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How to Speak like a Web Developer

duchesstoffee profile image Hannah Ong ・6 min read

After building my career in HRIS, I've really taken for granted all the terminology I've gained through industry experience. What once felt easy to explain my thoughts and reasonings, now feels like pulling teeth as I struggle like a toddler grasping for the right words to clearly and effectively communicate to other web developers. Exasperated, I turned to my husband, a long time coder, and asked, "How do I learn to talk 'tech'?" And so I've created this post, a collection of his response with what I've found helpful up until now, as a hopefully useful guide for others who want to learn how to speak like a web developer.

Reading Level: "Elementary" (Tutorials)

We'll try to distill the process of learning to speak like a web developer into the analogy of learning how to speak a language. When you learn a new language, you rarely start by picking up something advanced like the Lord of the Rings (although more power to you, if you do). Anyways, you're much more likely to begin the process by learning your ABCs and reading a children's book like My Hungry Caterpillar. So what is the equivalent of a children's picture book in web development? It's online tutorials. Tutorials are made with the beginner in mind and the content is going to be presented in the most digestible way possible. There will be a good amount of new terminology, but most tutorials will take the time to explain there new concepts and words in layman's terms to help the learning process.

Supplement Reading with Writing (Comments & READMEs)

Before we move on to the next reading level, let's talk about a fairly standard way to supplement reading: writing. Similarly, you can supplement your tutorials and coding projects with writing in two easy ways:

  1. Comments: You can add comments to describe difficult code to yourself. I know there's a bit of controversy around code being polluted with "too many comments", as a beginner these comments are a great way to learn how to communicate your code and thought processes. (And as you get more familiar with coding, you can always write less comments!) Try out the VSCode extension Better Comments
  2. READMEs: Make yourself a README that helps to outline each of your projects. It's a great way to help you (and others) understand the code, the decisions, and the usages. Don't know where to start? Try a template like this one (You can even pretty it up with GitHub emojis!) (Additionally I use Joplin so that I can see my markdown output as I'm editing)

Reading Level: "Middle School" (MDN)

The next step is to start reading from Mozilla Developer Network Web Docs (MDN). Please note that I say MDN and not W3Schools because unlike W3Schools, W3C has partnered with Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung to support MDN Web Docs Essentially, MDN is directly affiliated with W3C and is a reliable source we should refer for web standards. Many of the pages will have great examples and code sandboxes for you to play around with code. As you're going through it, you'll actually notice that a lot of the content is pretty much identical to the tutorials you've gone through (I remember that a few tutorials I had seen on YouTube were the exact same as some of the examples provided from MDN!) The main difference you'll notice is that the tutorials may have been presented in a more beginner friendly manner.

Reading Level: "High School" (W3C/ECMAScript)

So, you're doing great and you feel like you're ready to "graduate" from MDN. You may have noticed that I referred to W3C a few times in the section above. That's because W3C (or World Wide Web Consortium) is the official organization that develops the standards for the World Wide Web (ECMAScript for the JavaScript standard to ensure interoperability of Web pages across different Web browsers). That's right, W3C and ECMAScript are as authoritative as it gets in term of web development documentation as they are the ones setting those standards. These sources are literally what MDN is referring to when they write their own documentation for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In fact, while you were on MDN, you may have noticed near the bottom of many pages there is a "Specifications" section.
Here's an example for MDN's HTML Header:
MDN HTML Header Specifications Section

An example for MDN's CSS Color:
MDN CSS Color Specifications Section

Lastly an example for MDN's JavaScript Array:
MDN JavaScript Array Specifications Section

If you click on the links under "Specifications", they will take you to the W3C (or ECMA International for JavaScript pages) for which their documentation is based on. Therefore, if you want to learn exactly how a feature should behave on the browser, W3C and ECMA International are going to be your best bet.

Reading Level: "College"+ (Mailing Lists, Discussions, Contributions)

Alrighty smarty pants, you're feeling like a total pro, what's next? Well, you can start participating and contributing back to the community, and here's three ways on how:

  1. Join Groups/Mailing Lists: W3C, ECMA International, and MDN all have groups/mail lists. You can join these communities and have meaningful discussions on your desired topics.

  2. Follow Editors & Contributors: You'll notice that a lot of the documentation on W3C, ECMA, and MDN have editors/contributors. Do a little digging and follow people of interest to you on Twitter, their blogs, etc. A lot of the time, it's a way to gain insights to their decisions or general thought processes.

  3. Join Discussions: Whether it's on W3C, ECMA International, MDN, Twitter, personal blogs, so on and so forth, start joining in on discussions and share your thoughts!

Summary

This post was written for developers like myself, starting out with web development and realizing that we're running into questions we can't answer, or processes we can't explain to the degree of specificity or clarity that we'd like to because we currently lack the proper terminology. There's no shortcut to learning how to effectively speak "tech", but with a guided approach, I hope this is helpful in getting people started/moving in the right direction.

