Becoming a Better Developer

As I stated last week, for the next four months I’m putting myself through code school.

Objective and Plan

In order to do this right, I’ve outlined a 16 week plan that has me reading 5 books and recording what I’m learning. Every Monday I’ll write about the chapters I intend to read and what I expect to learn, and every Friday I’ll write about what I actually learned along with key take-aways. I think it would be great if you were to follow along every week and share your experiences in the comments. I could certainly use the encouragement, and I’m sure you can benefit by learning something new (or being reminded of something they forgot), too.

My main objective is simply to become a better developer. I realize this is largely an unquantifiable intangible, but I know that I (and anyone else following along) will become demonstrably better for putting forth the effort. I can say this with certainty because I’ve never heard of anyone getting worse – or remaining stagnant – after investing sixteen weeks of effort into a sole area of focus.

Demonstrable improvement may surface in any one of the following ways:

  • Increased expedience in solving complicated problems
  • Better solutions to existing problems
  • Cleaner, simpler, human-readable code
  • Improved architecture across the entirety of a given project
  • Code that is easier to test, debug, and extend
  • Jealous co-workers, friends, acquaintances, and arch-nemeses.

Required Reading

Below are the six books I intend to read, in order, over the next 16 weeks. I’ve linked to the kindle edition of each (not affiliate links), and have included the current price on Amazon. You’re welcome to acquire these books however you like.

  1. Clean Code [17 Chapers, 315 pages] – $21.39
  2. The Pragmatic Programmer [8 chapters, 260 pages] – $22.99
  3. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software [6 chapters, 360 pages] – $27.49
  4. Guide to Building Testable Applications in PHP [16 chapters, 68 pages] – $20+
  5. Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code [15 chapters, 413 pages] – $29.99
  6. WordPress Coding Standards Handbooks [4 pages] – $0

Total Investment: $121.87
Total Reading Commitment: 62 chapters, 1,420 pages
Per week: 4 chapters, 88 pages

In addition to the required reading, I’ll also be participating in every session taking place at WPSessions.com.

If you want more to read, see my post on additional recommended reading for developers.

Learning Goals

My learning goals are pretty fuzzy at the moment. I’ve learned that there is so much that I don’t know that I can’t possibly know what it is I need to learn or how it will benefit me in the future. That’s a very convoluted way of saying, “I want to learn whatever is written in the books I’ll be reading, and I hope it’s all good for me.”

That said, there are a few things I hope to learn (or better understand) by the time I’m done here. Once I’ve concluded the 16 week course I’ll circle back and update this post with a nice concise list of things actually learned. Until then, here are just a few for-instances:

  • Learn and leverage the common best-practice mnemonic devices (e.g. SOLID, DRY, etc.).
  • Understand the merits and best approaches of Test-Driven Development (TDD).
  • How to efficiently refactor crufty code without destroying everything.
  • How to recognize a problem as an identified pattern with a repeatable solution.
  • Better understand the purposes and capabilities of Object Oriented Programming (OOP).
    • Specifically: when to use constants, static, public, private, or protected properties and methods.
    • How to avoid “singletons” and other the many other pitfalls OOP-beginners typically make.
  • Understand and better leverage Model-View-Controller (MVC or MV*)-style architecture.
  • Better understand and implement RESTful practices.
  • And the coding utopia: the best ways to write cleaner, efficient, and more effective code.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Clean Code, Chapters 1–4
Week 2: Clean Code, Chapters 5-8
Week 3: Clean Code, Chapters 9–12
Week 4: Clean Code, Chapters 13–17
Week 5: Pragmatic Programmer, Chapters 1–4
Week 6: Pragmatic Programmer, Chapters 5–8
Week 7: Design Patterns, Chapters 1 & 2
Week 8: Mid-Semester Reflection + WP Developer Handbook
Week 9: Design Patterns, Chapter 3
Week 10: Design Patterns, Chapter 4
Week 11: Design Patterns, Chapter 5
Week 12: Design Patterns, Chapter 6
Week 13: The Grumpy Programmer’s Guide To Building Testable PHP Applications
Week 14: Refactoring, Chapters 1-5
Week 15: Refactoring, Chapters 6-10
Week 16: Refactoring, Chapters 11-15

Join Me?

If you’re at all interested in this, I urge you to follow along. The only real financial commitment is the cost of the books – if you choose to buy them – which is far less cumbersome than a single college credit, I can tell you that much. Join the mailing list or leave a comment below and let me know you’re following along!