Jun 3, 2020

My Web Development Journey

A path to learning web development and programming from my own experience

I consider myself a self-taught junior web developer.

I picked up web development as a serious hobby about five years ago, but my interest in and enthusiasm for the web go way back to the late 1990’s. Back then, being able to share your thoughts with the world instantly and at virtually no cost was (and still is) mind-boggling to me. That was the promise of the Internet and the WWW in their early days.

Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with understanding the technologies that make such a feat possible.

I first started making websites with Microsoft Frontpage and hosting them in Geocities. Then I moved up to registering my own domains and uploading my sites to shared hosting services via FTP. Then, at the onset of Web 2.0, my focus switched to deploying Wordpress blogs and learning about SEO.

Not much later, large platforms that came to be known as social networks entered the playing field and started to aggregate Internet traffic at a furious pace. I spent a couple of years getting acquainted with them, but became disillusioned when they morphed into sophisticated surveillance engines built to spy and profit from their users.

The open and decentralized web that I had grown to love had started to die.

Then, at around 2012, I heard a few prominent hackers talk about something called static site generators, and how they made them rediscover the excitement of publishing a personal website and experimenting with the code. I decided to go back to basics and re-learn the fundamentals of HTML and CSS. Soon, I was designing web pages from scratch with just a text editor, a blank page and my bare hands.

I was hooked.

After that, I delved deeply into understanding how static site generators worked, and experimented with Jekyll, Metalsmith and Hugo (my current setup).

I then decided to approach coding and web development in a more structured way, so when I heard about Treehouse, the online coding school, I decided to enroll. It was a great experience. I completed the Front End Web Development and JavaScript tracks and took courses on a variety of subjects, like React and Node.

I then took CS50, the Introduction to Computer Science course from Harvard, offered by edX, where I learned about algorithms, C, JavaScript and back-end development with Python, Flask and SQL. In parallel, I also learned Git and deployed a few virtual private servers.

As an introvert with a bias for logic and rational thinking, coding is an activity that matches my personality better than anything else I’ve tried-I just wish I had discovered it earlier. I can sit down and code for hours without ever getting bored. For me, it almost feels like meditation in the sense that when I’m coding I’m engaged 100% and time doesn’t seem to pass.

This notwithstanding, I’ve gone through some periods of discouragement, during which I have stopped coding for a few weeks or months, consumed by doubts about ever becoming good enough to turn coding into a paying job.

But then I read an article by Derek Sivers, the gist of which is this: do something for money, and do your art for its own sake. Don’t burden your art with the need to make money from it. From that day, I’ve thrown myself back into coding and I’ve learned something new every day.

If you’re just starting and don’t know if coding is for you, take a look at some of the projects and posts on this site, or drop me an email if you have any questions. I may be able to point you in the right direction or let you know what has worked for me.

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