Code Year draws 200,000 aspiring programmers

“Learn to program” isn’t a typical New Year’s resolution, but it’s one that’s gone viral thanks to a clever campaign by Codecademy, a startup that helps newbies learn the basics of software coding.

The New York-based venture kicked off 2012 by launching Code Year. Sign up for the free project and you’ll receive an interactive programming lesson each week in your inbox. Nearly 200,000 people have already joined, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tweeted about his plan to participate. 

“There are a lot of people who want to make New Year’s resolutions they’ll stick to,” says Codecademy co-founder Zach Sims. “This is something they can use and learn.”

The first lesson will go out to subscribers on Monday, Jan. 9. Participants will have plenty of support: The Twitter hashtag #codeyear is already buzzing.

“We’ll walk people along the path while they’re doing it,” Sims says.

After coming up with the Code Year idea in early December, the Codecademy team partnered with tech communities including Y Combinator, TechStars and HackNY to spread the word.

It’s the most ambitious project yet attempted by seven-month-old Codecademy. Launched in June, the site offers free, self-guided online courses on programming basics as well as on specific coding languages like Javascript.

Sims notes that programming skills are becoming increasingly important in the job market, and says that learning even the basics can give users a leg up.

Even Mayor Mike — whose term ends in 2013 — could score a new gig if he sticks with his pledge. “When you’re done being mayor, we’ll get you set up with an interview to join the @foursquare engineering team,” Foursquare chief engineer Harry Heymann.

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