Code What You Know

This past Friday the entire Ionic team did a Hack Day together, and it was glorious. Everyone was hacking on crazy stuff that we wouldn’t normally be working on, sending “demos” to the team every few hours.

Here’s the problem with a Hack Day though: it’s a single day. You should know what you want to get out of your hack day ahead of time. As many of you know, I’m all about building stuff fast, so I actually wanted to build something complete.

Both in my book and in my talk I try to preach that there are two completely different types of development: learning development & product development.

In learning development you are taking the time to learn something new. A new framework, a new plugin, a new database, etc. Learning development should focus on small demos. You should make a one or two page application to test out that new JavaScript framework and get a feel for it, you might end up not even liking it.

However, when it comes to product development, only one thing should be on your mind: code what you know.

Authors always talk about “writing what you know”, which makes it easier to write and describe things in depth. Essentially, it makes writing tolerable¬†instead of painstakingly horrible. Authors have learned this over many many centuries, and it appears to me that developers haven’t yet.

This is especially relevant when we’re talking about a Hack Day or weekend hackathon. You can’t expect to take 8-36 hours to build something that works if you’re using new technology.

At one 8-hour hackathon I participated in someone came up to me and asked me how to get started with Ionic…we were on a coffee shop WiFi and there is multiple gigs worth of stuff you need to download to get started…there goes 8 hours. Taking the time to learn with small demos before you jump into a large project (or a time-sensitive one) is necessary.

For my project I decided to fool around with making a collaborative online editor with automatic preview of Ionic apps that is actually serving our Ionic project right off of your local machine.

Seems pretty complicated, but since I built Kobra, I had experience in absolutely every piece of the puzzle. I knew exactly what I needed to code, how I needed to code it, and the problems I would face even before I started.

Screenshot 2015-08-21 14.47.02

In 6-7 hours of programming time I would say I got about 75% done with the initial version project. Sure it may not be pretty, but the code behind it works.

In my book I talk about the 36-hour project, but it is completely realistic to get that time down to one solid 12 hour day if you know all of the pieces of the puzzle ahead of time.

So the next time you’re thinking about making a Minimum Viable Product or you participate in a Hack Day, remember: code what you know.


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