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.

Day one at Webnographer


This year kicked off pretty fast. In fact, more than half of my life changed in 45 days and I am still trying to figure out what stayed the same.

I was working with Fullsix for over 2 and a half years as a social media consultant. And during the time I stayed there I learned quite a lot. Yet there is always that time when you need new challenges and to move away from your comfort zone.

So when the opportunity came up to work with Webnographer, it was pretty hard to resist. Webnographer helps companies understand online user behaviour with a solid scientific method and a set of User Experience and Usability tools. And being a small team means I will work in UX projects and also have the opportunity to use my skills as a communication consultant from within the organisation.

This is going to be an amazing adventure and I am sure I will have much more to share in the coming days. Stay tuned.


Finding room to think

It’s not when you are working that you realise how tired and exhausted you are. It’s on that moment when you finally stop and breath in for a minute and let your mind wander off.

That is when everything comes crashing down and you see just how many stop signs you ignored or simply couldn’t follow. I feel like that today, like a string being stretched almost to the breaking point, jumping from work to freelance tasks and other projects to the point of not having “room to think”.

I did learn some things in the process. One is to leave one night once in a while to just do nothing, the other is not to look at my task list as a rush job. It’s not that I don’t take my time to do things well, it’s the fact that long task lists used to cause a bit of anxiety. Instead, now I negotiate deadlines and question the validity of adding something to the list. Does it really need to be done or is it a “nice to have” ? Does it fall under my direct responsibility or someone else’s ? (One of the problems of having skills in very different areas is that at some point you try to do everything yourself)

But the important bit here, is “room to think”. It’s getting things done at a proper pace and not having too many consecutive tasks that demand high levels of concentration all at once. I haven’t had room to think. This led to levels of frustration I never had in my whole career.

For all this, and an entire world of reasons, I am pulling the brakes. For the next two weeks I’m switching off emails, logging off facebook, leaving the car at home and doing whatever it takes to get my energy and motivation back up.

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