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United States Programming

As Coding Boot Camps Close, the Field Faces a Reality Check (nytimes.com) 179

An anonymous reader shares a report: In the last five years, dozens of schools have popped up offering an unusual promise: Even humanities graduates can learn how to code in a few months and join the high-paying digital economy. Students and their hopeful parents shelled out as much as $26,000 seeking to jump-start a career. But the coding boot-camp field now faces a sobering moment, as two large schools have announced plans to shut down this year -- despite backing by major for-profit education companies, Kaplan and the Apollo Education Group, the parent of the University of Phoenix. The closings are a sign that years of heady growth led to a boot-camp glut, and that the field could be in the early stages of a shakeout. [...] One of the casualties, Dev Bootcamp, was a pioneer. It started in San Francisco in 2012 and grew to six schools with more than 3,000 graduates. Only three years ago, Kaplan, the biggest supplier of test-preparation courses, bought Dev Bootcamp and pledged bold expansion. It is now closing at the end of the year. Also closing is The Iron Yard, a boot camp that was founded in Greenville, S.C., in 2013 and swiftly spread to 15 campuses, from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C. Its main financial backer is the Apollo Education Group. Since 2013, the number of boot camp schools in the United States has tripled to more than 90, and the number of graduates will reach nearly 23,000 in 2017, a tenfold jump from 2013, according to Course Report, which tracks the industry.
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As Coding Boot Camps Close, the Field Faces a Reality Check

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  • But a glut of stupidity, bloat, and bad code.

  • by known_coward_69 ( 4151743 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:00AM (#55082855)

    It's not like the boot camp instructors are CompSci masters who went to MIT or Stanford. It's the same content.

    Even if Boot Camps are a little better, they aren't $2900 better

    • Programmer 101 is really about training yourself. I kind of question the person that thinks paying for bootcamp is some kind of upward step....
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My instructor at the software guild in Louisville had a masters from MIT and previously worked for Microsoft. She was worth every penny.

    • by RJBeery ( 956252 )

      It's not like the boot camp instructors are CompSci masters who went to MIT or Stanford. It's the same content.

      Even if Boot Camps are a little better, they aren't $2900 better

      How much is a math course on Udemy?

  • by LordWabbit2 ( 2440804 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:03AM (#55082889)
    You CAN learn to code in a few months, heck if you are a quick study you could probably learn to code in ONE month.
    To write GOOD code however takes a LOT longer.

    Something these code camp twats probably knew damn well, but were more that willing to take money from the ignorant.

    Also what makes me bang me head against my desk is that people don't realize that coding is not simply learning how an if and a while work, it's about learning how to write a file, read a database (you'll have to learn SQL as well) etc. etc. in your chosen language. That takes a lot of time.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The only real difference between your average "learn to code in one month" code school graduate and your average 4-year Computer Science major is that the latter knows a lot more random academic CS stuff that, in practice, is applied very little in day-to-day professional work.

      Both of them have a lot to learn in terms of how to work with others, the difference between code you write for an assignment and then throw away vs. code that needs to be running in production 10 years after you've left the company,

      • the latter knows a lot more random academic CS stuff that, in practice, is applied very little in day-to-day professional work.

        IMO, learning about things like computer architecture, operating system design / concepts, data structures, algorithms, might not seem like it - but, can be very relevant. Just because YOU don't work in a field that needs some of that knowledge, doesn't mean that those areas don't exist. That's preposterous.

      • It depends on the coding application. If it is yet another ad-slinging and info slurping app, the #1 priority for the devs is to get features out in the next sprint, no matter how ugly the code base and no matter how buggy it is. Commodity stuff like this doesn't require much, as this can be easily offshored to the battalions of coders overseas.

        However, there are many coding applications which need CS skill:

        1: FPGA programming.
        2: Embedded programming with a very limited architecture. Some applications

      • How many semester long, multi person software projects would the boot camp grad have worked through?

        Tip to high schoolers: If a CS or Engineering program doesn't have a scheduled, required 'senior project' (names will vary) course, find another.

        That said: There is truth to your statement about how useless the average CS grad is. I like to ask how many programming languages they knew when they started college. Zero is the wrong answer.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Any idiot can learn to push buttons in a few weeks but it takes a special kind of person and/or years of learning to really grasp programming.

      I graduated college with people who struggled every inch of the way to understand even basic logic and all I could think was that "man, this is going to be your career, you better like this shit"

      Every now and then I run into a professional button pusher, the kind that copy / paste shit everywhere and doesn't even hesitate to think...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Learning to write good code takes a life time. When I learn to write good code I'll let you know.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @01:06PM (#55083973)

      8 Week boot camps to a CS major are an 8 week CRN course to an MD.

      They're different skillsets intended to fill a different role.

