Monday, July 31st, 2017
People of Sydney, you’re in luck. Charlotte is starting up a Sydney chapter of Codebar. If you know someone there who is under-represented in the tech industry, and they’re looking to learn how to code, please tell them about this.
Some want to become full-time developers, whereas others want to learn the basics of coding to enhance their current jobs. Some want to learn programming as a hobby. Whatever the reason, we’d love to see you there!
Also, if you’re a developer in Sydney, please consider becoming a tutor at Codebar.
I promise that tutoring is not scary! We ask that you let us know which areas you feel comfortable tutoring when you sign up, so you choose what you teach. It’s absolutely okay to not know answers during sessions, but knowing how to look for them is helpful.
Oh, and if you’ve got a space in Sydney that can accommodate a class, please, please consider become a Codebar sponsor.
Friday, July 21st, 2017
Donate money to support Codebar:
By donating to codebar you are helping to promote diversity in the tech industry so that more women, LGBTQA and other underrepresented folks will be able to get started with programming and raise their skills to the next level.
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
I think “it’s simple” shouldn’t be used to explain something.
Friday, July 14th, 2017
This resonates a lot—we’ve been working on something similar at Clearleft, for very similar reasons:
We rode the folk knowledge train until it became clear that it was totally unscaleable and we struggled to effectively commute know-how to the incoming brains.
At Made By Many, they’ve sliced it into three categories: Design, Technology, and Product Management & Strategy. At Clearleft, we’re trying to create a skills matrix for each of these disciplines: UX, UI, Dev, Research, Content Strategy, and Project Management. I’m working on the Dev matrix. I’ll share it once we’ve hammered it into something presentable. In the meantime, it’s good to see exactly the same drivers are at work at Made By Many:
The levels give people a scaffold onto which they can project their personalised career path, reflecting their progression, and facilitating professional development at every stage.
Tuesday, July 11th, 2017
We don’t want the field to de-democratize and become the province solely of those who can slog through a computer science degree.
So we need new tools that let everyone see, understand, and remix today’s web. We need, in other words, to reboot the culture of View Source.
Sunday, July 9th, 2017
I love seeing people go from Codebar to full-time dev work. It’s no surprise in Zara’s case—she’s an excellent front-end developer.
Wednesday, July 5th, 2017
I frequently see web developers struggling to become better, but without a path or any indication of clear direction. This repository is an attempt to sharing my experiences, and any contributions, that can help provide such a direction.
It’s broken down into four parts:
- 10 Domains of Web Development
- Events and Interaction
- Internationalization / Localization
- Understandability / Content
- Interviewing for Web Developers
- Productivity for Web Developers
- Web Training Hierarchy
- Level 1 - Writing Code
- Level 2 - Accessibility and Security
- Level 3 - Architecture
- Level 4 - Innovation
I don’t necessarily agree with everything here (and I really don’t like the “rockstar” labelling), but that’s okay:
Anything written here is open to debate and challenges are encouraged.
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
This is a really great screencast on getting started with React. I think it works well for a few reasons:
- Sarah and Chris aren’t necessarily experts yet in React—that’s good; it means they know from experience what “gotchas” people will encounter.
- They use a practical use-case (a comment form) that’s suited to the technology.
- By doing it all in CodePen, they avoid the disheartening slog of installation and build tools—compare it to this introduction to React.
- They make mistakes. There’s so much to be learned from people sharing “Oh, I thought it would work like that, but it actually works like this.”
There’s a little bit of “here’s one I prepared earlier” but, on the whole, it’s a great step-by-step approach, and one I’ll be returning to if and when I dip my toes into React.
Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Charlotte shares her thoughts on the elements of a fruitful mentorship:
- Learn from each other
- Find the right level of challenge
- Reach out
- Meet with intent
- Offer feedback and ask for feedback
Friday, May 5th, 2017
It’s a short list, but this brief guide for coaches at Codebar is packed with excellent advice for anybody getting into teaching or training:
- Do not take over the keyboard! This can be off-putting and scary.
- Encourage the students to type and not copy paste.
- Assume that anyone you’re teaching has no knowledge but infinite intelligence.
Monday, May 1st, 2017
This is a free online video course recorded by Jake a couple of years back. It’s got a really good step-by-step introduction to service workers, delivered in Jake’s typically witty way. Some of the details are a bit out of date, and I must admit that I bailed when it got to IndexedDB, but I highly recommend giving this a go.
There’s also a free course on web accessibility I’m planning to check out.
Friday, April 21st, 2017
A write-up of the BrightSparks programme that Clearleft is taking part in.
Each company agreed to help support one local child from a low-income family, on free school meals or with a yearly household income of under £25k.
