Essays on Technology and Culture

What to Learn, What to Build

So far, my grand attempt at learning web programming has been a refresher course in stuff I know. The basic semantics of coding, variables and functions, for and while loops, data types and arrays—these are things I learned and was taught, but it never hurts to go back and brush up when you’ve been out of practice. The language I’ve been learning, through Codecademy’s free lessons is JavaScript, a simple language and a good place for me to start as not knowing it is a gaping hole in my skill set. The plan is, once I have a grasp of JavaScript, to learn jQuery, which is how a lot of the neat animated and dynamic stuff happens on websites these days.

After that?

I see two choices for what language to learn: PHP and Python. [1] I already have some grounding in PHP, having designed WordPress themes and built a database driven site from scratch, albeit a poor one. It would be an easier place to start. Python, however, compels me as the company I work for uses it as the basis for their product. It would make me extra valuable to be able to not just point out bugs, but possibly go in and fix them. Another tool in the utility belt. The jury is still out, however, on which. (Suggestions appreciated, provided you can back them up.)

The other question is what to build. The first thing that comes to mind is to go back and rebuild the blog/database site I wrote in PHP so many moons ago, this time done right with objects and frameworks to make the code maintainable and logical. Whichever language I use is secondary. The important thing about building something is that it is truly learning by doing. A virtual classroom and instruction only can take you so far up the Dryfus model. Working outside of the classroom and figuring things out on your own is where the action happens.

For now, however, it’s classroom study and review. And patience.

  1. Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the Ruby programmers.  ↩