My Wins & Losses as a New Coder

If you’re like me, then you’re probably only motivated to code when there’s huge benefits to be gained from it. Don’t get me wrong, it can be fun to learn new things and solve problems. But this stuff is hard.

I don’t just play around with functions and experiment with new computer languages for the thrill of it. And I’m not anywhere near being formally trained as computer programmer, developer, computer engineer, computer scientist, or any other fancy title out there.

However, I do love the thrill of a script that makes my life easier by automating repetitive tasks. And I am technically inclined.

Especially when it involves making a profit. I’m not ashamed to admit it: when it comes to working, the profit motive is one of the most compelling things out there in my book.

Win #1…

Anyway, it was in the spirit of capitalism that I wrote my first few “official” scripts (in real computer languages). First, were the scripts that I wrote using a combination of Python, Selenium, BeautifulSoup, and Scrapy spiders for a web scraping project.

The idea was to collect huge volumes of business contact info from online directories (like the Yellow Pages) so that I could send them mail and advertise my products at low costs but with high relevance, thanks to the detailed targeting I was able to do.

The Selenium web driver allowed my script to navigate through the internet, where I could then use my web scraper to copy the info from the website into Excel files. From there, I could use my formidable Excel Ninja skills to manipulate and sort it into convenient tables. Win!

… Becomes Loss #1

Unfortunately, although my scrapers did their jobs beautifully I never got around to writing the code for rotating IP addresses so that I could avoid detection by the webmasters. As a result, they eventually blocked my IP address – probably for slowing down their website or corrupting their analytics with my crawler bots. It was fun while it lasted!

I still scrape, but instead of configuring my own IP address rotation script or creating custom code for each new website I visit, I pay for a service that does all of this for me.  Technically I could probably do it myself in a few weeks or months, but time is money. And if automation code has too many exceptions and special cases to consider, sometimes it’s best left to the pros. That’s why they get paid.

Loss #2

The next project I did was intended to be a favor for some salespeople I knew. Basically, I wrote a script to upload contact phone numbers from an Excel file that would then go into Gmail’s Google Voice phone app and make call. It was basically going to be robo-calling enabled with the help of my old friends Selenium and Python.

I would set a 5 second delay after the call ended that would allow the sales rep to prepare for the next call. And then they’d just be rolling down the list nice and easy. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that Gmail had a randomly generated code that appeared for each call.

Since I couldn’t possibly know what the code would be, I couldn’t direct the web driver to get me into the phone’s keypad to dial the number. It sounded great in theory, but I quickly learned that I was no match for the geniuses at Google. It was an admirable effort, but I had to shelf that project and move on after about a week of sleep-deprived nights. I learned a lot, and I also developed a high pain tolerance. But it was a Loss.

Win #2

If you’ve seen my first two posts on this blog, then you know that I was able to learn JavaScript in order to set up Enhanced E-Commerce in Google Analytics for a web store.

It was very a informative and lucrative project, and I learned tons in the process. Best of all, I became competent in a new language: JavaScript. Although I started out coding with Python, now my JavaScript skills are now probably just as good, if not better. That’s a win-win in my book!

Technically, this puts my record at 1-1-1 since a win-loss combination is kind of a draw.  Not a bad start, I guess. The experience has to count for something, right?

What’s next for me? Who knows, maybe I’ll get into APIs or data science or something else cool and interesting. But remember, nothing’s going to happen until I’m actually inspired and motivated. As they say, money talks!

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