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Simon St.Laurent
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Attended Swarthmore College
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Simon St.Laurent

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Is there a sane path between the perils of design by committee and the sheer cliff that is anarchy?  Can we keep web technologies from tangling into tight knots prohibiting maintenance?

I went to last week's Extensible Web Summit, and came away both enthusiastic and concerned.  Last night's Famo.us announcements left with a similar set of feelings.
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Simon St.Laurent

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Sometimes I see a pattern a few times and wonder.  Other times I forget about a pattern for a while, but when I remember it, I see it everywhere.

Transformation is taking over.  We're doing it everywhere, and need to talk about how it changes the way we work on the Web.
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Yes, CSS is Code.

Episode #157 of my quest to make developers recognize just how powerful web technologies are.  Step away from the siren call of the imperative and Turing-complete complexity we've been trained to expect, and come to something powerful.
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Really enjoyed this piece on learning programming, and may have to structure a book or two around it.  I'm all about bottom up approaches, clearly.

"Top-down approaches are informed by the opinion that it’s better to be thrown in the middle of an application or a framework which encourages the learner to piece together knowledge in that context. Many books and online tutorials use an explicit top-down approach, often starting with the basics of a popular methodology, framework or technology....

a bottom-up approach starts with the basics/fundamentals of programming and then slowly builds your knowledge over time. In contrast to top-down approaches, bottom-up approaches try to minimize the number of these non-obvious ideas that the learner has to take for granted."
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Yes, the Web is better.

After more than a decade of programmers telling me the Web was an inferior way to create applications, I finally assembled a (not quite brief) story of how the Web has learned and internalized critical lessons for how to build distributed applications.

As we enter an age in which practically all applications are distributed applications, it's time for everyone - not just the usual Web suspects - to learn the lessons of the Web.  Other styles still fit particular projects, but the Web and web technologies are way past the 80/20 mark for most common projects.
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Everyone who disagrees has already removed you from her/his circles.
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Have him in circles
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Simon St.Laurent

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"NEW NEW NEW it must be NEW!  Old is so, well, done before."

Somehow though, that new usually manages to build on the strength of the old.  I was delighted to have +Jen Simmons give a keynote at Fluent that reminded us of the strength in these old HTML foundations, and warned us of the risks in throwing them away.
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Jose Valim talks about more than just creating Elixir, a new functional programming language - he also talks about listening to a community and developing features in public with a group.  I was very happy to catch up with him at Erlang Factory!
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I've been saying this privately for a while, though response has been... mixed.  Somehow people don't like to think of their coding space being, well, eaten by a set of technologies we all use but don't always respect.

After telling this story to a thousand people last week, though, it's time to put it out for broader review.  (It's short, too!)
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Admitting that I do this still scares me, though I've acknowledged it here in the past.

"Sometimes you just need to leap into sharing your learning, even when you haven’t yet learned much. “Beginner’s mind” usually becomes more abstract as a person advances, making it difficult for beginners to learn from experts. If you can dare to write while you’re learning, you may find unique opportunities to create content that appeals first and foremost to learners....

Getting ahead of that feedback loop means doing something scary: write about what you don’t know."
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I find that as I am learning a new tool/technology that I can help with basic answers for others on mailing lists.  This seems to enhance my knowledge of the tool.  I do always qualify my answer as being from a beginner though.  But it helps me, is well worth the time and is better than trying to put together some piece of actual writing around a particular subject.  

Of course this really only works well with open source.  
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Simon St.Laurent

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Text. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but in a style that programmers love.  

It's not just the nostalgic appeal of monospace fonts, but the power that text offers that keep programmers deeply attached to their text editors and command lines.  While we keep looking for the latest and greatest, it's worth reflecting once in a while on the basic tools that let programmers do incredibly intricate work across a wide range of environments.
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Oops - I didn't see that you'd shared here before I shared the link separately.  Great piece.
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Have him in circles
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  • Swarthmore College
    History and Philosophy, 1988 - 1992
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    Senior Editor, 2001 - present
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