Reflection on the Midterm and Gallery Assignment

Midterm

One of the things that struck me the most as I learned more about Wes – the web developer I profiled for the midterm – was just how much thought goes into designing a story or website. Reading though his explanation of a web documentary he helped create for NPR gave me a greater appreciation for how much research, planning, and thought go into designing something for the web and how much designers think about the user experience when they do their work. I feel like as regular internet users, we often take for granted or ignore all-together the design of a site until a part of that design stops working and we become frustrated.

I also found it interesting that in answering my questions, Wes touched on some of the topics we’ve covered in our class. His thoughts on open-source software reminded me of the WordPress software philosophy piece from our pre-readings, which touched on four core freedoms known as the “WordPress ‘bill of rights’” and encouraged “freedom of use” of the WordPress software. I know Internet freedom is a much-discussed topic, and it was interesting to get some insight from the perspective of a developer.

When I was looking for someone to profile, I also reached out and sent a couple of questions to Christian Wood, a web developer who was part of my intern class at NPR last semester, and he was kind enough to answer them for me. I’ve included his responses below the fold for anyone interested in another perspective.

I found it interesting that both Wes and Christian brought up another point we’ve touched on several times in class: that Google is sort of a web developer’s best friend. Wes’s piece of advice to beginner coders was to remember that even experienced web developers, like the founder of Ruby on Rails, still have to look up code, and Christian listed surfing the web to find bits of code as one of the duties of his job.

I like these themes of sharing and learning from each other that seem to be a part of the web development community. It makes sense that when you’re working with something that’s constantly changing, like code, you’d need to be open to constantly learning.

Gallery

As part of my work this week, I was also able to get my gallery to work by adapting Professor Linch’s code to my project. While I had my HTML and CSS set up correctly last week, I was having serious trouble with the JavaScript, and the tutorial in class definitely helped.

The final code can be seen here: https://github.com/tatyanaberdan/homepage2

Christian Wood is the co-founder and lead designer of Utopian Slingshot.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in computer science and how did you go about learning to code?

My choice to pursue a Computer Science career began in Middle School. In 7th grade, I wanted to play games on my graphing calculator. After a panoply of tutorials and countless lines of TI BASIC code, I finally managed to create a game. After the game, I was hooked. The creative potential and power programming offered fascinated me. Later, I transitioned to making simple web pages with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Those skills helped me land my first job working on websites and I’ve continued to work as a developer in various positions since.

Although I’ve learned a lot from tutorials, courses, and books, I’ve learned most from solving problems in real projects.

What was the biggest challenge for you in learning the basics of web development?

My biggest challenge in learning the basics of web development has been persistence. Over the years, each new concept, language, or technology has exceeded my comprehension. I still remember the moment in 7th grade when I abruptly grasped how to use variables and if statements. More recently, I’ve just begun to understand how to implement more advanced JavaScript design patterns in larger-scale applications. Only months ago, some of those patterns seemed totally unintelligible. More work, more reading, and more experimenting, however, has consistently lead to the beautiful and gratifying moments when concepts suddenly make sense.

Can you describe your current role and what web development skills you use on a daily basis?

Currently, I am a front-end developer and designer for a small consulting company. I use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL to create websites and applications for clients. The skill that serves me most on a daily basis is probably searching the internet. That might read like a dry joke, but, as a programmer, you learn to dredge through the code snippets scattered across forums around the Internet to find what you need. Along the way you learn new concepts, vocabulary, and techniques that help you scrutinize the suggested answers to your queries and subsequently refine your searches to find the right solutions.

What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to learn how to code?

My advice to those just starting to learn how to code: stick it out. Syntax errors, missed commas, forgotten semicolons — these frustrations will pester you daily no matter your skill level. The rewards of perseverance, though, are equally abundant.

Out of all of your experiences, what has been one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on and why?

One of my favorite projects was a web application that I co-built with a designer (Bob Weisbecker) while interning at NPR. Specifically, the application shows the details and location of NPR member stations on a map. It was one of my favorite projects because I learned a lot creating a useful tool for an organization I respect.

Do you have a favorite programming language or one you’ve used the most over the course of your career?  

At the moment, my favorite language is JavaScript. It has many detractors, and many faults, but it’s ubiquity and flexibility make it a special language. Besides Python, it is the language I program most with on a daily basis.

 

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