Season 1 Finale

Over the past 6 months I’ve had the privilege of chatting with some of the best devs in the industry.


Over the past 6 months I’ve had the privilege of chatting with some of the best devs in the industry, learning what makes them tick, how they’ve gotten to where they are, and how they develop their skills. Here's a summary of the some of the biggest takeaways from Season 1.

Time Stamped Show Notes

0:43 – In episode one Larry chatted with Garth Braithwaite. Garth discussed the impact that writing tests has had on the way he approaches problems, and how this has moulded who he is as a developer. When it comes to trying out new projects and libraries, Garth uses side projects to test the waters. Garth says “There is no wasted learning when moving from library to library – learning is learning”

1:04 – In episode two Brian Lonsdorf gave us an insight into the world of functional programming. When Brian first got into functional programming he found it overwhelming, but soon learned that it was all the same maths in different clothes. Brian left us with an awesome tip on getting back into flow: use your tests to remind you where you were before you got distracted. To learn more about functional programming, make sure to check out Brian’s book, Mostly Adequate Guide to Functional Programming, and his Egghead course, Professor Frisby Introduces Composable Functional Javascript.

1:34 – Larry chatted to Safia Abdalla at number 3. Safia takes a minimalist approach and embraces only the tooling she absolutely needs to get the work done. “Less tooling is better”. Safia also reminded us that writing code is not about you and the computer; it’s about you, the people who read your code, and the people who interact with the things you build.

1:56 – Next up was Chris Heilman in episode 4. Chris chatted about devs becoming more diverse in order to better understand the diversity of their end users. He says that relying on a single stack can be dangerous. It’s important to be open to new environments and quick to learn them, because environments change so quickly around us. He leaves us with one last tip: teaching someone is the best way to learn something new.

2:20 – In episode 5 Larry chatted with Amjad Massad from where you can quickly spin up a REPL in one of 30 different languages! Amjad recommended identifying technologies that you’d like to learn, and then finding useful things to build with them. He also gave a top tip for anyone looking to get hired by a big company; most of the developers who end up in great positions usually come from the open source community, so don’t stop contributing!

2:45 – Sara Soueidan chatted with Larry in episode 6 about how learning and teaching opened doors for her. Sara recommended learning what you need to learn, and only when you need it. Also, before jumping into any big frameworks, learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. But, the most important thing is to take care of yourself, and get enough sleep. A healthy body is a healthy mind.

3:11 – Coming in at episode 7 was Harry Roberts. With how fast the industry changes, Harry prefers to keep a broad overview of what’s going on rather than learning things inside out. This way he knows what’s available to him when he needs it, and what he can ignore. Harry gives us a few tips for writing better code: don’t try to write perfect code the first time, don’t memorise stuff you don’t have to, learn how to ask for help, and surround yourself with people who know more than you do.

3:39 – Next up in episode 8 Larry chatted with Jonathan Snook about his strategy for learning new technologies:

  • Take everything in

  • Test a new idea out in a project

  • And then teach people what you’ve learnt

Jonathan also explained the importance of understanding the basics, and how jumping straight into libraries and frameworks deprives you of the fundamentals. Make sure to check out Jonathan’s book, SMACSS, to get a deeper understanding of CSS architecture.

4:05 – Next up, in episode 9 Anjana Vakil discussed how tests can be your friends, but you need real people too, so be sure not to isolate yourself. It helps to pair up with others, listen to their ideas, and talk things over with your colleagues. Anjana’s main piece of advice: never graduate! There’s always something new to learn when it comes to programming.

4:25 – In episode 10, Kyle Simpson reminded us that there’s more to life than work! Having social interests outside of programming helps keep you well-rounded. When he is programming, Kyle doesn’t use a lot of tools, but rather adds them only when he needs to. He believes that functional programming is about writing code that people don’t need to read; all they need to do is glance at it and recognise the items. Whether you’re a seasoned Javascript developer or new to the language make sure to check out Kyle’s “You don’t know JS” series.

4:53 – Ruth John told us all about simplicity, creativity, and community in episode 11. She’s passionate about the creative aspects of programming, and believes it’s not really about the code; it’s about the simplicity of creating things using the fundamental building blocks of the web. Her favourite tool is a pen and piece of paper, and she decides what to learn and what not to by focusing on the things that really excite her.

5:20 – Next in line at episode 12 was Peter Muller. Peter emphasised just how important it is to find a passionate and knowledgeable mentor. Mentors are invaluable because they can help you decide what to focus on, and what not to. Peter believes that being detail-oriented helps you to write better code, and that effective communication plays a major role in being a good developer.

