How can you quickly adapt to new web development technologies?

How can you quickly adapt to new web development technologies?
What is this? LinkedIn sometimes suggests that I take an unpaid gig as an advice columnist. Here, I take them up on it, especially if my answers run contrary to typical answers.

For a long time, my impression of LinkedIn as a product was that it was mostly a tool for recruiters. Not much value for someone like me at the moment. But revisiting it recently, I can see that they've hired some good product people who have thought deeply about what would entice every other job-holder in this economy to do anything at all on the platform.

For one, there's a feed. And two, there's a Quora-like style Q&A. While I'm not too keen on putting my writing on other people's websites, I did find the question in line with something I'd been thinking about lately. So I decided to put my answers here to each of the prompts just for fun.

They divided up the question "How can you quickly adapt to new web development technologies?" into six sections:

One of the best ways to learn about new web development technologies is to follow the trends and see what others are using and talking about. You can use various sources, such as blogs, podcasts, newsletters, social media, forums, and online communities, to stay updated on the latest developments and innovations in the web development world. You can also check out popular websites and web applications and see what technologies they are built with, using tools like BuiltWith or Wappalyzer.

I don't think you should follow trends at all. Too many developers are worried about being left behind in an ever-changing landscape of technology to the point of letting fear override their judgment.

Every time you come across a new piece of technology, ask yourself "What is its core idea and have I seen this before?" Only look into it deeper if the answer is "no", and even then, just mentally file it away.

The only time you need to adopt something is if it solves your problem in a way no other technology you're aware of can, or is 10x better at doing it. Otherwise, use boring technology that you already know. You'll be way more productive with it, and happier solving customer problems.

Choose wisely

While it is important to be aware of the new web development technologies, it is also crucial to choose wisely what to learn and use. Not every technology is worth your time and effort, and some may be more suitable for your goals and projects than others. You should consider factors such as the popularity, stability, compatibility, scalability, performance, and documentation of the technology before deciding to adopt it. You should also evaluate your own skills, interests, and preferences, and pick the technologies that match them.

In some ways, this is akin to developing taste; both a taste for problems and a taste for solutions.

Taste in art, music, or fashion seems enigmatic and arbitrary from the outside. Why this and not that? Often, there's a layer of reason for or against something that someone's taste is reacting to. It's an intuition built from exposure to lots of examples and confidence in your own judgement.

You can develop a similar taste for technologies if you've seen a lot of them and played with a lot of them, both across sectors and across time, you'll start to develop a sense of which ones are good for which problems.

There are no shortcuts. The worst is when you pick a technology based on popularity regardless of fit to the problem.

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Learn by doing

The best way to learn and adapt to new web development technologies is to use them in practice. You can start by following tutorials, courses, or books that teach you the basics and the best practices of the technology. You can also find online platforms, such as CodePen or CodeSandbox, that allow you to experiment with different technologies and see the results in real time. You can also create your own projects, either from scratch or by modifying existing ones, and apply what you have learned. You can also share your projects with others and get feedback and suggestions.

The reason why learning by doing works here is because you actually care about the outcome. Otherwise, learning a whole bunch of arcane incantations isn't going to be an attractive use of time for all but the most obsessive about minute details.

The main problem you'll face when learning by doing is to scope the project correctly. Too many beginners try to build something too ambitious and never finish. It's more important to finish and get the reps in, before you try something bigger.

If you don't know whether something is scoped well, ask a more senior programmer. They'll likely have a better sense if they've done something similar before. If they haven't, then a senior programmer will be no better at you at estimating.

Seek help

Another way to quickly adapt to new web development technologies is to seek help from others who have more experience or knowledge. You can use various channels, such as online forums, Q&A sites, chat rooms, or social media, to ask questions, solve problems, or get advice. You can also join online or offline groups, meetups, or events that focus on the technology you want to learn or use, and network with other web developers who share your interests. You can also find mentors, coaches, or peers who can guide you, teach you, or challenge you.

Learn how to ask for help. Programmers are a grumpy bunch, and likely will not help if they sense that you haven't tried to figure it out yourself first.

So try a bunch first. Then when you ask for help, provide as much detail as you can. No one can help you if they don't know what you did, what the outcomes were, and where you think you can go from here.

Keep learning

Finally, the key to adapting to new web development technologies is to keep learning and improving your skills. You should not stop at the basics, but explore the advanced features, techniques, and possibilities of the technology. You should also keep track of the updates, changes, and improvements of the technology, and learn how to use them effectively. You should also compare and contrast different technologies, and learn how to integrate them or switch between them. You should also seek feedback, reviews, or critiques on your work, and learn from your mistakes and successes.

The last thing you should do is subscribe to all sorts of information sources about all the new stuff coming in. There's just no way to learn it all, and not all of it is worth learning. By all means, you should know what it is, and understand its core value proposition. But you shouldn't feel FOMO about not knowing well a large swath of various ecosystems and sectors.

Instead, after doing a survey, you should pick something that you're interested in and go deep into it. It doesn't matter if it's what other people like, or is currently in the hype wave.

The more you learn, the easier it will be to learn, but the direction that you learn should be informed by your developing taste, rather than what some influencer blog says is hot.

Here’s what else to consider

This is a space to share examples, stories, or insights that don’t fit into any of the previous sections. What else would you like to add?

Once you feel comfortable with Javascript or Typescript, venture into other language ecosystems to see what sort of ideas you can steal. Some of them have concepts that are not culturally the norm in JS/TS that are very useful. This is part of developing taste and will serve you well, even if you never use that language in practice.