I'd like to end this post by saying that this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways you can learn to "speak" like a web developer, nor is it the only way. Although I categorize these into "levels", anyone can start anywhere (just because you started learning recently, doesn't mean you can't join discussions, or read documentation straight from the source!). Anyways, I'd love to open it up to discussion below where people can provide comments, suggestions, and ways in which they've learned to "speak" like a web developer!

Resources:

Discussion

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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

hypermedia, if you're not doing hypermedia you're not doing web development

the only thing that is "web" is hypermedia; there is no such thing as a "non-hypermedia web". you have to mention REST, there is no such thing as a "non-RESTful web"

because hypermedia for the first time introduced something that paper cannot do

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livanjimenez profile image
Livan Jimenez

this read like satire to me lol

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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

it's not. have you read fielding at all, actually?

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livanjimenez profile image
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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

yes, REST is chill. in fact, it grounds itself on timbl's cool uris don't change.

the chillest

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alainvanhout profile image
Alain Van Hout

So pre-REST SOAP and e.g. post-REST GraphQL are not 'web'? Somebody should let history know, because it seems to disagree.

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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

what's the ontological or conceptual argument? because the point you're making is incomplete. "the web fundamentally is a distributed hypermedia application." those techs are hardly relevant to the DEFINITION of the web. do you even have a definition you're working from?

have you read amundsen, et al? seriously. you're just namedropping technology without any meaningful position.

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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

the web is not software. why are you conflating software dev with web dev? your opinion isnt based on anything meaningful. because i use graphql? they are totally separare concerns.

the web is about hypermedia. please actually read the people writing about this stuff instead of pointing to vague moments in history which doesn't speak for itself.

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alainvanhout profile image
Alain Van Hout

I know you likely mean well, but please note that your tone here has the certitude and inflexibility that you generally find in a so-called 'fanboi' or other kind of dogmatist. The fact that you've posted twice as many comments so far as the rest of the commenters combined, also adds to that impression.

The internet is written text, and tone is a difficult thing in written text so I will assume that you don't want to actually be as belittling as you come across in this discussion.

As to REST, if you were to just mention hypermedia, then you have a point, but the term 'ReST' comes from Roy Fielding's dissertation, and the web precedes that paper substantially.

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dualyticalchemy profile image
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⚫️ nothingness negates itself

first off, i said please. second off, being certain doesn't make one wrong and being forceful with one's claims as claims, especially when i am using "meaningful", etc. in particular sense.

you're whining

the point is that ReST continues the ontological foundations from timbl's URI. i have already demonstrated that i know this history. stop wasting my time with asinine whining grounded in respectability politics. i do not respect you just because both use this site

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dualyticalchemy profile image
⚫️ nothingness negates itself

and as an afropessimist, i find it bold for you to drag me into diagnostic turns about "meaning well".

by my blackness i have been made by your jeffersons and lincolns and reagans to be incapable of anything but destroy the world

so miss me with that tone bullshit. cite something or step down

dualyticalchemy profile image
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⚫️ nothingness negates itself

hell, even fielding ridiculed all of you for reading a made up "broken manual" that he complained he needed to fix.

that is an indictment orders of magnitude greater than simply pointing out historically, semantically, and ontologically grounded arguments based in fact and knowledge.

if you want to talk about respectability, why don't you go abolish capitalism or the prison industry, or build actually respectful systems based on REST because you literally cannot spell respect without rest idgaf how it sounds to you, honestly. the extent of your position is tone policing... in this economy? lmao

informing people that the definition of the web involves hypermedia and if you dont mention it, because literal BDFLs said it and you ignore it. i honestly do not care about a bunch of developers feelings about a man's work they neglected and abandoned any way. that is more offensive than my tone.

your priorities are inane

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dualyticalchemy profile image
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⚫️ nothingness negates itself

excuse me, misunderstood, neglected, abandoned and redefined and renamed to the point of making the original author belittle an entire industry for illiteracy LMAO

now apparently people think graphql is some alternative rofl Jesus Christ

ok let's talk about respect. how many gentrified neighborhoods are there in your city? how many black lives are you respecting in real terms since black men and boys are experiencing genocidal levels of death and dying. let's shift gears and not whim about oh no, someone informed me i dont know the definition of the thing people have worked their lives on and somehow i got this degraded concept and somehow no one even connects hypermedia and the web anymore. somebody needs to offend your complacency. because everywhere else in life i have to suffer the ridiculousness of this racist white supremacy and patriarchy while you get to dismiss me as an "ideologue" since i'm not some milquetoast noob? wtf do you want from me. either build REST or fix a real problem, but tone? i do not care what some random internet person thinks "good tone" means given the wealth of other problems in the world and given WHAT has been said and what i am actually talking about.

i'll leave being gentle and kind to amundsen and others. i'm pissed, black and getting fucked by you people who love to tone police and hear the sound of your own voices relative to the lack of actual information you actually contribute to the mode of discourse

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jeremyong profile image
Jeremy Ong

Great stuff! :)