Coding for publishers
23 June 2016
Our free Coding for Publishers workshop on
Thursday 23 June 2016 was a great way for publishers to find out
about and try coding. It took place at Codebase's new event space
in Edinburgh. Publishers got an introduction to Rails, during which
they built a Rails app from scratch.
Taught by the team who developed the Futurebook award-winning
Bibliocloud.com, this hands-on course gave publishers the
opportunity to create their own web application for storing and
displaying book metadata. They were guided step-by-step, learning
important concepts and techniques through demonstration and
practice. By the end of the course they knew how to structure and
write their own Ruby on Rails app, and how to publish it to the
The session contents
- Getting started
- Structuring our app
- About the web application
- About the design
- Create our first model
- Make this our home page
- Making it look good
- Adding some styling
- Adding more features
- Adding uploads
- Making it useful
- The show page
- Creating an advance info sheet
- Adding products to our works
- Other forms of the same data: APIs
- Further Exercises
The case for learning to code
Emma Barnes and her Bibliocloud colleagues will
be running the session. Emma is MD of independent publishing house
Snowbooks, and CEO of the Bibliocloud publishing management system
for publishing. She is also a passionate advocate for publishers
learning to code saying that:
'It's us in the industry who need to be able to code. You
don't know how many more books you can sell, how many more readers
you can engage, how much more justice you can do to your authors'
writing, until you have the technical knowledge to create the new
tools and new applications that no-one's thought of yet.'
Here are some of the reasons that Emma has put forward for
publishers needing to learn to code:
- Our industry is built of data: descriptive metadata; sales data
from a huge range of sources; reader data; online campaign data;
the words we publish and the way they're structured into larger
sets of content.
- If we don't learn to use all the technical tools that exist,
then outsiders will build things themselves and what they're
building, whilst interesting, is just a shade off the mark, because
they don't know publishing like we do.
- Becoming adept at code-writing is good for business, good for
your teams, and good for the long-term health of our industry.
- Even if you don't want to become expert, learning the
fundamentals would be enough for you to have a decent conversation
with a developer. You'll have a better idea what's technically
possible, you'll be able to tell if the developer is responding
sensibly to your specs, and you'll know enough to be able to look
at his or her proposal and cost estimate and see if it's
- Wouldn't you rather spend time learning enough to automate a
job the once, so you never have to do it again? Once you've
glimpsed what code can do, it's really hard to go back.
- This is an opportunity to draw a line against the relentless
outsourcing of skills.
- As an industry, we're really running the risk of limiting our
scope to being middle-men. With code, we have a chance to take back
- Coding is a proper, cerebral activity that doesn't necessarily
suit a 9-to-5 office location. It requires intense, prolonged
sessions of quiet thought. If you've any desire to improve your
company's flexible working capabilities at the same time as
generating new revenue streams and increasing your creative output,
get your staff to learn to code.
- If you would like to try coding there are lots of free courses
including a free Rails course at Codeacademy.com.
- Or you can buy a book - The Rails
Tutorial by Michael Hartl - and spend a day a week on it for
six months. By the end of six months, you'll have written your own
version of Twitter.
- Codebar has
free tutorials on its website.
- Coursera and Udemy have reasonably priced or free courses
(including Ruby) and Lynda.com is a subscription service. All three
have HTML and CSS courses.
- For more about coding in publishing, see Emma's articles on www.coderead.co
- And for some of examples of creative uses of coding, see the Creative Edinburgh website.