How to start a career in Web Development, according to my band’s Twitter followers

There has been much buzz for a long time about how journalists should relate to web development–but this week a particular post by Boston Globe webster Andy Boyle caught my eye. He wrote three posts on the issue: two for journalists and one for programmers, all saying that all parties involved should do web development for journalism. There are jobs there, they are well-paying, and it’s a good need to fill. (Maybe it’s the magic bean to save newspapers! Just kidding. There are no magic beans.)

I asked my band’s Twitter fans – who are mostly nerds – for their advice on getting into web development. Before the Tweets are lost to the Internet, I’d like to share what they said.

The basic lesson from all the responses was this: Teach Yourself Web Development.

With the exception of one person (my friend’s mother, who decided to take up web development by taking a year of classes at a community college) people seemed to have taught themselves how to “make internets.” @BrendanAtkins (who is just awesome in so many ways), @AlaskaRobotics, @sparCKL, and @ghalidrim all echoed that statement in their own clever generation-specific ways.

@Mariafi also seems to be self-taught, and recommended “Head First Html,” a book with a scary lady on the cover, but part of the “Head First” series that I’ve heard much about. Andy Boyle recommended one of the books himself.

I think this is probably the right way to go–of course, I don’t know web development (is that a thing? “I know web development!”?) myself at the moment so I can’t say first-hand if this works. I did dabble in the CSS early this year in a teach-myself sort of way to make this site, an early version of my band’s website before I just gave up and went with WordPress. At the moment I have some journalism-y web projects (database-based) I’m going to explore, though I’m still trying to decide whether to try out Django (Andy Boyle’s tutorial here) or something else. I’ve realized that asking the Internet for the best language to start with, like asking my boyfriend and his friends for a language to start with, is overall a terrible idea and just results in nerds nerding around unhelpfully.

Watch this space for updates. There might be some.

9 thoughts on “How to start a career in Web Development, according to my band’s Twitter followers

  1. Maria

    Interesting articles, but man, the Andy Boyle articles cover a whole lot in just a little space! I would be overwhelmed.

    We’ve been talking a lot at work about how HTML should be taught in elementary schools, because it’s so basic and will become as necessary in upcoming years as typing is now (unless they dramatically improve WYSIWYGs).

    If you’ve got a specific project you want to explore then that is exactly the right way to look at development. I progressed from working with HTML, getting frustrated with its limitations, to working with Javascript, getting frustrated with limitations, then on to PHP & Mysql.

    (I’ve also used the PHP/Mysql and AJAX Head Firsts, and recommend any book in the series highly.)

    “Giving up and going with WordPress” is a bit of a trend in the entire industry, so don’t feel too bad about that. :)

    1. angelalc

      Fortunately I think I’ve made it through the “frustrated with HTML” phase, so… I’ve accomplished something! Hooray!

      Thank you (and Taylor, too, I guess) for the advice. Y’alls are awesome.

  2. Andy Boyle (@andymboyle)

    Thanks for the links to my blog. If you ever need any help, don’t be afraid to yell at me on Twitter.

    So honestly, if you’re going to start at the very basics, I’d go with PHP and MySQL (which that Head First book does a good job of acclimating you to). After you spend a few weeks fiddling with that and can think of a project and make it real — the fundamental skill you are trying to learn, mind you — then you should start learning something like Django or Ruby on Rails, in my opinion.

    Good luck!

    1. angelalc

      Thank you so much! I found your blog on Twitter a couple days ago and I really appreciate what you’re doing. Look forward to some cries for help!

  3. Brendan Adkins

    Going with WordPress isn’t giving up! It’s a fantastic product and when you have some web dev experience, you can tinker with themes or writing your own plugins to see just how much it’s capable of.

    I don’t have many specific book recommendations–the ones I used are long out of print by now. Still, O’Reilly books are widely praised by geeks for their high quality and good practices; they publish both the Head First books and their own “Learning (insert language here)” series, which you’ll recognize by the cool animal line-drawings on the front. Here’s a good starting point:

  4. Michael Andersen

    Congratulations, Angela. This seems to me like a really good decision.

    I went through the “official” Django tutorial when I was a similarly unactualized daily newspaper person a few years ago. I concluded that, as everyone seemed to be saying, it’s better to understand Python before you try to understand Django, because you don’t really get the advantages of the framework until you can futz around with it a little.

    So I did a simple PHP/MySQL project, didn’t enjoy it, decided I’m just not a developer, learned how to use WordPress and Mediawiki and did a journalism startup that used the skills I actually enjoyed (plus some others I don’t enjoy and didn’t have, such as sales – oh well!). That’s worked out pretty well.

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