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180,000 Child Programmers Versus 44 Ogres

In one week last week, Code.org’s Hour of Code reached more than 15 million students in 170 countries. Every major tech company promoted it, celebrities talked about it, and even the US President helped get the word out in their kickoff video. And shooting past Code.org’s crazy target of ten million players, kids are still continuing to play this week, with 600 million lines of code written and one in five US schoolchildren participating (with six times as many girls playing last week than have ever taken a computer science class in the US). It spread to more students in seven days than the first seven months of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram combined.

As one of Code.org’s partners, we at CodeCombat were both excited and hilariously unprepared to help teach such a sizable swarm of students to defeat the 44 ogres in our beginner campaign. Read on for what we learned from the onslaught of child programmers, including how obsessed kids are with games, how American students are the best trolls and the worst programmers, just how badly a user experience test can go, and the unfortunate difference between reddit traffic and school traffic.

Teachers Want Lessons, but Kids Just Want Games

Code.org lists 24 one-hour coding tutorials from partners across seven categories. These are ranked by teachers, and the higher the rank, the higher the clicks, roughly following a Zipf distribution. Probably because CodeCombat joined Hour of Code at the last minute, we’re relatively new, and the site still had some bugs to iron out when we were evaluated, we were placed in the 18th-most-desirable slot. That’s so far into the long tail, we expected to get around 0.1% of the total students going to the third-party tutorials.

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