BUZZKILL: Strengthen Your Developer Skills by Resisting the Hype
While not quite the Wild West of the front end territory of the web, developers are blasted with new databases and languages to make their applications more nimble, scalable, etc. While this might be true, mastering these technologies is quite a curve to overcome. Stay abreast of these emerging languages but stand by a tried and true solution to carry you through.
MYTH: It is new and hot so it must be better
Often times with a new language, it stems from a single person or small group of developers unhappy with a specific area of an existing language. During their course of using said language, they start to dream about “wouldn’t it be better if…,” and thus, a new language is born based off an already existing standard. Is it better? Perhaps. Typically, it is simply solving that one developer’s pain. The excitement from alleviating the problem seems like a revelation and a breath of fresh air. Queue the hype machine.
If you have the time to invest in learning new skills, and you should always be learning, I would suggest instead devoting time to further understanding in the classics. While you can choose a different paths, I feel PHP with MySQL and a content management system (CMS) like WordPress is a solid base. These are very popular solutions which represent a large majority of web usage. A depth of knowledge in these areas can take your career far.
While there are other languages you could learn, PHP is a major player in the game. It has been around and revised for years supported by a wide net of developers. The language is robust, offering several ways to solve your development needs. If the core language is not enough, there are even extensions to the library extending the reach and offering. Further, it does not hurt being part of the nearly ubiquitous LAMP (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP) sever set up.
TIP: LAMP hosting is not only very common, it is also generally less expensive
If you want your site to do more than just serve static pages, you need to leverage a database. MySQL is a fine place to start your journey. Fast and reliable, this can serve all sorts of page requests with ease. Depending on how you want to approach your project, you can configure to handle most of the processing, or pass the data to PHP and have the browser take most of the burden. As a bonus, you will know the SQL language which gets used by other databases. Score!
Learning PHP and MySQL are tremendous skills to acquire. They are powerful and in demand languages. However, sometimes there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you can develop well, why not let other people’s work take some of the heavy lifting off your shoulders? Enter content management systems. In this field, WordPress is definitely a top contender. While being continually worked on and improved by a vast array of developers, it is also an open source project. This means you can go in with your PHP and MySQL skills to make WordPress hum whatever tune you want.
Rookie Mistake: Copy, paste and move along
There is always a time for coping and pasting. Do not ignore the quickness and ease for solving a problem. The next step is the crucial one: study. Developers regularly find someone else’s code to solve a puzzle they are not able to. However, if you want to pull from the pack you will delve into the code to figure out what exactly it is doing. This give you a richer understanding of what your code is doing and the added benefit of you learning more about the language. Do not simply mark it done and move along. You owe it to your future to study the solution.
With the current flood of offerings for developers, it is hard to know where to go. Far too often people choose a solution simply because it is not ‘popular’ with the idea it will make them seem more cutting edge. Perhaps it will. If most of the business out there are still using the popular solutions, though, you are culling your potential engagements. Yes, you need to know about the new and perhaps it does make sense to learn a new language. However, it is never a bad thing to start with a standard. Once you are solid, you be more desirable and command higher rates. It is also easier to pick up the next language you want to learn when that day comes.
What do you think? Am I way off? Do you think there is a new language presently which will be the next standard? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.