Ignore Pedants, Just Build Stuff

If you’ve been following HN or other parts of the developer community lately, you’ve probably noticed a frustrating increase in pedantry – experienced developers dumping on their less-experienced peers, or the work they do. Feels like you can’t check the HN homepage these days without someone either dumping on something or trying to defend against a dumping.

I’ve provided a link to some of the more frustrating examples in the post notes at the bottom, but I’d advise that you not waste your time reading them. They bring back awful memories of high school. “You use PHP?” sounds exactly the same as “Your mom buys clothes at Walmart?” used to in 11th grade.

If I can give one piece of advice to my fellow developers still early on the learning curve:

Ignore the pedants, just build stuff. As much stuff as you can, and at least at first, stick to a single language and framework. Specialize. Especially if you’re self-taught.

This advice probably goes against everything you’ve read. Many developers will tell you that choosing the wrong language at the beginning can “ruin” a developer.

Do you know what ruins a learning experience faster than anything else? Hopelessness. Discouragement. Pedantry.

  • .Net has no open-source community.
  • PHP is a mishmash of garbage and teaches you bad habits.
  • Rails can’t scale.
  • Java relies too heavily on design patterns.
  • JavaScript doesn’t do OOP.
  • MySQL does everything… poorly.

All of these critiques are perfectly valid.

Doesn’t matter. Build stuff.

Ability in web development increases faster with depth of understanding than breadth. If you’re bouncing around between languages and frameworks, especially in the early years, you’re re-learning how to do basic things over and over and you’re not gaining depth.

Depth is gained through building many different projects, not building the same shell NerdDinner application ten different ways.

Depth is gained by running up against the flaws and weakness of your chosen language or framework and learning to work around them.

Build a blog. Built a calendar scheduling app. Build a web scraper. Build a monitoring application. Work with different APIs. Build an API for your website. Build a game.

Research solutions to shortcomings of your language. Learn the best practices. Find patterns and solutions that make for better code. Always try to make your work better, more reliable, more robust, more efficient.

Show developers you admire. Get their feedback. Open source your stuff. Pedants will take time out of their busy day to tell you how awful you, your work and your chosen development stack are.

Thank them for their input and build more stuff.

Yes, there will absolutely come a day when expanding your horizons to other languages and frameworks will make you a better developer, but if you’re able to get stuff done with your current development stack, and you’re still pushing your own boundaries and learning, don’t get caught up in the pedantry.

Just build stuff.

Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:00PM