A Review of the Scrimba Learn JavaScript Course

I just finished up the Learn JavaScript for Free course on Scrimba, taught by the CEO Per Harald Borgen, and the last thing he suggested in the course wasn’t to take another course, but to start writing about my learning experience. I’ve been blogging for almost 20 years so this was something I felt I could actually accomplish. The post is in response to his last suggestion in that course, and this may not be a point for point pros and cons review, but the fact that this post exists is how much I think of this course. TLDR; i would recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn JavaScript.

My Journey So Far

I’m sure my journey is similar to many others, but we all have unique stories to tell. For me, the short version would be, in March 2022 I left my old career behind to start a new career as a developer (specifically a front-end React dev).

I left 15 years of tenure, safety, and security to follow something I had wanted to do all of my adult life. But starting a new career after 50 can’t be easy. I’m not sure, I’ve never tried this before, but every year that went by I could look back and think “if I had started this a year ago I would be a year farther down the road now” (and I’ve said this to myself at least since 2015). I also had completely and totally unrealistic time frames in mind. Initially, I figured 2 months should be long enough. My expectations were unrealistic to say the least.

Having Realistic Expectations

The next two months I spent about 8 hours a day working through Codecademy’s full stack course (just because it had the most structure), and made it through HTML, CSS, JavaScript Part 1 and 2 (twice), then React Part 1 and 2, and Git/GitHub Part 1 and 2. My emotions ranged everywhere from this is awesome I’m super excited, to I can’t wait to get through this next course, to extreme frustration, to how can/will I ever be able to learn the sheer volume of information, let alone learn it well.

Then I read Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard and Finding it difficult to learn programming? Here’s why, and I started to get it. My unrealistic time frame was even more unrealistic than I first thought, and the way I was trying to learn the material was the most difficult way, for me personally, to learn.

Did I mention, I spent every day, 6-8 hours a day, cramming through Codecademy’s full stack course for two full months. Please know, I have nothing against Codecademy or how they teach their courses. The platform is amazing, the information is extremely detailed (though the React course was a bit outdated). But at the end of the two months I didn’t feel prepared for anything, nor did I feel like I knew how to code anything that wasn’t hand fed to me. The main way of teaching is through reading documentation and then doing a small exercise. I am a lazy reader so I tend to (not on purpose) skip details, miss important details, drift off, loose concentration… fall asleep. It wasn’t “tutorial hell” but it was close.

Find What Works for You Personally

My solution was to go to YouTube and find some (non-tutorial only) videos. One big video on JavaScript and one on React should get me back on track and then I would pick back up where I left off. That’s how I came across Per Harald Borgen and his YouTube video on JavaScript via FreeCodeCamp. Except it was 7 (seven!) hours long. I found out it was actually a course on Scrimba and a few minutes into the first video I felt like I had learned more in just a few minutes than weeks of previous work reading blocks of paragraphs.

I figured that was just a fluke, but it wasn’t. It was like that all the way through the entire course. Maybe because I learn better through video and doing, maybe because I had actually learned something over the last two months… whatever it was, I learned more from this course than from anything else, and in a quarter of the time.

Learn JavaScript For Free Course at Scrimba

The Scrimba Review

Local Files: as far as this particular course goes… one of the best things for me was being able to download the entire course work on GitHub, then work through every part/chapter/piece locally through vscode and Chrome dev tools. This helped me tremendously over just doing the work “in-browser.”

The Interface: they use takes a bit of getting use to, but it’s very unique, and I learned to really appreciate the combination of code editor, video, browser, mode thing.

The Cost: well this course was free, but I’m subscribing to their site, and it’s VERY reasonable.

The Teaching: like I said, I learn best in this format. So for me, I picked up the teaching method much better. Per is also a fantastic teacher, patient, sense of humor, and you feel like you actually get to know the teacher even though it’s not a live course.

What I Really Liked: Scrimba gave me hope. What more could you ask for. It made me figure out how to do things the way they would be done in the real world (or what I perceive to be the real dev world). It wasn’t theoretical, it was application and repetition. The projects you work on over the course are fantastic. The Blackjack game and the Chrome Extension projects were really great learning tools.

What I didn’t Care For: in short, the solo projects and Figma. This isn’t so much a criticism of Scrimba as much as my personal situation. I’m trying to get through this as fast as possible (for many reasons). There was a solo project after each major section. I felt like these were way too hands off. I didn’t even attempt them because I found Figma very confusing, and I didn’t know where to even begin, and I didn’t have the time to figure it out. I know this is counterproductive to my end goal and it would be a great way to learn, but I couldn’t take the time to do them. I plan to go back and do them later, but I don’t know if that will realistically happen once I get to the advanced React course.