Sunday, April 9th, 2017
Before leaving Brighton to head back to Sweden, Siri describes how Codebar helped her get started with front-end development:
I went along every week to work on my site, and was overwhelmed by the support and dedication of the mentors. Seeing the talented and diverse programmers in action made me re-think my preconceptions, and I soon realised that anyone can learn to code, from a 68-year-old retired teacher, to a twenty-seven-year-old female career-changer like me.
Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
This year’s Render conference just wrapped up in Oxford. It was a well-run, well-curated event, right up my alley: two days of a single track of design and development talks (see also: An Event Apart and Smashing Conference for other events in this mold that get it right).
One of my favourite talks was from Frances Ng. She gave a thoroughly entertaining account of her journey from aerospace engineer to front-end engineer, filled with ideas about how to get started, and keep from getting overwhelmed in the world of the web.
She recommended taking the time to occasionally dive deep into a foundational topic, pointing to another talk as a perfect example; Ana Balica gave a great presentation all about HTTP. The second half of the talk was about HTTP 2 and was filled with practical advice, but the first part was a thoroughly geeky history of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which I really loved.
While I’m mentoring Amber, we’ve been trying to find a good balance between those deep dives into the foundational topics and the hands-on day-to-day skills needed for web development. So far, I think we’ve found a good balance.
But between those visits—which happen every one or two weeks—I’ve been giving Amber homework of sorts. That’s where the foundational building blocks come in. Here are the questions I’ve asked so far:
- What is the difference between the internet and the web?
- What is the difference between GET and POST?
- What are cookies?
The first question is a way of understanding the primacy of URLs on the web. Amber wrote about her research. The second question was getting at an understanding of HTTP. Amber wrote about that too. The third and current question is about state on the web. I’m looking forward to reading a write-up of that soon.
We’re still figuring out this whole mentorship thing but I think this balance of research and exercises is working out well.
Friday, March 17th, 2017
Monday, February 20th, 2017
I really enjoyed teaching in Porto last week. It was like having a week-long series of CodeBar sessions.
Whenever I’m teaching at CodeBar, I like to be paired up with people who are just starting out. There’s something about explaining the web and HTML from first principles that I really like. And people often have lots and lots of questions that I enjoy answering (if I can). At CodeBar—and at The New Digital School—I found myself saying “Great question!” multiple times. The really great questions are the ones that I respond to with “I don’t know …let’s find out!”
CodeBar is always a very rewarding experience for me. It has given me the opportunity to try teaching. And having tried it, I can now safely say that I like it. It’s also a great chance to meet people from all walks of life. It gets me out of my bubble.
I can’t remember when I was first paired up with Amber at CodeBar. It must have been sometime last year. I do remember that she had lots of great questions—at some point I found myself explaining how hexadecimal colours work.
I was impressed with Amber’s eagerness to learn. I also liked that she was making her own website. I told her about Homebrew Website Club and she started coming along to that (along with other CodeBar people like Cassie and Alice).
I’ve mentioned to multiple CodeBar students that there’s pretty much an open-door policy at Clearleft when it comes to shadowing: feel free to come along and sit with a front-end developer while they’re working on client projects. A few people have taken up the offer and enjoyed observing myself or Charlotte at work. Amber was one of those people. Again, I was very impressed with her drive. She’s got a full-time job (with sometimes-crazy hours) but she’s so determined to get into the world of web design and development that she’s willing to spend her free time visiting Clearleft to soak up the atmosphere of a design studio.
We’ve decided to turn this into something more structured. Amber and I will get together for a couple of hours once a week. She’s given me a list of some of the areas she wants to explore, and I think it’s a fine-looking list:
- I want to gather base, structural knowledge about the web and all related aspects. Things seem to float around in a big cloud at the moment.
- I want to adhere to best practices.
- I want to learn more about what direction I want to go in, find a niche.
- I’d love to opportunity to chat with the brilliant people who work at Clearleft and gain a broad range of knowledge from them.
Seeing as we’ll only have a couple of hours every week, this won’t be quite like the masterclass I just finished up in Porto. Instead I imagine I’ll be laying some groundwork and then pointing to topics to research. I guess it’s a kind of homework. For example, after we talked today, I set Amber this little bit of research for the next time we meet: “What is the difference between the internet and the World Wide Web?”
I’m excited to see where this will lead. I find Amber’s drive and enthusiasm very inspiring. I also feel a certain weight of responsibility—I don’t want to enter into this lightly.
I’m not really sure what to call this though. Is it mentorship? Or is it coaching? Or training? All of the above?
Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to documenting the journey. Amber will be writing about it too. She is already demonstrating a way with words.
Friday, February 17th, 2017
Teaching in Porto, day five
For the final day of the week-long masterclass, I had no agenda. This was a time for the students to work on their own projects, but I was there to answer any remaining questions they might have.
