Don't get me wrong; unlike writing, I don't believe that anyone who can be discouraged from coding should be. Web programming is a fine thing to know, but it's very hard to learn just for the sake of learning it. Big topic, lots of pitfalls, you get the idea. So if I'm talking to someone who just has a vague idea that it would be cool to know how to do this stuff, I make vague comforting noises and try not to offer advice.
But if the person talking to me pops back with "I want to build a Web site for Specific Reason X," we're off and running. It's much easier to learn the tiny subset of knowledge necessary to get your specific project off the ground than it is to gain general background knowledge enough to do anything you want, at some distant point in the future.
After representing Yahoo! at several University Hack Days and watching superstar Monkey Wrangler Paul Tarjan--fresh out of Stanford, first real job, builds a game-changing search app for Yahoo, quick, eat him now while his bones are still soft--I was fascinated. But I didn't jump straight in with Searchmonkey, because I couldn't think of anything interesting to do with it.
News flash: there is a crapload of really bad information out there. It's a) old, b) misguided, and c) wrapped in banner ads or sign-in-to-see-the-answer bait-and-switch gotchas. Unfortunately, it's been there a long time, and has many supporting links and other SEO-fu around it, so it tends to sort to the top.
I click into this junk a lot, and it bothers me.
With a simple set of URL filters, I was able to build bad.js, a Searchmonkey add-on for Yahoo! Search that warns me away from all those lovely canned scripts and talking banner ads from 1997. Bad.js was simple to build, easy to publish, and generally a joy to do; if you want to play, I strongly recommend checking out Searchmonkey, at
Suggestions for other URLs will be gratefully accepted; please leave them on the Searchmonkey app's Comments tab, so I can find them all in one place. (Lazy, remember?)