By James Hibbard

Editorial: How Do You Keep Your Skill Set Relevant?

By James Hibbard

This is the editorial from my latest JavaScript newsletter, you can subscribe here.

The web industry moves at a blistering pace and it can often feel like it’s difficult to keep up. This is especially true of JavaScript land where frameworks are going in and out of fashion all the time, each with their own way of accomplishing the same basic tasks. So how do you keep your skill set relevant? Over on the main site, we published a great article for those of you that do (or are looking to do) side projects. It’s full of resources to inspire you and plenty of tips for keeping learning fun.

But, you know, side projects aren’t for everybody, right? So today I’d like to add a further tip for the list — start answering programming questions. If that makes you think of Stack Overflow, you’re forgiven :) Stack Overflow is indeed a great place to ask and answer programming questions, but its flaws are well documented and it’s not for everybody. Instead, I’d like to suggest an alternative — SitePoint forums.

That’s right, we have forums and joining is easy. Right now you can sign up using Github, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo or Google. Or you can just create an account the old fashioned way. Once you’re in, you can browse the many categories on offer and look for questions to answer or a discussion to join. Of course, this being a JavaScript newsletter, I’d encourage you to check out the JavaScript category first, but there are categories for most major areas of web development.

“But why would I even want do this?” I hear you cry. Well, for starters, explaining a concept to someone else is a great way to cement it in your own mind. Or maybe you’re not quite sure if your preferred method of solving a problem reflects best practice. Answering a question will encourage you to read up on it before replying. Plus you’ll be helping people and engaging with the community — you even might learn a trick or two along the way.

Getting Help

To turn this on its head for a moment, the SitePoint forums are an equally great place get help with a particular coding problem. On the main site, I often see people asking coding related questions in article comments. If the question has a simple answer, then sometimes they’ll get it, but more often than not, their issue remains unresolved. Had they gone to the forums, it might have been a different story …

That’s not to say that you can turn up, say “jQuery don’t work” (without providing any further context) and there will be droves of people waiting to help. There won’t. In the same vein, SitePoint forums isn’t an untapped pool of devs just waiting to do your work for you (so please don’t turn up with a wish list of functionality). But if you have a problem, can demonstrate what you have tried and explain what doesn’t work as expected, then it might be the right place to seek a solution. The community is certainly very friendly and eager to help.

There has been a lot written about the correct way to ask a question, so I’ll not go into that here. However, if you can provide an SSCCE (Short, Self Contained, Correct, Example) which demonstrates the issue you’re having, you’ll not go far wrong.

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re looking for a way to get involved in the community, a way to keep on learning (and to keep it fun), or a way to get help with a coding problem, pop along and give SitePoint forums a try.

  • AK

    After spending eight to nine hours at work is it good to sit behind the computer a few more hours to sharpen your skills further on a weekly basis? I know it’s necessary. Please don’t get me wrong.

    But is this good for your health though?

    • Hahaha very true. But the reality is that while it may be OK not keeping up with anything outside of the scope of your daily job you will really feel it when you decide to change a job. My 2 cents.

    • James Hibbard

      Yeah, basically what Stanislav says. It’s fine when you’re sitting pretty, have a good job and no need to expand your knowledge, however due to the nature of the industry, if you want to change job or attempt a sideways move in your current job, then you’ll be in a much better position to do so, if you can demonstrate that you have kept up with things to some extent.

      I can fully appreciate it if you don’t want to sit behind a computer all day, come home and do the same, but on some level it’s important to find a method that works for you. Maybe going to conferences, or meetups, for example.

  • Rocco C Marotta

    So…how do you keep your skill set relevant?

    • James Hibbard

      You mean me? Well, I read the majority of JS articles that come through the channel, I’m active on SP forums & Stack Overflow, I follow courses online, am subscribed to a ton of newsletters, work on side projects, go to meet ups and read books. What about you?

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