5:42 – Tereza Sokol joined us for episode 13. Tereza has been writing code most of her life and yet, is still passionate enough to stick to a strict learning schedule. Every Saturday she logs her weekly learning goals. Tereza emphasises the importance of taking breaks, and finds that it gives her the chance to think about the big picture, which in turn, helps her write better code.

6:04 – Episode 14 was all about planning, focus, and persistence with Juho Vepsäläinen. He shares a simple and invaluable piece advice with us: use meaningful names. Juho also highlights the value of having a concrete goal and taking small steps toward it each day. It doesn’t matter how small the steps are; what matters is that you’re moving forward. If you’re looking to get a deep understanding of React and Webpack, make sure to check out Juho’s SurviveJS books.

6:31 – Next up was Luke Westby at episode 15. Luke spoke about the awesome Elm community, and how Elm has allowed Luke to focus more on writing code, and less on tools and workflows. Luke recommended not abstracting prematurely. Rather come up with a solution first, and clean things up later for public consumption. Also, if Luke had to learn to program again, he would focus on building useful things sooner, rather than focusing on theory.

6:57 – In episode 16 Larry spoke with Kent C Dodds. Kent chatted about the value he gets from the open source community, and how much he enjoys contributing to it. Kent also advised against premature abstraction, and recommends optimising for readability and maintainability. The most important thing is how well your code communicates to the people who are going to read it later, and that includes you. Kent closed with some solid advice: spend time learning about software, build things, and then teach others.

7:25 – Jake Archibald chatted with us on episode 17. Before diving into new libraries and frameworks, Jake suggests waiting until they’ve become popular. Jake also reminded us that everything you build, every library you write, and every experiment you make is valuable to you. Also, don’t forget the people! Whether you’re building software, or using social media, there’s always another human being on the other side.

7:49 – Jeremy Keith was next up in episode 18, where he cautioned that if you’re spending more time on tools than actually doing work, then you’re not really working with a tool at all. Jeremy is also a firm believer that progressive enhancement is here to stay, and that learning persistent principles will always be valuable. Make sure to check out Jeremy’s book, Resilient Web Design.

8:11 – In episode 19 David Khourshid joined us to chat about animation, time, and state machines. The tool that David finds most powerful is simply pen and paper. Also, let your computer do the thinking for you. This is possible when you take a declarative, functional, and reactive approach to writing code. David recommended finding the most efficient way to solve problems – that way you get to spend more time with friends, family, and living life.

8:36 – Coming in at episode 20 was Aimee Knight. Aimee is cautious of experimenting with new technologies for new projects. People often spend their time researching new libraries and frameworks, when their time would be better spent building a solid product with a good test suite. Aimee also chatted about how functional programming has changed the way she writes code, and that newer developers should experiment with functional programming as it leads to cleaner code.

9:02 – Ada Rose Cannon shared her passion for WebVR with us in Episode 21. Working with cutting-edge technology, she finds that it’s more important to get something out there that works than it is to get it perfect. She highlights how compartmentalising your code into reusable chunks will save you time. As soon as you build something that you’ll need to use more than twice, Ada suggests making it reusable.

9:24 – In Episode 22 Rachel Nabors tells it like it is. She says, “If you don’t make the time, you won’t have the time”. You need to sit down with the languages you don’t know and experiment. Exploring what you don’t know will help you question what you DO know. When discussing habits for writing better code, Rachel highlights tidiness as important, as well as getting a second opinion. It’s important to have someone who is better than you critique your work.

9:50 – Episode 23 with John Allsopp was all about evolution – the evolution of the web, the evolution of personal computing, and the evolution of his career. John tells us about the web’s early years and how, what people initially considered weaknesses of the web, actually turned out to be its greatest strengths. One of these supposed “weaknesses” was the fact that everything was freely available. John left us with his top tip about programming: “You ain’t gonna need it” (YAGNI). If you don’t need it, don’t build it.

10:18 – And to top it all off for Season One, Larry had the opportunity to chat to Chris Coyier of CodePen and CSS-Tricks! In episode 24, Chris discussed how he got to where he is today by seeking out the work he loves doing and focussing his energy there. He loves to experiment and says it’s important to toss out old ways of working and try something completely new. To cement your learning, write about your experience. Chris leaves us with some invaluable advice: be persistent. If something frustrates you, it’s probably a good sign that you should learn it.

10:49 – And that’s a wrap for season 1! From pen and paper, to functional programming, to teaching others – we’ve learnt from some of the most influential thinkers in web development on what makes them tick, and what sets them apart. Stay tuned when we chat to more folks from the web development world in season 2.

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Larry Botha