      I wish I could change my corporate culture and hire a dozen GED Bootcamp graduates over funneling stuff over to India. At least when I get angry and swear about the code quality they'll clearly understand I'm not happy and be able to see my facial expressions.

    • You CAN learn to code in a few months, heck if you are a quick study you could probably learn to code in ONE month. To write GOOD code however takes a LOT longer. Something these code camp twats probably knew damn well, but were more that willing to take money from the ignorant. Also what makes me bang me head against my desk is that people don't realize that coding is not simply learning how an if and a while work, it's about learning how to write a file, read a database (you'll have to learn SQL as well) etc. etc. in your chosen language. That takes a lot of time.

      You can say that about most CS graduates. Even those from top CS departments. Hell, you can say that about most professions. There is a reason why real world experience counts so much in IT careers.

  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:04AM (#55082891)

    I hope I am not in the minority with this, but I honestly enjoyed the concept of Dev/Code Bootcamps. I've had an internal philosophy that no matter what 'career' you do (to some extent, so let's not anon-troll that, please) or hobbies/interests, development skills in some programming language would help you. And if you want to make a career out of it, even better!

    However, that being said, I'm also a firm believer in experience over quick buzzy skills any day of the week, 100% of the time. All I viewed this as was a way to 1) make a non-profit for gains in big dollars on the business side (WTF WOULDNT want a successful non-profit) and 2) water-down a field that, in my opinion, should NOT be watered down.

    Software engineering/development, bridging advanced mathematics (e.g. linear algebra, calculus, etc.) takes an EXTREME amount of well-rounded background in all things computing, skills and investing into yourself, your study, your craft. It's the field I work in, respect and make a living in. I feel like a chimp in shadows of some truly gifted software developers I've met and worked with in my past and I've been doing this for almost 15 years professionally now. Those people didn't get there by taking a quick 4 week crasher on the shiny-new-topic, whizbang a resume with a thesaurus and try to land a $100K gig for 6 months to build a 'previous employment' line-item they could wow the next place into hiring them on.

    It's sad from the ideology of it, but if this is the direction it's going, I'm not totally heartbroken either from the glass-half-empty perspective.

    • I hope I am not in the minority with this, but I honestly enjoyed the concept of Dev/Code Bootcamps. I've had an internal philosophy that no matter what 'career' you do (to some extent, so let's not anon-troll that, please) or hobbies/interests, development skills in some programming language would help you. And if you want to make a career out of it, even better!

      However, that being said, I'm also a firm believer in experience over quick buzzy skills any day of the week, 100% of the time. All I viewed this as was a way to 1) make a non-profit for gains in big dollars on the business side (WTF WOULDNT want a successful non-profit) and 2) water-down a field that, in my opinion, should NOT be watered down.

      Software engineering/development, bridging advanced mathematics (e.g. linear algebra, calculus, etc.) takes an EXTREME amount of well-rounded background in all things computing, skills and investing into yourself, your study, your craft. It's the field I work in, respect and make a living in. I feel like a chimp in shadows of some truly gifted software developers I've met and worked with in my past and I've been doing this for almost 15 years professionally now. Those people didn't get there by taking a quick 4 week crasher on the shiny-new-topic, whizbang a resume with a thesaurus and try to land a $100K gig for 6 months to build a 'previous employment' line-item they could wow the next place into hiring them on.

      It's sad from the ideology of it, but if this is the direction it's going, I'm not totally heartbroken either from the glass-half-empty perspective.

      The problem with these kinds of arguments is the absolute position too many of us take. Is every programming assignment require a CS degree? Is a CS degree necessary for web development, payroll applications, database query, etc? I say no. Some programming tasks require a degree in computer science or engineering as a perquisite and other tasks a formal education in CS is not necessary. That's the way it is and should be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:05AM (#55082903)
    I have a literature degree from a CA university, but I knew I would work with computers one day. I chose to major in Literature to broaden my horizon. In the last 20+ years working as a software engineer, I would say there's three flavors of developers. Elite engineers don't need a CS degree and I've met plenty sharp minds that out code, out design, out produce people with CS degrees. I also know a few elite people with CS degree. The common trait with elite engineers is a passion for learning and fearless attitude.

    The second group are above average, but will never be elite. They lack passion, open mind and desire to continually learn stuff.

    The third group are coder that are collecting pay checks and don't have a passion for technology or learning. The would rather be doing something else. I would guess 60% fall into this category from my own experience. Depending on the project, that number can be as high as 75%.

