        That, is what politicians don't get about programming. They don't understand it, so they want to dismiss it as something trivial.

        Actually, it is the exact opposite. If you actually read what they're saying, they are trying to emphasize how important these sorts of skills are, and they are doing these "stunts" NOT to demonstrate that "I too can learn to code in an hour," but rather something like, "Hey -- parents and grandparents out there who may never have done anything like this -- look, it's important, and it's a good idea to expose your kids to it early. I'm taking time to show how important skills like this are by trying a little myself, even though I haven't done it before."

        Now -- you can criticize various aspects of what they're doing. You could say that this is an ineffective way of getting their message across or that we don't need more kids familiar with coding (probably not true) or that there's a better way to demonstrate their commitment to this.

        But the whole point of these things is politicians trying to emphasize the IMPORTANCE of coding to our society today -- even if older generations don't "get it." They're not "dismiss[ing] it as something trivial" -- they're trying to encourage kids and parents to take the time to try it. As the Microsoft story about Cameron ends:

        the hope is that the Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial will have sparked an interest that lasts a lifetime.

        It probably won't for the vast majority of kids, but it might create an interest in some. Maybe you have some better ideas about how to encourage this. But I don't think you can accuse the politicians here of claiming either (1) that they became experts in an hour or (2) that they are trying to dismiss these skills as overly simple. If anything, they are trying to point out how we need to get kids interested early because it is a HARD and IMPORTANT skill that can take a long time to learn.

      • I've known several brilliant computer scientists that don't really enjoy programming--there was a time when computer science was more than memorizing idiosyncratic template meta-programming syntax.

    • Sorry I misread that as

      This is just insulting to the men and women who have spent thousands of hours gaming the skills.

      and my inner geek gloated :D

    • Next you're going to tell me that a politician in a hard hat doesn't actually know how to run that brand new gas power plant.

      Unpossible!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @11:53PM (#51134925)

    because he only knows division. His code can't be debugged, because every function has a race condition. He can't write C++ because only the protected classes matter. And none of the classes are allowed to be friends. And he wants to penalize inheritance.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @12:35AM (#51135023)
    Learning to code meaningfully in an hour would be like learning calculus in an hour. It's not gonna happen. Stop with the gimmicks. Obama and Cameron can't code.
  • I seriously doubt Cameron learned to code. He can barely do cohesive thought processes. There is no word I'm allowed to type that would get through this firewall that describes his complete and utter inability to do anything remotely good for the people he is supposed to serve and represent.
  • So the guy who has the job of running the country didn't have time to participate in some stupid dog-and-pony farce because he was too busy running the country? And that was two years ago?

    Yeah, that's news that matters.

    Also, quora are spamming invasive bastards.

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @05:13AM (#51135699)

    Anybody who is moderately intelligent and understands the idea of doing one thing after another is able to learn how to carry out the basics of coding. I think most of my generation learned to write code by picking up whichever manual was at hand, reading it and then try to work out how to solve some small problem; it took me an afternoon to get started, and I can't imagine it would take anybody else longer, really. What is missing is the word 'well'; any idiot can learn to string instructions together, as I thought when I heard about Cameron learning it, but doing it well is another matter altogether.

    It falls in three phases, I think:

    1: Learning that coding consists of writing simple instructions and thinking "Oh, it that all it is?"
    2: Learning a bit more and realising that writing a good program for a substantial project is actually hard
    3: Building up years of experience and eventually becoming good

    Regrettably, a lot of people never progress past 1; and unfortunately a lot of them are managers, who then think that they are equipped to make decisions about the subject.

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Funny)

      by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @06:12AM (#51135859)

      2: Learning a bit more and realising that writing a good program for a substantial project is actually hard

      He hasn't even figured that out for law or government; he thinks he just decrees things and then they magically happen. When his code doesn't do what he wants, he probably complains that the CPU found "loopholes" in the instruction stream.

  • by nightcats ( 1114677 ) <nightmeow AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 17, 2015 @07:05AM (#51135963) Homepage Journal
    I have spent roughly a third of my life these past 2 decades or so among folks who code professionally, but there is one language that seems to have been avoided or repressed in the rush toward a society of coders. Paradoxically or not, I have found that those who really understand computer languages [briandonohue.org] are often the ones who most value this other, rather moribund language:

    True story from about a decade ago: I was sitting around a lunchroom table with a group of Indian tech workers. A new person had just arrived from our company’s office in Chennai, India, and he was getting acquainted with the “onshore” staff. Their way of breaking the ice was to go around the table, each man telling his name, position, and language(s). The web developer would introduce himself and say, ” I am Anand, I specialize in XML, javascript, CSS” The systems administrator would then chime in with something like “Ravi, I work in UNIX, Powershell, Perl” And so on it went, around the table, six or eight guys with varying skills and responsibilities. Finally it was my turn. I smiled and said, “I’m Brian Donohue, I work in the QA area and I also do some technical writing, and my language isoh damn itEnglish?”

  • I don't really see what is so bad about the optics of a decision maker learning a little something about the work involved in accomplishing the objectives that person is supposed to be making decisions about.

    Healthcare reform was a big part of the presidential agenda, major parts of that included digitizing records and building a large computerized exchange. I am generally one of the presidents harsher critics, but I would have looked favorably upon him actually trying to learn something about the nuts and

  • ...the administration had just launched its Healthcare.gov website, and after the infamous technical failures, nobody wanted the visual of website failing while the President is learning to code.

    So, I'm really confused about this. My left-wing friends on facebook all assured us (repeatedly) that healthcare.gov was working just fine and it was just a right-wing conspiracy theory that there were any problems. Was there actually a technical failure? Surely not.

  • Well he gave it a try but he had the damnedest time getting the turtle to move.
  • One for the IDE, and the other for the teleprompter so he knows what to type.
  • That's great! I am appreciative that the president now knows about what I have done for a living the last 42 years. It looks like googling "US CONSTITUTION TUTORIAL" that there are some things of more immediate value.

Backed up the system lately?

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