The Boulder is Chasing Me Down the Hill

October 5, 2015

Last week, Tim Kadlec published an article on his site called The Fallacy of Keeping Up. Tim addresses a hot topic among front-end developers today, “how can we keep up with all the new standards and techniques that define our craft?” I wrestle with that issue constantly. In fact, last week I had a conversation with a former colleague about that very topic. I have read several other articles in the last year about it.

I have 3 takeaways from Tim‘s article:

  • Focus on the core
  • It is okay not to be on the bleeding edge
  • Nobody is keeping up (we are all in the same boat)

Of these three takeaways, I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts on the first one.

Focus on the Core

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have heard. One of the best investments you can make is to build up your skills in the core (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript).

As Tim points out in his article, having a solid understanding of the core helps you determine which tool in the toolbox works the best for the particular problem. For some problems, a framework would be best to use. For others, just using the core.

David Bushell wrote an excellent article earlier this year, I don’t do Angular, is that OK? One of the things I really liked about the article is that David states that he knows his core very well. It is from that core knowledge that he has made a decision not to do Angular right now. But if he did not have that core knowledge, he could not make the informed decision that he has.

I recently watched Rachel Andrew talk, The Business of Front-End Development. She addresses the need for today’s developers to be strong in the core. She has been amazed at how many today do not understand how to code the core without the help of frameworks and pre-processors.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

My background in this industry is that I started as a Web Designer who could code. I had to code to build out my designs because there was no one else to do it. I evolved into a front-end developer much at the same time as the role evolved into a separate role from design. I had very strong HTML and CSS skills but to be honest, did not really have much need for JavaScript in my everyday work. Plus, it is much more of a program language than markup languages that HMTL and CSS are. I struggled in wrapping my head around it.

I tried many times to learn JavaScript but always felt like I ran into a wall, got frustrated and gave up. jQuery gave me an easy out because it was much easier for me to work with and there were plenty of plugins to get the job done.

I finally had my “aha” moments with JavaScript about 2 years ago while learning it on Codecademy. But there are a lot of things that I still do not understand about JavaScript. And in practice, I use jQuery on a daily basis in the project work that I do.

I have a renewed interest in getting really good in this core area. I am planning to spend time the few months working to improve this part of the core in my skill set. I recently read Vincent’s article, Want to Learn JavaScript in 2015/2016? One of the resources he recommended was Kyle Simpson’s series, You Don’t Know JS. You can read the books for free on GitHub or purchase printed or ebook versions. I decided to buy the printed book series.

I also plan to read JavaScript and jQuery by Jon Dockett. I like Jon’s books because they are designed for visual learners.

Other resources

  • Tim mentioned Susan Robertson’s article, Overwhelmed by Code. This is a good read with practical advice on how to go from being overwhelmed to coming up with a plan to add to your skillset.
  • I have not had a chance to listen to it yet, but I have heard good things about The Web Ahead Episode 104. Rachel Andrew is the guest and she talks the topic of building your skills and focusing on the core.

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