What I Learned: this is one of the hardest things I’ve found in learning how to code. How do you know how well you are doing? I learned some JavaScript for sure. I learned concepts. I learned how to figure things out on my own (a little, but more than non-Scrimba courses). I’m also a big note taker (I’ve done dev notes in Notion from the beginning), but I finally figured out that I need to be taking notes in the code… everywhere (like the exercise below). I learned to take your time and give yourself time to figure things out. Don’t hurry, be patient, or learn to be patient. There are no shortcuts to learning code, none, not one, none, at all.

// this is what i did and it was completely wrong
// i didn't understand the instructions and got lost

     const fruit = ['Apples', 'Bananas']
     const description = 'The 2 best fruits are: '

 function generateSentence(desc, arr) {
     for ( i = 0; i < arr.length; i  )
     console.log(arr[i])
     return `${description} ${fruit}`
}

console.log()

// this is what Per did, and now it makes sense

function generateSentence(desc, arr) {
    let baseString = `The ${arr.length} ${desc} are `
    const lastIndex = arr.length - 1
    for (let i=0; i < arr.length; i  ) {
        if (i === lastIndex) {
            baseString  = 'and '   arr[i]   '.'
        } else {
            baseString  = arr[i]   ', '
        }
    }
    return baseString
}

const sentence = generateSentence('highest mountains', ['Mount Everest', 'K2', 'Moon', 'Mars', 'Jupiter', 'Sun', 'Stars', 'Pluto'])

console.log(sentence)


// this one was not easy at all and i came no where close
// to getting it right but it is pretty cool. 
//(May, 18 2022 {Wed} @ 03:08:17 PM)

All in all I couldn’t recommend this course enough. But it takes way more than just a course to learn how to do this stuff well. It takes discipline, the proper working environment, rest, breaks, focus, time, money, an understanding family or spouse, and just the right time and place in your own personal life.

Some Great Books on Technology

Every year I wish I had read more books. Once i get into a book I’m good, but when i finish it takes me forever to get back into that groove of the “next” book. I tend to bounce from book to book until I find that next one. That next one right now is Tony Reinke’s new book, God, Technology, and the Christian Life.

There are so few technologically deep, well written, books that combine faith and technology, but this is one of them, so far. I’m just getting started, but Reinke’s balanced objective voice shows how science, technology, and faith in God all coexist and often compliment each other. I can’t wait to get to the meat of the text.

Books in the technology genre are some of my favorite, but they often get outdated very quickly. Some that have stood the test of time and are favorites of mine are (in no paticular order):

  • Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  • Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson
  • Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
  • The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick
  • The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
  • Viral by Leonard Sweet
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

I’m sure there are plenty of others, those are just some on my list. 📚

Thoughts on Feedly, Inoreader, and RSS Readers

I love the RSS feed and think it’s one of the most powerful tools someone can use to filter and currate content on the web. It’s also one of the most undervalued and underused options. Unfortunately on March 13, 2013, Google announced they were discontinuing Google Reader, stating the product had a loyal but declining following, and at that point, Google pretty much killed the popular use of RSS.

My RSS reader still has several hundred feeds that transferred over to Feedly when Google shut down, but I haven’t opened Feedly in some time. There are several different sites I’m actively using now that have great RSS feeds so I went back to looking at readers and the two main players are [Feedly](https://feedly.com/) and [Inoreader.](https://www.inoreader.com)

Fastfoward to 2022 and I’m pleasantly surprised how great these two apps have been developed. But I’m torn between the two, and both have subscriptions to get full features. Reviews really push Inoreader and the features they offer, but I have found Inoreader to be somewhat confusing, complicated, and complex to do what I want, read. Feedly may be the old non-flashy app but the UI for reading is amazing.

On Apple’s Tribute to Steve Jobs One Year Later

Pulling into the Gate in Amsterdam Airport
Pulling into the Gate in Amsterdam Airport

I remember landing in Amsterdam on October 5, 2011 after being in the air for almost 10 hours. I turned on my iPhone and AP news alerts started pinging my phone as happens when a “world event” takes place. I read through the Fox News, CNN, Sky News alerts and articles, and read through my Twitter and Facebook feeds. As we pulled up to the gate I had already received the text below from Deborah (yes I have all my text messages from years ago), a message received in my hand sitting on a runway in the Netherlands thousands of miles away from Auburn, Alabama.

Text Message From DeborahAs we pulled up to the gate I took the photo above of the Delta flight parked next to our gate, pulled it into my Camera+ app, put a boarder around it and posted it to Instagram. At this point I had already checked my email, responded to a few emails, and looked up our connecting flight information. All from a small piece of metal, glass, and plastic that didn’t exist a few years earlier.

This may sounds like a lot of poetic musings for a phone, but for some reason my mind wasn’t ready for this particular piece of news that morning, and it confused me. I was on my way to Africa, and the only reason I was going to have any personal connection with my wife halfway around the world was because Steve Jobs had decided he was going to invent and create what I was holding in my hand.

Here was a man who shared no convictions with my faith, a brilliant man who had no understanding beyond the pluralistic view of Christianity known for centuries mixed with his version of Buddhism. He just couldn’t go beyond his own understanding and even made this statement to Isaacson:

“The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t.”

