What is Coding?

Coding is a real buzzword these days. People talk about the importance of teaching kids to code at school, and about how important coding is for future career success. But do you know what coding is?

Short answer: you know how we communicate with each other using human languages like English, French, Spanish etc.? Well, computers communicate using their own language, which is called code. It’s that simple.

More detailed answer: coding means giving instructions to computers to do certain tasks, from something as simple as adding 2 numbers to extremely complex tasks like flying a plane on autopilot or managing flight traffic in an airport. Everything, and I mean everything that a computer does is code. Without code, computers will be totally dumb.

Wherever you see a computer, you know there’s code telling it what to do. And there are computers everywhere, like your smart phone, which is a computer. When you switch on your phone, there’s code that tells it what to do. Making a call? There’s code running. Open an app? That app is code. Candy Crush? You guessed it: code.

We are surrounded by code all the time. And I don’t just mean in our computers and phones. There are computers in our cars, appliances, watches, clocks, pool pumps, etc. And all these are run on code.

What’s interesting about code is that, just like human languages, there are different computer languages too. You might come across terms like Java, HTML and C# (pronounced C sharp). These are all computer programming languages, and you can code in any one of them.

What coding is not: coding is not about cracking codes, like bank account access credentials. That’s called hacking 🙂

The Facebook scandal: what you need to know

Facebook has been caught up in a major scandal over the Cambridge Analytica issue. But what really happened, and what does it mean to you?

Before we go into this scandal, let’s understand how Facebook makes money as a business. I mean, Facebook is a BIG business, worth around $500 billion, yet it’s completely free to use.  So how do they actually make money?

Facebook makes money through targeted advertising. This means that advertisers pay Facebook to advertise to people who are more likely to buy their products. This is great for advertisers because they save huge amounts of money by targeting a small group of people.

I’ll explain this with an example. Let’s say you sell baby clothes. Who will be the best people to advertise to? Kids? Teenagers? Middle-aged businessmen? No! The people most likely to buy baby clothes are mums who are expecting, or who have recently given birth. So it makes sense that you should target them in your advertising.

Facebook will allow you to target specific people. So, if you want to target expecting mums, they’ll do it.

But how do they know if a woman is expecting? Easy: because she tells them! When she posts on Facebook or Instagram talking about her pregnancy to her friends and family, Facebook is listening. And remembering. So when an advertiser is looking for pregnant mums, bingo.

In the same way, Facebook keeps track of all our personal information: interests, hobbies, beliefs, political inclinations, you name it. It’s correct to say that Facebook might know you better than your friends.

So Facebook is on the business of selling user data. Why then, the big hoohah with the Cambridge Analytica case? What makes it really bad is that:

  • Cambridge didn’t just advertise on Facebook. They actually took people’s data away without their permission. Some allege that Facebook knew about this all along, but did nothing about it.
  • According to some sources 50 million users were affected, while some say more.

When the news broke, there was an immediate frenzy that followed with media outlets asking people to #DeleteFacebook. Many people are doing just that, with some big names like Elon Musk joining the ranks.

Should you #DeleteFacebook?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s entirely up to you what you do, but knowing what I’ve described above should help you make a decision.

If you feel comfortable with Facebook knowing and sharing your personal data, then stay. Just some advice:

  1. Keep your personal life personal, and be careful of what you share.
  2. Posts and pics that are of an extremely personal nature, should stay out.
  3. Pics of your little kids? Definitely not. You never know who’s watching.

Of course, if all this just creeps you out, then #DeleteFacebook.

So, what are you going to do? Please leave a comment below 🙂