As I suspected, the people with the most interest and experience in development were the ones with plenty of questions. I was more than happy to answer them. With no specific schedule for the day, we were free to merrily go chasing down rabbit holes.
It was a fun day. The centrepiece was a most excellent lunch across the river at a really traditional seafood place.
At the very end of the day, after everyone else had gone, I sat down with Tiago to discuss how the week went. Overall, I was happy. I was nervous going into this masterclass—I had never done a whole week of teaching—but based on the feedback I got, I think I did okay. There were times when I got impatient, and I wish I could turn back the clock and erase those moments. I noticed that those moments tended to occur when it was time for hands-on-keyboards coding: “no, not like that—like this!” I need to get better at handling those situations. But when we working on paper, or having stand-up discussions, or when I was just geeking out on a particular topic, everything felt quite positive.
All in all, this week has been a great experience. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I felt it was a real honour and a privilege to be involved with the New Digital School. I’ve enjoyed doing hands-on teaching, and I’d like to do more of it.
Teaching in Porto, day four
Day four was a deliberate step away from all that. No more laptops, just paper. Whereas the previous days had focused on collaboratively working on a single document, today I wanted everyone to work on a separate site.
The sites were generated randomly. I made five cards with types of sites on them: news, social network, shopping, travel, and learning. Another five cards had subjects: books, music, food, pets, and cars. And another five cards had audiences: students, parents, the elderly, commuters, and teachers. Everyone was dealt a random card from each deck, resulting in briefs like “a travel site about food for the elderly” or “a social network about music for commuters.”
For a bit of fun, the first brainstorming exercise (run as a 6-up) was to come with potential names for this service—4 minutes for 6 ideas. Then we went around the table, shared the ideas, got feedback, and settled on the names.
Now I asked everyone to come up with a one-sentence mission statement for their newly-named service. This was a good way of teasing out the most important verbs and nouns, which led nicely into the next task: answering the question “what is the core functionality?”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the first part of the three-step process I outlined in Resilient Web Design:
- Identify core functionality.
- Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.
We did some URL design, figuring out what structures would make sense for straightforward
GET requests, like:
Then, once it was clear what the primary “thing” was (a car, a book, etc.), I asked them to write down all the pieces that might appear on such a page; one post-it note per item e.g. “title”, “description”, “img”, “rating”, etc.
The next step involved prioritisation. They took those post-it notes and put them on the wall, but they had to put them in a vertical line from top to bottom in decreasing order of importance. This can be a challenge, but it’s better to solve these problems now rather than later.
Okay. I know asked them to “mark up” those vertical lists of post-it notes: writing HTML tag names by each one. By doing this before doing any visual design, it meant they were thinking about the meaning of the content first.
After that, we did a good ol’ fashioned classic 6-up sketching exercise, followed by critique (including a “designated dissenter” for each round). At this point, I was encouraging them to go crazy with ideas—they already had the core functionality figured out (with plain ol’ client/server requests and responses) so they could all the bells and whistles they wanted on top of that.
We finished up with a discussion of some of those bells and whistles, and how they could be used to improve the user experience: Ajax, geolocation, service workers, notifications, background sync …the sky’s the limit.
It was a whirlwind tour for just one day but I think it helped emphasise the importance of thinking about the fundamentals before adding enhancements.
This marked the end of the structured masterclass lessons. Tomorrow I’m around to answer any miscellaneous questions (if I can) and chat to the students individually while they work on their term projects.
Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Teaching in Porto, day three
Day two ended with a bit of a cliffhanger as I had the students mark up a document, but not yet style it. In the morning of day three, the styling began.
Rather than just treat “styling” as one big monolithic task, I broke it down into typography, colour, negative space, and so on. We time-boxed each one of those parts of the visual design. So everyone got, say, fifteen minutes to write styles relating to font families and sizes, then another fifteen minutes to write styles for colours and background colours. Bit by bit, the styles were layered on.
When it came to layout, we closed the laptops and returned to paper. Everyone did a quick round of 6-up sketching so that there was plenty of fast iteration on layout ideas. That was followed by some critique and dot-voting of the sketches.
Rather than diving into the CSS for layout—which can get quite complex—I instead walked through the approach for layout; namely putting all your layout styles inside media queries. To explain media queries, I first explained media types and then introduced the query part.
I felt pretty confident that I could skip over the nitty-gritty of media queries and cross-device layout because the next masterclass that will be taught at the New Digital School will be a week of responsive design, taught by Vitaly. I just gave them a taster—Vitaly can dive deeper.
When (some event happens), then (take this action).
I did quick demo as a proof of concept (which, much to my surprise, actually worked first time), but I was at pains to point out that they didn’t need to remember the syntax or vocabulary of the script; it was much more important to have a clear understanding of the thinking behind it.