Should you learn to code?


If you’re in marketing or public relations, do you need to code and program software?

The answer is no. Yet, in this day and age it is best if you do know these things. I am not saying you should know how to design a full featured software or build a website from scratch (but if you can I am very happy to meet you and please leave a comment below so I can say hi!).

Knowing how the web works can help you find new opportunities to integrate content and social media, to think up new and exciting strategies for clients or your own brand. It can even be a way for you to save valuable time and resources in order to get an interesting project off the ground or deploy a decent campaign for your small business.

This is not about knowing how to setup IFTTT or Buffer. It’s about being able to build your own site, fix occasional glitches on a blog’s html (even if just in the article) or figure out ways to get the computer to do the work for you.

For example, when I teach about social media and crisis communication I always mention how being able to start a blog at a moment’s notice can be a great asset. Do you want to depend on your development team for that on a saturday night when the client is on the other end of the line?

I know a bit about programming and it is useful every day. It can be about building a webpage or code a newsletter. It can also be something like building a small script to collect data for me and save it as an excel spreadsheet. Skills that I picked up mostly from reading Lifehacker and specially the articles written by Gina Trapani.

Knowing about new technology and open source software helps me suggest campaigns or alternative routes. There are a few examples of this at The Labs.

Stepping up a level

What I don’t know very well is how to design a piece of software. Sure, I have made things that work. What I want to know now is how to plan features and how those features should work together, how to do something from scratch if I have to. This means taking a few steps back and learning the basics.

I asked Bruno Abrantes and he suggested a few online courses and tools:

Recommended by João Neves:

If you want something fun and easy to try out, I suggest Codecadamy. There is also a nice introduction to Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework called Rails for Zombies that is worth checking out.

A small update

João Mamede pointed out to me this article at Coding Horror – Please don’t learn to code. Feels too extremist but I empathise and agree with some of his arguments. Especially:

Please don’t advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.

Upload Lisboa 2014

Copyright @Joanarssousa

Last friday I had already shared my expectations about Upload Lisboa. It’s now sunday and I can say I had a number of happy surprises.

That article is now updated and published on Bitaites in Portuguese. Stephen Waddington also published a brilliant summary of what happened.

My take?

I was happy because we talked a bit about the web I love so much. That place built for people to share and collaborate. Molly‘s presentation on content that is in fact useful and relevant for people really struck a chord with the audience. And later, Stephen’s presentation was an important complement to that message. For both, the cornerstone was that the web is about creating relationships. 

Having been to the last 3 editions of Upload Lisboa, and having helped organise the first one, I can say that this one shows Facebook is losing it’s shine. It was no longer present in such a prominent way has passed editions. The case studies presented are now focused on other channels; the crisis communication examples we saw began on search engines, blogs or twitter; the good examples of communication were about brands trying to connect to customers in real-time and with a human voice.

And yes, we talked about blogs. I had a small live blog running, showing the twitter and instagram feed for the #uplx2014 tag. Part of that page was editorial content, top tweets I picked because they grasped the heart of the discussion.

Facebook is by no means dead, nor does it look like it’s dying anytime soon. But it wasn’t on Facebook that the conversation took place and relationships were built.

Presentations and interesting links for #uplx2014

I have seen this happen too often, events and conferences go by and then all that information is lost in the web. So I am listing the presentations I can find as well as other links. If you know of anything that should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments.

Pedro Janela

Performance Online


Big data vs Little data and the rise of Cloud Memory

Julian Cole

Digital Strategy Toolbox


Digital Strategy Toolbox 2014 from Julian Cole

Consumer research



Online Paid Media

Creative Inspiration

Amber Horsburgh

Create A Great Social Media War Room from Amber Horsburgh

Ricardo Nunes — Mindshare

Case studies: 


Case Study OK 2014 – Filipe Almeida & Filipe Macedo

Parry Malm

Email marketing isn’t just about sending emails anymore

Molly Flatt

Putting the X into Content Marketing

Stephen Waddington

Cluetrain Manifesto

Summary of Upload Lisboa

Online crisis management slides:

Can a brand ever truly be social? from Stephen Waddington

Important reading

Photo above is courtesy of Joana Sousa.

Bring back my Web !


I remember a web before Facebook and before Twitter. It was a place built so that people could talk among themselves, share and collaborate to build things that would make everyone’s life easier.

Sure, you would also use to post funny pictures of cats or brag about your latest party. There was however a different way of doing things online that I can’t explain. Less ego and more community.

I still love that web, and I still think we live in that reality. (Even though it does sound a bit lyrical to say this.) Sometimes I do lose faith on that web, for a little while. Then something wonderful happens, like a new open source project on Github, a new and constructive subreddit, or a blog post to rally time and resources towards something worth doing.

Cidadania 2.0

Lately, it was Cidadania 2.0 that brought my faith back. It’s a conference on using the web to build social tools, forums and ways to practice citizenship and governance in a more effective and efficient way. This year it was filled with amazing new projects, blogs and platforms to help us understand what is going on in our own street or what we can do to improve our education system.

It is also a project built by the love and dedication of three people. Ana Neves, Ana Silva, and Vitor Silva work hard to bring everyone a free event, 1 day full with presentations and discussions and one morning to network with people who are behind new projects and look for partnerships and people to help.

And did I mention it is free to attend? I would gladly pay 50 euros or more to attend and meet so many interesting people. Yet, the team insists on keeping it as easy to attend as humanly possible. You would imagine that government institutions and other companies would jump at the chance to sponsor this initiative.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to happen, as this year I didn’t see many public institutions in the list of sponsors. It’s not that the content of the conference isn’t interesting to them. In fact, most of it challenges the status quo or proposes new models of governance and decision making. From where I stand, every city hall in Portugal should be ashamed for not to being present at Cidadania 2.0 and listed as a sponsor.

The people

Every good story needs a hero, right?

My friend Basílio decided to use the web and social media to pressure a number of public institutions into doing their job of making a street safer to walk in. It took him 2 years to get them into doing the job they are supposed to do anyway. Just think about it: they had to be pressured into doing their job.

I talked about this when I was in BledCom last year and you can find the slides in the end of this post.

Upload Lisbon

This is more about the future. Today mostly everyone from digital marketing and social media in Lisbon will be at Upload Lisboa. They will surely talk about Facebook, Twitter, the latest campaign and best practices. They will talk about what is new and exciting, because it is indeed exciting and interesting and shows great promise.

But I don’t think they will all be talking about this web I know and love. Where the main goal is to get people to talk and understand each other, instead of increasing the reach of a facebook post. I risk saying they will forget about the importance of 4chan in monitoring, how to take part in a community on reddit and worst, they may forget to mention why #blogs are still so important.

Well, some of them might but I am here to talk about blogs and about the web I grew up with. How it is still alive and showing great promise even to those who seem to have forgotten about it. And thanks to Pedro Rebelo I know I am not alone.

BledCom 2013: Towards a connected government from bruno amaral
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