Cracking the Code: My Pledge to Learn How to Web Scrape

I’d like to make a public pledge: I intend to learn how to code.

There, I’ve committed myself.  I figure, I’d better, since in my mind, coding is somewhat equivalent to math, which means right away, I might avoid it.  But, see, I really get how much journalists need to be math and data savvy in this information era.  So, while I haven’t yet introduced coding to my students, in the future I will.  Plus, while this has an awful close resemblance to math, it’s also geeky, and it turns out I’m into geek.

Of course, I’m going to need a lot of help with this one.  Thankfully, help exists.  Here are some of the sites I’ve started exploring that seem to be designed to help a complete idiot beginner start coding or working with databases:

Here’s the thing:  This language is so foreign to me that I don’t even know what I don’t know.   For example, I only yesterday figured out that coding is related to web scraping.  Heck, I didn’t even know what web scraping was.  Nor did I know that Ruby or gems or Firebug  existed.  I had only vaguely heard of Python before (and still am not completely sure what it does). And don’t get me started on Nokogiri!

All of this is to say that I haven’t a clue as to what I’m doing.  I only know that coding is something journalists and their educators are going to need to be familiar with.

Have I gotten anything wrong here?  Have any suggestions on what else I need to learn that’s connected to this?  Or know of any tools or training sites that might aid a novice?

For a compilation of the resources I’ve collected on the topic, see my Storify piece.

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About Nancy Kaplan-Biegel

I am the journalism program coordinator at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, as well as the adviser to The Skyline View.

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