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  #1 (permalink)  
Old April 10th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Default Opinion wanted: What a web programmer should know

The ultimate newbie question: What languages should I learn?

Well, I have the same question, but from a less-newbian perspective. I've been working in XHTML, CSS, XML, XSLT, XSL-FO, etc for about 3 years now, but at a management level. I'm trying to stay current with the new technologies.

I see "web programmer" job listings abound, and they all contain a bunch of new languages I am less familiar with.

My question is this: What is a good path for a management-level programmer who wants to know more and "do" the programming of viable modern websites?

The path I see now requires some basic form of this:
- Javascript
- C#, C++, etc
- Database
- Dreamweaver, FrontPage, etc
- Crossover technologies: XML, XSLT, etc.
- Flash

I recognize some of this is preferential, but I'm opening the door for opinions so I can see what's best for me. What makes a hirable, good web-programmer these days - one who can manage AND do the nitty gritty?

Thanks for honest opinions.
Michael Friedman
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Old April 16th, 2006, 09:16 AM
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> What makes a hirable, good web-programmer these days - one who can manage AND do the nitty gritty?

My advice would be to focus less on the technologies than the person. Anyone can chuck TLAs* onto their resume! Look at the tech skills they've got, sure, but also think about how they communicate, how motivated they are and so on. Most reasonably competant tech people can pick up a language or technology in a couple of months - but skills like 'managing' and 'doing the nitty-gritty' are rather less easy to develop.

Having said that Rails (http://rubyonrails.org ) and AJAX are very cool things for someone to know ;)

* Three Letter Abbreviations - the beloved tool of salespeople who use them to obfscate reality from management types...
Don't Stand on your head - you'll get footprints in your hair
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Old May 6th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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Regarding your first question:
quote:What is a good path for a management-level programmer who wants to know more and "do" the programming of viable modern websites?
You have a pretty good handle on the basic idea.
Your list is fine. Having an understanding of what these technologies and languages do, how they do it, and how they work together is fundamental. ciderpunx added Ruby on Rails and Ajax. I think Ajax is great and definitely something fundamental to a responsive interactive web page. Ruby on Rails is fun, and will probably continue to grow in popularity.

Along with gaining some experience with those things, you might want to take a step up to the next level and learn about development practices and principles.

For project design and coding itself, this includes things like the OOP fundamentals and principles, software and architectural patterns, coding standards, etc. Also, I have a particular fondness for Test Driven Design/Test First Programming, XP and other Agile practices, and refactoring ala Martin Fowler. Here are a few more names to google: Robert Martin, Kent Beck, Dave Thomas, Andy Hunt, Steve Mcconnell. There are many others... that is just a start.

For the next few years, I think that code-generation is going to continue to grow in importance.

Lets throw in the need to master things like source code control, versioning, deployment, etc. just to make sure it is understood that these things are very important.

IMHO the exact languages and technologies you use do not have nearly the effect on results as the quality of the architecture, technical design, and coding principles and practices followed. The type of results I mean here are those things like ease of maintenance, ease of expanding or changing the site, etc... not the overall usefulness of the content of the site - that is up to the business purposes of the site and usually outside of the control of the development team.

There are numerous management "slots" on a typical larger project.
On a small project, sometimes the manager, the developer team, the deployment team, and the ba team, and the qa team are all the same person - so everything needs to be adjusted based on which hats you are wearing.

Regarding your second question:
quote:What makes a hirable, good web-programmer these days - one who can manage AND do the nitty gritty?
There are a LOT more jobs for programmers than there are for managers of programmers. Sometimes the manager gets paid more, sometimes less. Most of the time the manager spends a lot of time in meetings, preparing for meetings, and complaining about the uselessness of meetings. Much less so for the programmers.

If what you want is to move up the ladder, and become a higher and higher manager (and someday becoming the CEO and eventually ending up in jail for insider trading) knowing the tech details is much less important. If what you want is to keep your hands in programming - then focus on the programming, and keep your management skills up-to-date on the basic management tasks - like estimating, using Microsoft Project, Excel, and powerpoint... and learning how to deal with difficult people like programmers, etc.

A very qualified programmer who is willing to do team lead work is a happy medium - usually part of his/her job is to stay on top of the fun technical stuff and do a great deal of programming, but he/she also gets to attend lunch-time meetings and eat sandwiches during boring presentations about "rallying the troops" and stuff like that.

Truly excellent programmers have always been in tremendous demand. That may end someday, who knows. During the last 10 years, second-rate and even miserably poor developers have also been in demand.

Most projects are staffed with mediocre developers and very bad managers. One or two great programmers among all the average ones on a job often means the difference between success and failure.

I've managed, and I've programmed. I much prefer to program. That is just my nature, or has become my nature, I guess.

I have worked with a lot of great programmers, but only a few great managers. However, generally speaking, the worst of the managers made more money than the best of the programmers. So... overall... I guess I have just clouded the issue.


Woody Z http://www.learntoprogramnow.com
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Old May 19th, 2006, 08:35 AM
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Right On Woodyz,

I've been in this business for over 40 years and started as a computer operator of the big iron and moved into programming and then management. Programming is by far the more satisfying to me personally but the money is in management. Also the risks.

So I guess it's a matter if you want to be happy and satisfied or make more money
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