Skip to main content

The Practice of "Vanilla JS"


I try to keep my skills up and its hard to do when the thing you try to have skills in is always changing. The web landscape is always in flux, at a seemingly ever-increasing pace. Javascript represents only one area of the web, and as a language within a much greater ecosystem even that microcosm can keep you busy with the evolution of the language itself (ES6), constantly rolling out new in-browser APIs (like the new Web Cryptography API), and learning to sling this language both inside browsers and on backends (Node.js).

One of the best tools I have to keep these skills sharp is the practice of what you call “Vanilla Javascript”. I try hard to find lots of small opportunities to practice Javascript without the abstractions of all the myriad of libraries and frameworks that might obscure it even in the course of a single day’s work. I find two simple strategies help me poke through the cushion these tools provide to make sure I don’t forget what’s under the hood.

  • On a new project, especially a smaller one, I’ll build what I can using no JS libraries until the need really presents itself. Its wonderful how many tasks you’d turn to jQuery in the past for are just fine to approach using nothing but standard APIs today.
  • At any time, I try to have one toy project i might come back to when I have some time to kill, which I keep a “plain only” rule on. These are just private throwaway projects, but useful to give me a sandbox to avoid the pressures that usual projects bring to the table with a necessity of a toolchain’s safety net.

The effort is small, but the impact of keeping yourself reminded of the language and APIs underneath jQuery, Angular, React, or whatever other JS toolset you prefer is undoubtedly valuable. 

The next time you’ve got a new task JS to complete, give yourself a quick challenge in accomplishing it without a library. But, find a balance, and don’t force yourself to do what you really should use a library for. Just give yourself that chance, now and then, to discover some new Vanilla JS you may have not known before or to revive some understand which had gotten rusty.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Pruning Your Passions

We live in a hobby-rich world. There is no shortage of pastimes to grow a passion for. There is a shortage of one thing: time to indulge those passions. If you're someone who pours your heart into that one thing that makes your life worthwhile, that's a great deal. But, what if you've got no shortage of interests that draw your attention and you realize you will never have the time for all of them?

If I look at all the things I'd love to do with my life as a rose bush I'm tending, I realize that careful pruning is essential for the best outcome. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it can mean cutting beautiful flowers and watching the petals fall to the ground to wither. It has to be done.

I have a full time job that takes a lot of my mental energy. I have a wife and a son and family time is very important in my house. I try to read more, and I want to keep up with new developments in my career, and I'm trying to make time for simple, intentional relaxing t…

The Insidiousness of The Slow Solution

In software development, slow solutions can be worse than no progress at all. I'll even say its usually worse and if you find yourself making slow progress on a problem, consider stopping while you're a head.

Its easy to see why fast progress is better: either you solve the problem or you prove a proposed solution wrong and find a better one. Even a total standstill in pushing forward on a task or a bug or a request can force you to seek out new information or a second opinion.

Slow solutions, on the other hand, is kind of sneaky. Its insidious. Slow solution is related the Sunk Cost Fallacy, but maybe worse. Slow solutions have you constantly dripping more of your time, energy, and hope into a path that's still unproven, constantly digging a hole. Slow solutions are deceptive, because they still do offer real progress. It is hard to justify abandoning it or trying another route, because it is "working", technically.

We tend to romanticize the late night hacking…

Finding "One Game A Month"

I was really excited about the One Game A Month challenge as soon as I heard about it.
For about two years I've struggled in fits and starts to make my way into game development. This hasn't been productive in any of the ways I hoped when I started. Its really difficult to be fairly experienced as a developer, which I believe I am in my day job as a web developer, while struggling really hard at an area in which your experience just doesn't exist.
Its like being a pilot who doesn't know how to drive.

But this challenge provided a new breath to this little hobby of mine. It gave me a scaffolding to experiment, to learn, to reflect on finished projects. I had spent far too much time on game projects that stretched on far past their exciting phases, bogged down by bad decisions and regret.
And it has worked.
I have a lot to learn. I have a lot of experience to gain through trial and error and mistake and discovery. I have a lot of fun to be had making more small games t…