Hacking the API Matrix with Udacity


“What is the Matrix?” Two months ago, GoDaddy sent me a domain renewal notice that several of my domains would expire in a few months. One particular domain focuses on the unforgettable sci-fi action thriller, The Matrix (1999). Although I haven’t renewed yet, the programmer story must’ve become an itch in my mind. Because last month, I rewatched this film for the first time in 4 years!

Meanwhile, also last month, I quickly completed the Word-to-DITA conversion of the IBM TRIRIGA Application Platform 3.4.1 Connector user guide that not only discusses certain HTTP methods but also covers XML and JSON examples. Surprisingly, this API flavor of technical detail was fun to research! Thirdly, when I found this month’s STC articles on API, instead of ducking out, I dove in!

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. With these 3 signs in the back of my mind, I stumbled across a Google News article last week that mentioned a mobile app that delivers free MOOC offerings in programming. As I installed the Udacity app on my smartphone, I finally realized for the first time that I liked the idea of learning some “real” programming languages!

What is a MOOC offering?

To establish some context, here are 3 articles about the MOOC market and its three biggest names.

A massive open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education which began to emerge in 2012.

But starting in 2012, three organizations — Udacity, edX and Coursera — started to dominate conversations about MOOCs. These “big three” have the largest catalogs of courses, and they are where most students interested in MOOCs still start their experience.

Those three have kept growing — and changing — as they figure out new ways to attract students. For example, all three have made significant changes to their business models. So much so that one of them arguably can’t be described as a MOOC anymore.

They’re not the only players in the MOOC market, but whether because of high-profile founders, big funding or broad reach, they’re the three biggest. So how do EdX, Coursera and Udacity stack up against each other?

None of the companies is public, so hard numbers can be difficult to come by. But here’s a snapshot of each, including a short summary of each player and where each stands by the numbers in terms of funding and course enrollment, along with key partnerships and big news (good and bad) this year.

What do I mean by “real” programming languages?

To answer this question, let’s rewind about 17 years. As early as 1997, I accidentally clicked the wrong view in Microsoft Word, discovered the eye-opening world of webpages, and over the next few years, taught myself HTML, CSS, and bits of JavaScript to create my earliest websites. By 2007, I launched my first self-hosted, WordPress.org-integrated, PHP-customized website on GoDaddy.

Yet, despite learning HTML and CSS plus JavaScript and PHP to customize my websites, I never felt that they were “real” programming languages. Even in 2011, when the IBM acquisition of TRIRIGA introduced my Word-resistant mind to the undulating underworld of DITA-XML, I felt like a fish that finally found water! But not quite ready for “real” seawater like Python, Java, and other languages.

I’m not sure why I still feel this way. Maybe it’s as simple as being more comfortable or more curious with whatever web-based languages I tried first. But now in 2014, my curiosity was ready to explore new oceans. After a couple of days with the Udacity app, I tiptoed through its “Intro to Computer Science” videos, enjoyed its Python topics and quizzes, and passed the final quiz for Lesson 1 of 7!

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

Udacity mobile app

What are my next steps?

That’s a good question. For the moment, I’m not necessarily looking for new general IBM or specific IBM TRIRIGA projects in API documentation, but the thought sounds intriguing. Instead, I’m more interested in wading further into “Intro to Computer Science” Lesson 2. Over the next few months, if I feel confident, I might pay for the full course, interview, and certification. Or I might not. We’ll see!

In fact, I’ve also added “Intro to Java Programming” to my course list. The exercises encourage you to install a Java IDE installation, BlueJ, on your computer, so the lack of mobile learning seems less appealing. But at the same time, the IDE is still free. Why Java? Well, the Java course path leads to mobile UX design and Android app development, which look even more interesting. Again, we’ll see!

Of course, if my varying blog posts are any indication, it’s also entirely possible that I might be drawn away from my Udacity courses and be distracted by yet another inspiring concept or connection of concepts. Until then, it’ll be amusing to see how my perspectives evolve, if at all. To be honest, I’m already feeling a sense of detachment and tedium in my low-level DITA clean-up assignments.

Either way, whether I “hack into the Matrix” of API documentation or even Android app development in some unforeseen future, I think I might join Neo and Morpheus on their kung-fu-coded awakening!

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

Udacity website

STC Intercom: September 2014

STC Intercom: September 2014 [Open PDF]

STC Intercom: September 2014

STC Intercom: September 2014 [Open PDF]

Do I have an update?

Almost two months after hacking the API Matrix with Udacity, I descended into the DevLearn Expo!

DevLearn 2014

DevLearn 2014

Almost five months after hacking the API Matrix with Udacity, I cracked into the Korean language!

Hangul keyboard stickers

Hangul keyboard stickers

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2 thoughts on “Hacking the API Matrix with Udacity

  1. Jay, check out http://class-central.com , it’s a compendium of all (most) MOOCs available to the general public. I’ve used it myself to help plan out what courses to take (completing the courses however is a different story all together).

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