Noob learns to code for 3 hours, tries to replicate Mothership as fake news site

Watched too much Black Mirror.

Asher Mak | Sponsored | February 09, 2018, 10:37 AM

"The Social Network" is one of my favourite movies telling the story of a young Zuckerberg moping around in pyjamas while being legally assaulted by the ripped Winklevoss twins. Of course, we know that he beat them to become the youngest billionaire; a celebration for geeks everywhere.

The scene where Zuckerberg hands out his business card which wrote “I’m CEO, bitch.” Struck a chord in me. When I felt discouraged about my jobs in the past, I often fantasised about a life filled with code, fast cars, hot women and where the champagne never ended. I would trade islands with the click of a button and life would be great.

Keep on dreaming Asher. You can’t even code...

Getting started

Until today. Zhi Peng (affectionately known as ZP) from UpCode Academy invited me to his lair for a crash course in coding. I was nervous; coding is such a technical language, and I am pretty much a technophobe, refusing to even update my OS. Yet I owed it to myself to give my dreams a shot. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, says the motivational poster on my sister’s bedroom wall.

I visited ZP’s coding school at Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent, the designated locale for hot startups, with just my laptop. It will be my first foray into coding. ZP sat me down and we had a great chat about how wonderful Mothership is. I know, right?

Photo by Asher Mak.

I mentioned that I had some basic skills in HTML that I used to “zhng” or beautify my old "geocities" blog during secondary school. Such good times. The good news is that HTML is still relevant as ever and the new coding languages just bring a layer of order to manipulate the HTML which is the underlying code of the internet.

We used a site called Cloud9 which allows you to select from various programming languages. ZP would later explain to me that because the computing world evolves quickly with new ways to use technology, coding languages frequently get antiquated. But the gist of coding principles remained the same so skills learnt are highly applicable no matter the language.

A few quick commands on Cloud9 imported all the capabilities of Ruby on Rails, a great coding language for beginners, on my computer. I should address the chicken and egg question here - how can coding programmes work if they need to be coded in the first place?

How it works

Simply put, technology scaffolds on itself. Over the years computers are able to conduct more sophisticated functions with more efficient codes and hence these complicated functionalities became available with a few commands. In other words, nobody has to start from scratch and the free nature of the web just empowers more advancements and innovations.

ZP got me to start typing some commands in code to see what would happen. While I really wanted to know the details of what was really happening, I decided to just trust in his teaching abilities. After all, he is a seasoned lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic. Honestly, I appreciated his approach because I am the sort who creates death by overthinking. It is through this “try, do, explore” approach, in his own words, that seemed the most practical way for a noob like me to get started as soon as possible.

Screenshot by Asher Mak

ZP felt a little cheeky that day, and tasked me with creating a pirated version of Mothership. Not to bore you with the technicalities but Ruby on Rails is quite efficient and easy to use. In fact, Twitter used it to kickstart their app. I just had to load a skeletal framework of a site and I had a fake Mothership site at my fingertips which allows me to input titles, content and pictures. Watch out, editors!

Screenshot by Asher Mak

If you go to Airbnb’s main site, you can see that the format looks similar to my pirated Mothership site. This is because Airbnb was built using the same coding language. If you stretch your imagination, it is not hard to see how one can simply use Ruby on Rails, input some parameters and get a crowdsourcing site like Airbnb up and running. Any budding entrepreneurs out there?

I appreciated that ZP broke down a seemingly large task into simple, rewarding exercises. To familiarise me with how coding is structured in web pages, he showed me how to change text on pre-existing websites by using the inspect function on my web browser. This was really fun for me and stimulated my inner child while creating fake news headlines.

Screenshot by Asher Mak

Screenshot by Asher Mak

Screenshot by Asher Mak

While coding has become the unseen language of modern society, there are not many places that impart it in a structured manner; this was his inspiration for starting UpCode Academy, ZP told me.

My crash course today was a sneak preview of UpCode Kickstart, a course that aims to impart three years of coding knowledge in three months. The best part of the course is that students get real-world working experience on internships with tech companies like Carousell. At the end of the course, the most promising student gets a startup fund of $40,000 for his or her tech product.

It is time to put those dreams to work.

Top image by Asher Mak.

This sponsored post is in collaboration with UpCode Academy, who just wants you to discover your inner coding genius.