Thoughts about learning in the web developer job, what managers might be missing

After reading an article titled What the ‘Learn to Code’ movement is forgetting: Existing developers, I couldn’t resist commenting. Sadly, I couldn’t add my own comment because their commenting is allowing only paying members so I am sharing it here.

Developers do not simply convert paragraphs of text requirements into “morse”. Obviously. Its a complex craft and like anything else, its all about people you are working with. There are passionate programmers and also the ones who only wants to do the bare minimum. In between, its all about leaving room for creativity.

What a programmer’s day looks like

Let’s remind ourselves what a programer is required to do has a lot of complexity and has to deal with legacy, unknowns, and delivery dates. Not everything can be foreseen: how the team members will work together, their capabilities, ego, and most importantly, whether or not each of them will be in “the zone” long enough during work hours.

The time they are at their optimal is what you want to have most from them, its that time where they can do amazing things, isn’t it. Being developer is about solving puzzles, review code or existing components they can leverage or would need to refactor. Being interrupted by numerous meetings to talk about something they are already trying to figure out doing isn’t helping them.

A good way to help them is to set in place asynchronous communication channels such as IRC, and code review practices. In some open source communities, merge to the master branch requires code review, a common practice is to have a bot to announce commits on an IRC channel. That’s the best of both worlds, you let developers be in their zone AND collaborate. As for paired-programming, they can just announce at the morning SCRUM meeting that they would like to spend time, or just ask for it on IRC.

Learning

As for learning, passionate developers already keep themselves in the loop of best practices and how to improve their craft. The experienced ones might even have ideas on how do things that you never thought of.

I’ve seen companies who allows participation to open source projects, and/or share their knowledge openly on sites such as Stack Overflow and documentation sites. This is another great way to make developers more engaged to their role, and stay in your company.

When I think of learning resources for web developers in general, there is an independent, and vendor neutral, resource where web developers can learn. The site is convened by the W3C, and sponsored by industry leaders to create just what we’ve been missing all along. The site is webplatform.org, and I feel like it’s not enough set forward by the industry. Maybe because its not complete, but its a wiki, anybody can participate.

Full disclosure; I work full time on the webplatform.org project, but note that regardless of my current position, I would participate to the site regardless of whether or not i’m hired to do so.

Photo credits: Anthony Catalano, Morse Code Straight Key J-38