Yet I still felt some connection, even if a minor one, with Jobs, sitting on a runway in Europe, as if the plane full of people melted away leaving me and my connection with Jobs sitting in my hand. He shared none of my beliefs, yet he changed the world, my world, and still does on a daily basis. After I got home from Africa I read, back to back, the biography on Steve Jobs and the biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Metaxas. What an amazing contrast of times and cultures, beliefs, and both had the ability to change the world. Ultimately in death, as we all will do some day, either looking to what lies ahead, one perhaps clinging to life here on earth, so did these two great men.

I boarded the plane to Africa, still thinking about Jobs’ fate and wrote this as we took off.

The biggest surprise to me so far [on this trip], was upon landing, finding out that Steve Jobs died. I was truly saddened to hear this. I know we are all temporary to this world, but this man, who for all accounts wasn’t a believer, changed the world. He forever changed the way the world communicates, how we are connected with each other, and the reason I can talk to Deborah from this plane in Europe while she is in Auburn.

He affected so many people through his innovations. How are we to greave his death? I’m saddened over his death as if he was someone I knew personally, and at the same time I really don’t know why either. Death seems so imminent for all of us, especially when you hear about Jobs dying at 59. I know why we die, the fall created this and Christ had to die for us, but it’s still so hard to understand. I didn’t even know Jobs, but I will miss him. The new iPhone announcement yesterday had people wanting to see Jobs at the event, people who never knew, other than God, that he would die the very next day. I pray for his soul.

I’m not even really sure why I write this today other than to acknowledge the gravity this one person had on our world. A person I vastly disagree with on almost all aspects of life, yet he was someone who had a positive impact on so many people.

Jobs once said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” which really became his whole life philosophy, and was carried on today by Tim Cook and Apple with the video on their front page and the letter below. What other for-profit company would take down their entire front page just to show a 2 minute tribute video. Simplicity and sophistication.

Apple's Tribute to Steve Jobs
Apple’s Tribute to Steve Jobs

Nothing Motivates Writing Like a New Theme Design

Wordpress.com Twenty Twelve Theme Design
WordPress.com Twenty Twelve Theme Design

I know to non-bloggers, writing a blog post about blogging is a kin to photographers talking about equipment (which we love to do), but to the rest of the world, it’s… boring… that is unless you love photography, or in this case blogging. If you know WordPress, their mantra is Code is Poetry, and maybe that’s why I love their coding.

Funny thing is, I find more people interested in new theme designs than I find people interested in writing on their blogs so go figure. I really try not to change themes too often, and Google doesn’t like it all that much either, but this time my last highly customized premium them, called Portfolio by WordPress only lasted about 3-4 months (see scalability issue below).

It’s Not the Theme It’s the Content

I’m not really sure why this is, but it seems to be true, even though I refute the notion when asked. I hear it all the time… if I just had a new, fresh, nice looking, well designed, custom coded, update to my blog, I would write more. And every time I hear that, my response is always the same. If you don’t write on your blog when it’s ugly-ish your not going to write on your blog when it’s beautiful. The phrase amongst websites and blogs that “content is king” has been true for years, and will remain true for all foreseeable futures of Internet knowhow. There is just nothing that makes up for good content. If you doubt this, just check out three of the worst designed websites on the Internet; Craigslist, Drudge Report, and Reddit, who are also some of the highest traffic sites on the Internet.

Still, every time I update my theme (which I try not to do very often), I get reinvigorated and excited about my blog. I still think my advice holds true, forget your design and just start posting good content and the design will works it’s way in. If you are in the habit of producing high quality, consistent content already, a new theme will be even more invigorating.

The New Twenty Twelve WordPress Theme

Some of the most versatile website designs today are from WordPress. I have written on them many times before so I won’t repeat that here, but if you have that strong desire to change designs like you change Facebook profile pics, WordPress is for you, at least theme wise. For the first time, I have gone with a custom design of a default WordPress theme from the guys over at Automattic, called Twenty Twelve, so this them I used here is available to anyone with a WordPress blog.

My top priorities when it comes to design are readability, typography, clarity, customization, scalability to move from one design to another, and a design that will fade into the background allowing the images and writing to take over, and Twenty Twelve hit these requirements quite well. This new them has one thing my previous theme didn’t have, the ability to move on to the next theme. The greater the customization, the harder it is to move on to the next code.

Twenty Twelve, launched on August 28, 2012, this theme is now going to sit as the WordPress default theme, an update to their “Twenty something” series of themes. It uses a new typography from Google (Open Sans), which is one of the most readable sets they have produced. If you have a WordPress blog, check it out, but you might already be using the theme and just didn’t know it. Thanks for another great theme WordPress. In my relentless desire to find the cleanest, minimalist theme design, you have brought me one step closer to perfection, at least in my mind.