    Anyone that has 10+ years of experience with software development would know this. Anyone surprised by this wasn't paying attention.

    • +1 insightful. (squandered my mod points on another article this morning, sorry)

    • Yup, you wanna run Boot Camps?

      Then expect to end up with grunts.

      Don't expect them to be able to cope with much outside of the narrow parameters they have been given during their "training". And this is also the the big difference between "training" - teaching someone how to perfom a set of well-defined and understood tasks, but not much else, end "education" - giving people the intellectual tools to be able to do things (maybe including the training bits), and some more besides. The problem is, education t

      • So do you actually have any idea what gets covered in bootcamps or are you just assuming that you do? Because at the very least you're speaking extremely broadly about a fairly diverse field of educational institutions.

        • I have a fairly good idea, yes. I worked in HE in the UK designing, teaching and assessing computing and computing-related curricula for around 15 years until last year. I'm now in a dev role, also at a UK university.
  • Has anyone worked with boot camp graduates?

    I'm sincerely curious about the caliber of people they turn out. I'm perhaps a bit curmudgeonly on this; I think that to be a competent software developer you need to have a pretty thorough grounding in math and science, as well as some native talent... which seems to be far more common in people drawn to math and science. But I'm willing to be proven wrong.

    What I'd really like to see is a proper study of boot camp graduates that uses good sampling methods and some decent objective measurement of skill/ability, at a few points in time (fresh grads, grads after two years in industry, grads after five years in industry, for example) and compares them to graduates from the "traditional" sources, controlling for extraneous variables. In the absence of that, I'd like to hear anecdotes, especially from people who worked with boot camp grads they thought were pretty good.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have had the misfortune of working with such people. Let me be frank about them: they were total disasters.

      I don't have high expectations for people with a Comp Sci or similar degree. But even the worst of these people could easily run circles around the self-taught or those with limited education like boot camps or just a continuing education course or two.

      The limited education folks are often extraordinarily ignorant. Many of them only know JavaScript. That's it. That's all they know. They don't even kn

      • It would be fairly easy to rewrite your post to apply equally to CS grads who have no idea what development workflows are like, or who uses recursion to traverse a string in-order. Programming requires a great deal of theory, practicum, continuing education, and intellectual curiousity. You're not going to pick up a complete programming education anywhere, and the drive to actually be good at this job probably cannot be taught. As a profession, we need to recognize that we are a profession, and get some sor

    • I worked with one who worked out VERY well. But he was a coder before he started the bootcamp. We hired him as a web dev, and the bootcamp was for Javascript. But he was coding for many years before taking the course, so it's not like the course taught him to code, it just helped him code something new.

      Similar situation: I hired an IOS dev that learned from a Udacity course, and he's a rock star. But again, he knew how to code in something other than Swift before he started the Udacity course.
    • Has anyone worked with boot camp graduates?

      I'm sincerely curious about the caliber of people they turn out. I'm perhaps a bit curmudgeonly on this; I think that to be a competent software developer you need to have a pretty thorough grounding in math and science, as well as some native talent... which seems to be far more common in people drawn to math and science. But I'm willing to be proven wrong.

      Do you really have to have a throughout grounding in math and science to be a software developer? How much math and science is involved in web development, payroll applications, SQL programming, etc?

      • Has anyone worked with boot camp graduates?

        I'm sincerely curious about the caliber of people they turn out. I'm perhaps a bit curmudgeonly on this; I think that to be a competent software developer you need to have a pretty thorough grounding in math and science, as well as some native talent... which seems to be far more common in people drawn to math and science. But I'm willing to be proven wrong.

        Do you really have to have a throughout grounding in math and science to be a software developer? How much math and science is involved in web development, payroll applications, SQL programming, etc?

        It's possible to write simple business logic, etc. without any, but if you go at all beyond that, to anything that requires creating your own algorithms, having enough math to be able to think about algorithmic complexity, understand data structure tradeoffs, etc. is critical. I'd say that it's possible to be a code monkey without math, but not a software developer. As for science, perhaps I should have said "engineering" instead, though the relevant concepts are closely related. Science and engineering tra

  • Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) boot camps produced a generation of sub-par sys admins
    Microsoft Certified Engineer / Developer (MSCE/D) produced a generation of sub-par engineers / developers

    This is just more of the same :) The wheat will separate from the chaff and the consultants will make a small mint fixing all of the bad code

    • This is funny, because MSCE was considered a difficult certification to attain. People would buy very expensive books and take expensive courses to that end.

