Are you too old to learn to code?

But unlike walk­ing, where there really is a devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate age to learn to do it, the idea that there is a “right” time to learn to code (or most any­thing else) is a con­struct — a cre­ation of our own deter­mi­na­tion to hold our­selves back.

How I Learned to Code:

I grabbed the “Learning Python” book and walked straight home.

This time, I wasn’t excited; I was terrified.

If I didn’t learn to code, we were done. I would have to crawl back into the world of finance. I’d have to tell all my friends and fam­ily that I had given up, that I had com­pletely failed.

Passionately Angry People

Working in sup­port you’ll find no short­age of frus­trated peo­ple. Less com­mon, but not uncom­mon, are the peo­ple who are frus­trated and pas­sion­ately angry.

The peo­ple who express pas­sion­ate anger are fre­quently the same ones who spend unbe­liev­able amounts of time with your prod­uct. Your best cus­tomers can be your most vocal critics.

For these peo­ple, your prod­uct is cen­tral to their abil­ity to com­plete a cer­tain task. Compromise their abil­ity to effec­tively do that and you’ll see frus­tra­tion boil over.

The thing is, these peo­ple love your prod­uct. Many use it for hours every day. Your product’s bugs and unwel­come changes tar­nish that love with unmet expec­ta­tions. They make these peo­ple want to scream at you.

If you work in sup­port, this also means a pas­sion­ately angry per­son is rarely angry with you, per­son­ally. It’s the prod­uct that is frus­trat­ing them. You’re just the clos­est thing they have to that. Welcome to the front lines. Time to grow some thicker skin.

The upside to all of this is that if you can find the task some­one is try­ing to accom­plish you can solve their frus­tra­tion. Find the task they want to do. Eliminate the road­blocks to get­ting it done. Make every­thing about it faster. Walk away with a happy, and no longer frus­trated, customer.

The next time some­one writes to you in all caps call­ing you unspeak­able things, take a moment to step back. Do more than just answer the ques­tion they’re ask­ing. Think of the task they’re try­ing to fin­ish and help with that. Nothing solves anger quite like get­ting things done.

Checkboxes that kill. Great post about the dan­gers in com­plex, cus­tomiz­able set­tings. Two key take­aways: reg­u­larly audit how peo­ple are using your prod­uct and con­sider whether more than 2% of your users will use a setting.

Dyson: We have cre­ated this expand­ing com­pu­ta­tional uni­verse, and it’s open to the evo­lu­tion of all kinds of things. It’s cycling faster and faster, and it’s way, way, way more than dou­bling in scale every year. Even with the help of Google and YouTube and Facebook, we can’t con­sume it all. And we aren’t really aware what this vast space is fill­ing up with. From the human per­spec­tive, com­put­ers are idle 99 per­cent of the time, just wait­ing for the next instruc­tion. While they’re wait­ing for us to come up with instruc­tions, more and more com­pu­ta­tion is hap­pen­ing with­out us, as com­put­ers write instruc­tions for each other. And as Turing showed math­e­mat­i­cally, this space can’t be super­vised. As the dig­i­tal uni­verse expands, so does this wild, undo­mes­ti­cated side.

Wired: If this is true, what’s the takeaway?

Dyson: Hire biol­o­gists! It doesn’t make sense for a high tech com­pany to have 3,000 soft­ware engi­neers but no biologists.

From a Q&A between George Dyson and Wired’s Kevin Kelly.

Play by your own rules:

Listen to your users more than the press. Don’t get sucked into the grav­ity hole between you and your com­pe­ti­tion. Ruthlessly run your own path, not some­one else’s.

Interesting lessons from the co-founder of Gowalla.