Make It So: Code At Cons

Discussion Communication

Coding is vitally important in our high-tech world. It’s not just a skill you use in a career, but something that is vital for empowering people. Being able to do a web page on your own, making a helpful macro, understanding a script is the key to using modern tools and understanding how the world works. I’m guessing you’ve coded at least a little bit if you’re reading it -just think what you wouldn’t know without it.

Imagine every time you have to explain something technical to someone with no experience.  Imagine how disempowered they are.

This is why I’m glad to see organizations and events promoting coding, such as:

So I got thinking. Coding is important. We’re geeks and we probably know it or should know it. We’d like to empower our fellow geeks – and ourselves.

There’s something we can do, and I want to suggest we Make It So.

We need to hold Learn To Code Events at conventions.

Conventions, Coding, and Collaboration

Imagine you’re going to a convention and then you see an opportunity to learn to code something, in an appropriate timeframe, with experienced people. It’ll result in something cool that you can use or at least get you playing with some neat stuff. It’s also part of the convention package and something you can work into your schedule between going to the dealer’s room, going to events, and going back to the dealer’s room and wondering where your money went.

In the right environment, it’d be very popular and very pro-education and pro-geek.

Now that being said, I think not every event is the right environment or the right audience. So I’d suggest this would best fit:

  • Conventions that have a career/skills focus or area of focus in a subset of events.
  • Conventions whose crowd has an interest in such things. A Cosplay-only convention or a convention that’s focused on physical wargames might not fit.
  • Conventions that can get the right equipment – or that made allies with people who can provide it (more on that later).
  • Conventions with an appropriate timeframe to said event. A single-day con might not be appropriate unless the focus was highly technical. A large convention might be appropriate – unless it’s so busy that no one may be interested.

Imagine people going to a convention and coming away with a base understanding about coding. It warms the heart of this old Geek – and even those who don’t attend get the idea of what they can do.

The Data Is In The Details

Now how would I go around doing this? Well beyond getting the convention to approve doing it, I think the best way would be:

  • Choosing an appropriate day and timeframe. An hour of code is something you can slip in anywhere. A half-day would probably be best early the first day, late the last day, or early any of the days in-between.
  • Contacting the proper organizations. Frankly unless you have actual instructors available (which you might) it’d be appropriate to get one of the organizations like the above to help. They know what they’re doing and might provide equipment. Speaking of . .
  • Pick a proper subject. What do you code in?  What’s the audience focus?  What’s the goal? There’s a big difference in audience and audience interest – and what you can cover.
  • Be sure you can get the right equipment and are ready to handle it. Alternately you may suggest people bring their own systems, which could save time and money, if providing some odd limits (as well as potential painful educations in system compatibility). Promote it properly. This is a big freaking deal here, so you might as well play it up to get the most out of it and get dedicated people. Also . . .
  • Place proper limits. Your staff can probably teach only so many people.

Considering these elements would let you find an appropriate focus for a coding event (or realize you can’t pull it off). Maybe your small con is best for an all-day event as some people want that and it’d keep their attention. Maybe doing web coding fits your publishing-focused con. Everyone is going to be different.

But you can find what works for you – and make that step to improve people’s options, lives, and empower them.

Going the Extra Distance

So if you go and do these things, let me suggest a few more ideas I’d like to see:

  • Pair such an event with other career events – either before or after depending on audience interest and your plans. Imagine people going to a panel on “breaking into coding” and being told the next day there’s an hour long learn-to-code event – that’d be effective.
  • Get generous. Have flyers, information on the con’s website, resources, college flyers, what have you at the event or near it. Play up the education angle, get people interested (just make sure any involved educational institutions aren’t sleazy).
  • Be sure any event like this has next steps so people know what to do if they like the coding they tried.
  • Consider followup. Could your convention sponsor several learn-to-code events? Could you have a contest online to get attention? Maybe you can do a year-round career blog as well, even if it’s just reprinting articles from elsewhere.
  • Make this part of an alliance with other, larger coding events, schools, etc. Your convention event could lead people to going to larger events and code-specific events sponsored by those you work with.

This is a good idea – take it farther.

Let’s Transmit The Code

So there’s your Make It So: Get your convention or conventions doing coding events. It can’t hurt to suggest it and see if it takes, and it just takes one of us to get the idea moving forward and change the face of geekery.

The future more and more is code and computer knowledge. Time to spread the world of how to speak to technology to get it to do things.

All while cosplaying and preparing to play collectable card games.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at