      And none of that ended up teaching the practice of programming at all.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:23AM (#55083043)

    I'm old enough to remember the MCSE and Java/back end web development bootcamps from the late 90s. I even went to an MCSE bootcamp to renew my certification when a consultancy I was working for paid for it. Any time a field gets hot, and there's money to be made, people who don't have a whole lot of aptitude for it are going to look for a quick way in. In the case of my bootcamp, there was a clear division between those of us who needed to stuff our brains with facts to pass a certification test quickly, and those who were driving a truck last week and got tricked by the school's recruiter to giving them their student loan money, GI Bill benefits, etc.

    But just like 1999, 2018 and beyond isn't going to need 20 million JavaScript developers who know a couple of web framework tricks. Right now, anyone who can fog a mirror and write in Node.js or Rust is in hipster startup heaven, making lots of money. When the downturn comes, and activity goes back down to a reasonable level, all the people who are suffering through this for the money aren't going to stick around. We're already seeing the coder schools folding up the tents because they can't get enough marks through the door anymore.

    There's nothing wrong with educating yourself and changing gears. I've been on a journey to learn more about modern IT stuff like DevOps, cloud, etc. and filling the gaps in my knowledge has been a long, slow process. I've been doing end user computing and systems integration stuff for a while, so web programming is something I haven't done a lot of. Would it be great to just sit down and "learn DevOps in 14 days?" Sure, but I know that's not realistic. When you're working with people who've done nothing but code and manage web apps for a decade, you have a lot of catching up to do and it's not something you can rush if you want any deep knowledge. It's the difference between, say, putting an SSL certificate on a website that a CA gave you, vs. knowing how that process actually works, what can go wrong, etc.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @11:24AM (#55083051) Homepage
    You cannot for 60 years insist upon blind consumerism and automation without question, upon walled gardens and closed source, and expect people to take an interest in programming in less than a generation.
    you cannot hijack the word 'hacker' and expect to be taken seriously when you've spent 35 years incarcerating and denigrating the very people you'd hope to attract to the science of programming and computer systems.

    albeit unrelated, this is Much the same with gender and STEM. you cannot usurp 150 years of wife-as-homemaker and husband-as-breadwinner in a week of code camps and diversity seminars. You created these problems, and you'll need to work as hard as you did when you created them in order to fix them.
  • I have to admit that it's hard to see the value in a lot of these "schools".

    I've actually attended a few of the classes attempting to pickup new skills, even though I've got a degree in Computer Science already.

    Eg, I took a class in Ruby, which wasn't really popularized when I was in school.

    It wasn't a good experience. The class length was nowhere near long enough to get someone completely up to speed from scratch, yet since the class was billed as "beginner friendly", they started out with the standard "H

    • Seems like a pretty shitty class. I took a Pascal class in high school, and we actually covered some fairly useful techniques like recursion and linked lists. What's more, I really fell in love with Pascal (it was my first real exposure to structured programming, I'd be coding in BASIC for a few years before that). Indeed, more than concrete tools, what the class gave me was a feel for structured programming concepts, and it was a solid bedrock that my later programming was built on. It really was only a s

  • "Even humanities graduates can learn how to code in a few months..."

    Did anyone else get a good chuckle out of that sly dig? I can imagine a funny commercial: "Are you a high school dropout? Recently paroled? Functionally illiterate? Severe mental deficiency and/or brain damage? Or even a humanities graduate? You too can learn to code in a few months!"

    • Although that statement certainly looks a bit too aggressive (+ prejudicious), the gap humanities/STEM is quite relevant (it might cut both ways if you wish). As a person who did pass through that gap in the past, I can confirm it. It is very difficult that the same person can really like both alternatives (I didn't like humanities and love engineering + programming): it isn't just knowledge; but also overall personality and expectations. Logically, everyone can learn to code or to write in whatever languag
      • Apparently, sharing my honest impressions about my personal experiences by somehow censoring too aggressive positions ("Although that statement certainly looks a bit too aggressive (+ prejudicious)") and by being as over-understanding as possible ("it might cut both ways if you wish") is now also considered trolling by some people (the post above got -1 troll)! Interesting!

        One of my life goals is to be able to come up with a comprehensive and accurate enough definition for trolling/being a troll in inter
    • I noticed it, as the most preposterous lie.

      Every group will have a few potential code monkeys and a smaller number of analytical minds.

      Humanities grads, as a group, already had a choice, no tech for them. (What % made that choice based on party schedule as undergrads, calc really cuts into 'drinking time'?) The analytic ones already view the world through (Jungian, Marxist, Literary Symbolism, Postmodern, * Studies etc etc) lenses. The average ones have just learned derp from the same list. Some of tho

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      Those who don't really understand a technology think it's something you can simply learn by being taught. Programming is definitely not one of those things, some people's brains just can't comprehend certain things that you need to be a good programmer.

      Back around 2000, I interviewed for a job with a major internet hosting company. Admittedly it wouldn't have been a great match because I'm naturally great at programming, but merely good at admin stuff (I've run my own web site and e-mail server on my DSL s

  • It isn't just less prepared workers, but also clients, HR departments, managers, funding/financial entities and even dumbed-down programming environments/tests/solutions/expectations. I have no problem in recognising that, in the past, I let all this nonsense (because provokes everyone to lose) to somehow affect my work. It is also true that, unless you are lucky enough (or similar) to be in a quality-prone and supporting environment, things out there are quite tough: lots of offer at almost any price (+ qu
  • Programming is not a task. It is a way of viewing the world. It’s a way of thinking that mingles creativity and logic. Almost like physical poetry. Many of us (yes, I’m a coder and have been a long time) have a burning curiosity and always ask “what if, how did that happen, where did that come from..” and a myriad of other questions indicating a need for constant learning. My wife is very successful in medicine. She’s much more “feeling” driven in her decisions
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Well said.

      A funny thing is that not even every good mathematician can learn to code well. These people are highly capable of structuring things, but when the structures need to be executable and become several orders of magnitude more complex, quite a few of them find they do not have what it takes to produce good results. That is not to put down mathematicians in any way, that is just to say that talents can be very, very specific in this space.

      So while everyone can certainly produce tweets and most can pr

  • because companies don't have to hire the graduates. They can have as many college grads as they want. If they run out of US college grads they can get them from overseas. Why would I hire somebody who's been through an 8 week bootcamp when I can have somebody with 4 years of school? If nothing else that 4 years of school tells me they're stable enough to stick with something.
    • 4 years at Chico State? Quitter. The pros take 6.

      It means a lot less than it used to. Large demo of middle class suburban kids that waste their four years, parents money and takeout loans to fund an extended party.

      Which was always true, but they used to get kicked after a year of 0.2 GPAs. (We used to call it the 'square root' club, where the square root of your GPA is higher than your GPA, 'they' didn't get it. Which was good, prevented fights.)

  • Even the IDEA that most people can code is STUPID. Coding requires a certain mindset, and critical thinking skills that MANY people just don't have.

    The idea that anyone code makes as much sense as saying "Anyone can win the Olympic Long Jump!"

    These schools took advantage of people's desire to improve their lives.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      These schools took advantage of people's desire to improve their lives.

      In capitalism, there is always a certain amount of enterprises that cater to desires and dreams and do not deliver. Coding Bootcamps are one, but so are lotteries, other fake "academies" like "Trump University", etc.

      On the moral side, these are all utterly despicable, with the lottery probably being reasonable benign, but only because it is not expensive.

  • perhaps it will depress wages to the point that it's not worth it to import indentured servants who are quasi slaves to code.

  • by Sam36 ( 1065410 )
    Crap was stupid anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Community Colleges are the niche solution.

    Anyone can learn to code on their own, if they have the desire and purpose.

    Nobody does - well, very few people do.

    The problem is that few, very few, people have that level of commitment on their own. So we need a cheat. Community college for $200 is that cheat. I know it works, because I've done it. I learned C, then C++, then statistics - all at a community college. Best of all, my day-job paid for the classes. Then they sent me to Intermediate and Advanced C

  • "can learn how to code in a few months and join the high-paying digital economy"

    And some still wonder why overall code quality and programming skill level dives like a drunken mallad.

    Coding doesn't mean anything. When I started highschool I could code in 4 languages. They kept teaching us algorithms and math for 12 hours a week (4 hrs theory&algorithms, 4 hrs math, 4 hrs coding labs) for 4 years, followed by my university years, followed by many years of practive and still I'd need to learn more tha
  • Still completely relevant: http://norvig.com/21-days.html [norvig.com]
    Also applies to being taught the first few years.

    There is no silver bullet in coding or any other form of engineering, and even less so in learning it. You need talent, dedication, motivation stemming from the subject (not the potential paycheck) and a lot of time.

  • Back in the late 90's I was already reasonable successful and self-taught. I was burning through certifications left and right because I already new the stuff. I became curious about these "tech schools" I thought I would take one for a spin in case I was perhaps missing something. I was appalled. No one except me had any background in computers, and were having what was for them some seriously heavy duty material thrown at them with no time to actually learn it before moving on. Even the instructors fell s

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