Tech viewpoint on coding
A view from Paul Bennun

Tech viewpoint on coding

It’s the "Year of Code", a quasi-independent initiative to get everyone talking to computers, and to get computers talking back. We at Somethin’ Else are proudly getting our hands dirty. For example, we made The Doctor and the Dalek for the BBC, a game that also teaches Key Stage 2 and 3 programming skills.

It may sound like another governmenty campaign to keep us competitive with the Chinese, but I believe it’s actually far more important. We think initiatives such as this are worthwhile for those taking part – with a caveat or two. We also think that what the Year of Code represents is of potential huge benefit to brands.

So why should CMOs or brands care? The answer is simple: you should only care if you want to understand your customers as the world changes and be able to talk their language in the places where they’re engaged. To many, code is the new knitting; just as rewarding, demanding and creative. The difference is you’re not knitting a scarf: you’re knitting the Matrix. Getting stuck into code isn’t something you can do while watching TV. What you make is more fun than most TV, and more shareable.

If you’ve seen a child immersed in Minecraft, this will be familiar to you: to see how it becomes an outsourced part of a kid’s imagination is beautiful. You see what looks like effortless use of logic and programming principles yoked to the service of creativity.

You should only care if you want to understand your customers as the world changes, to talk their language

Digital creativity, which is the impetus of the BBC’s "Make it Digital" initiative, is more important than mere code. Understanding the broader experience of digital creativity, of which code is a part, means understanding how people think and play – today and tomorrow.

This is the caveat about the Year of Code: the difference between education and training. Your customers and consumers aren’t just factory-fodder who need specific skills to avoid the dole – the language of the Year of Code tends towards that. This presents an opportunity for brands. Those that understand how the digital domain can be shaped to the imagination of playful designers can talk to those designers in an imaginative way. What better way to communicate a brand’s promise?

Code itself is becoming abstracted from how you interact with computers – again, consider Minecraft. Code is the sharpest part of the process of understanding systems and being able to conceive of code-based possibilities that could change the world.

The Year of Code is a training year for brands not fully onboard with how our brains are wired and where they’re going. It’s about content that tomorrow’s audiences and users will make, consume and play with. It’s the platforms where that content will be distributed.

As much as it is education for anyone interested in how to talk to machines, it is also an education in how brands will talk to humans.

Paul Bennun is the chief creative officer at Somethin’ Else