Thinking Digital - Team takeouts #2

 Emma Pybus was the other member of the Sarah Hall Consulting PR team to attend Thinking Digital. 

Here's what she learned from her day out listening to some of the world's most innovative people.  

New adventures in coding

Last week, Herb Kim held the 8th Thinking Digital conference right here in the North East at Sage Gateshead. I was lucky enough to go along to one of the days and amongst the facts that I learned during the day are the following:

• The clock on your microwave which flashes 00:00 at you costs about £4 a year to power

• The first ever online shopping transaction took place in Gateshead

• The most common time to eat your dinner in the UK is 5pm

As well as these intriguing facts I also did genuinely learn a lot about digital developments and ways to make best use of all types of digital technology.

Two of the speakers on day one of the conference, Sam Aaron and Seb Lee-Delisle, talked specifically about coding and how they use it to teach programming in schools (Sam Aaron) and create dramatic, large-scale interactive art installations (Seb de Lisle).

One thing that Sam said stuck in my head: he asked the audience to raise their hands if they knew how to read and write. He then asked them to raise their hands if they were a professional writer. His point was that we all see reading and writing as pretty much essential skills for everyday life, regardless of whether we make our living from them.

Why shouldn’t we think it’s just as important to have an understanding of coding and programming too? 

After all, it’s used as the basis of all the websites we spend hours on and it powers so many of our everyday transactions. Also, the fact that Sam runs workshops with hundreds of school kids every year who clearly have a better grasp of coding than I do shamed me into wanting to learn more.


If we don’t make an effort to at least understand coding are we running the risk of being left behind? 

Surely it’s better to have a grasp on how it all works, especially if your job, like mine, involves working with websites, apps, social media and e-comms and things like Twitter cards and so on already require an element of HTML knowledge.

Straight after getting home from Thinking Digital I signed up to Codecademy and (on the advice of Seb Lee-Delisle via Twitter – thanks Seb!) also Khan Academy. These are both free online tutorial systems where you can learn the basics of HTML, CSS and other programming languages which I haven’t even heard of yet.

So far I’ve created an animation of my name which moves around when you run your mouse over it. I’ve made a virtual galaxy in which the planets refuse to orbit around the sun. And now I’m half way through coding a replica of the AirBnb website. These are all entry level exercises on the Codecademy website. So far it’s easy to follow and you get to use words like ‘jumbotron’ which is fun.

For some inspiration and to see what can be achieved with coding plus artistic flair and imagination, visit Seb Lee-Delisle’s website, particularly PixelPyros, the audience controlled virtual fireworks display.

Also definitely worth checking out is Sam Aaron’s Sonic Pi, a free live coding synth which he uses to teach programming in schools.

CAPTIONS: Seb Lee-Delisle presenting at Thinking Digital.

Emma Pybus, PR Consultant, Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd.