A very democratic trait amongst programmers is that they are generally very open to people who are self-taught. I assume this is because the typical yardstick of a good programmer is what they can produce with code, not their credentials. In some respects, this is very meritocratic, and in theory you can do well if you are willing to put in the work. In practice, though, there are lots of reasons why programming is very inequitable and very inaccessible, but I won’t go into those here; others have documented these problems very well.

For those who do want to teach themselves, it is unfortunately not always obvious how to proceed. This blog has documented some of my challenges with this in the past. In my experience, being a self-taught programmer tends to produce uneven knowledge, usually with big gaps. But the good news is that, in programming, this is often fine. There is no real possibility of knowing everything, even in a very cursory way. What counts is expertise in your niche. (Personally, I have probably lingered a bit too long on the broad, almost meaningless topic of “web development”, rather than specializing more sooner, but that’s a topic for another post.)

The message I want to convey here is that if you want to learn programming on your own, you can. Not only that, but you can become a very good programmer just by teaching yourself. Programming is not the meritocracy that it sometimes pretends to be, but teaching yourself can still be a rewarding thing to do.

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