On Thursday, in conjunction with BookMachine, the Consonance team ran a workshop to teach 30-odd publishers how to write code.

Yes, it was as ludicrously ambitious as that. You can’t learn programming in a day: it’s quite possibly a life’s work. And yet I hope that we demystified a few elements of programming for some people whose future roles depend on being able to effectively navigate the digital world.

We prepared very thoroughly for this workshop, starting with a brainstorm of what we hoped to achieve. We decided that we wanted to introduce several key concepts, such as HTML, CSS, Ruby, APIs, and JavaScript, highlighting their relevance to publishing. Andy wrote a Sinatra app which queries the Google Books API, and over the following four weeks we iterated on, tested and documented it.

The results are here:

  • A Github page with a quick start link to download the web application code to your own Nitrous account.

To follow the course yourself at home, register for a free account at Nitrous.io [Update: now defunct] then visit the Github page to get started.

If you’d prefer to have been there in person, then you’re in luck. There was an 80 person waiting list for this course – there’s clearly demand for technical skills in publishing, so we’ll be running it again sometime soon. Watch this space.

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