adrift on a cosmic ocean

Writings on various topics (mostly technical) from Oliver Hookins and Angela Collins. We have lived in Berlin since 2009, have two kids, and have far too little time to really justify having a blog.

Setting goals for learning for 2014

Posted by Oliver on the 18th of February, 2014 in category Tech
Tagged with: frontendhtml5javascriptlanguageslearningprogramming

Perhaps a little late in the year to be conducting a personal retrospective on the years past, but I feel at this point I'm starting to wonder about the challenges ahead. The last two to three years I've distinctly changed my career direction from systems engineering, to "DevOps" (whatever that means anymore), to developer. Sure, I'm technically a Computer Scientist by tertiary education standards but I've been outside of that field for a large part of my professional career. I've now almost completed the book Seven Languages in Seven Weeks - not just reading through it, but dedicating enough time to absorbing the material and implementing all of the problems given. In actual day-to-day programming terms I keep myself busy largely with Golang, occasionally Ruby, and occasionally ActionScript. Perhaps with exception of ActionScript I find myself solidly in the realm of "backend languages".

That's a pretty fair assessment, as I am employed as a backend engineer. From time to time I do need to delve into Javascript and front-end tasks, and I feel like everything goes to pieces. It conjures up the same feelings I had when working as a systems administrator, seeing an error and diving into the (usually C) codebase, only to stare at the screen utterly confused and not knowing what to do. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak: and I feel the same way when getting into Javascript and/or front-end development territory.

Not influencing my thoughts around this, but also not entirely unrelated is this blog post by Ian Bicking (of SQLObject, Paste, virtualenv and pip fame (as well as many other excellent pieces of software)). Ian expresses some interesting points including "the browser seems like the most interesting platform" which does resonate with me - the HTML5 media realm is where a lot of my time is spent but without really understanding what is going on. For that reason I'm dedicating (at least a significant amount of) my mental space in 2014 to Javascript and front-end development learning.

If you've been writing a personal web page (or perhaps on behalf of a friend) and been stuck using tables or frames, or resorted to using Twitter Bootstrap out of frustration and even then not really knowing what you are doing, you'll understand the desire to know more of how all that web magic works. I'm totally happy writing an API in some of the previously mentioned languages, but when it comes to actually making something that works in the browser that doesn't look like it's been transported from 1995, well - there's something more to be learned.

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