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Coding a Chinese Hieroglyphic Web App with ChatGPT… by@djg89
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Coding a Chinese Hieroglyphic Web App with ChatGPT…

by DJ GallowJune 8th, 2023
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The goal was to code a simple little dummy app for a card game I’m creating about Chinese hieroglyphs. The app would have quiz game functionality, a table with a collection of Chinese characters, and back-end to store user data. It all seemed so simple at first, especially considering the power of ChatGPT, which I intended to lean on heavily. Of course, the project turned out to be anything but simple and became more and more complicated as I got further along.
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“I don’t want to see you stressed out..”


My girlfriend’s words go in one ear and right out the other as I spend my third hour straight Googling ‘Netlify serverless functions’. I am not a professional web developer. I just dabble. And my patience had run thin long before my girlfriend said anything..


The goal was to code a simple little dummy app for a card game I’m creating about Chinese hieroglyphs — also known as Oracle Bone Script or “Jiaguwen”. The app would have quiz game functionality, a table with a collection of Chinese characters, and back-end to store user data. It all seemed so simple at first, especially considering the power of ChatGPT, which I intended to lean on heavily. Of course, the project turned out to be anything but simple and became more and more complicated as I got further along. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for not only an interesting learning experience, but also somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster.


Let me talk a little bit about my initial circumstances. First off, I had no experience with React and hardly any with MongoDB which I only learned a bit about during the latter half of a SQL course. On top of that, I’d never used Netlify, which I needed to deploy the app. Nor was I very familiar w/Typescript, which my developer cousin recommended to me. Despite all this circumstances, in the end, I was able to do exactly what I set out to do: build a web app almost entirely with ChatGPT. You can check it out here.


Now I should also tell you, I jumped on the ChatGPT bandwagon pretty late, and I still haven’t even been able to use GPT4 (which might have made a big difference if I could). If you feed pictures to GPT4, can it give you the HTML/CSS/JS needed for your intended result? I’d like to know. Anyway, going into this, I also didn’t know what quite to expect from my AI companion. .

ChatGPT, the Teacher..Receives my totally objective score of : 5/5

So, you can’t just prompt ChatGPT and be like: “Code my entire application from scratch” (unless your app is very simple) because an application is usually going to have several different components. But if you separate each concern one by one, and think carefully about your prompts, ChatGPT does an amazing job with providing you a running start and even more support beyond that, if necessary. I think this is perfect if for anyone trying to learn on their own and it gave me a substantial confidence boost and motivation to actually follow through with the whole project.


Lots of people still doubt the power of AI technology. I have my own reservations about it too. However, if there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this: the process of fixing the errors in your code, one-by-one, along side the AI, is just unbelievable..at least the first time you experience this. You have to see it to believe it.


Keep in mind that I had minimal knowledge of React, Typescript, Express, or MongoDB prior to all this. But thanks to ChatGPT I was literally able to learn and build something simultaneously.

Watching an AI singlehandedly think through and spit out tailor-made solutions to my particular problems day-in and day-out while also serving as a teacher has changed the way I think about learning and education. And yet..

ChatGPT, the ‘do-it-all’ developer - Score: Uhh… / 5

Think AI will replace human developers? I’m not so sure. Towards the end of my project, there were a few times when I couldn’t figure out why my code wasn’t running properly and I was kind of in over my head. ChatGPT kept running around in circles feeding me lots of nice but inapplicable advice. This would go on for a while only for me to find that the solution to the rather simple problem was a typo or some syntax problem or some code I’d forgotten to remove. To this day I still don’t understand how the AI was able hit right on the money when it came to some complex problems but was useless when it came to a simple problem that, ironically, only required an additional, careful glance on my part. Go figure. Sometimes, Google, StackOverflow, Youtube, and good ole’ patience are all you need..not necessarily AI. That being said, there’s another aspect I want to mention.

ChatGPT, the therapist?

There were also a few times when I got stuck in the weeds and began to get frustrated. I contemplated venting to ChatGPT but then had second thoughts. What if it remembers what I said later? What if it says something I don’t wanna hear — or even crazier yet…says something that actually makes me feel great?! What are the ramifications of all this?


I started to wonder: could a human be ‘friends’ with an AI?


I’m not gonna go further down the rabbit hole. You guys can do that yourself. But I will say this: the day that ChatGPT learns to read Jiaguwen, that just might be the day that it/he/she and I have the foundation for a good friendship.


Also published here.