Three Technical Things That I Learned This Year

Date published: Sunday 19th of November 2017

Web development is a career that's all about cycles. There are learning cycles and there are earning cycles.

For me, it usually works out that I spend a year learning and then four years earning. It wasn't the way I planned things. It just seems to always work that way.

So, if you learn all of the latest cutting edge web development technologies today then my observation is that you can expect to get four years worth of mileage out of your skillset - then you'll have to learn all over again, as new things come out. It's kind of a good thing in a way because learning is a positive thing. It's like exercise for your brain. However, when you go through those intense learning cycles it does - unfortunately - hit your earnings.

This year, for example, I've probably earned less than 20k in total. As a matter of fact, right now I'm earning nothing. That's right. Nothing at all. I have no clients, no leads, no products... nothing. All I've been doing this year is spending almost every waking minute learning about new technologies. I'm really hoping that this learning phase will come to an end in about two or three weeks and that I can hopefully go back to earning an honest buck in our great profession.

Anyway, here are...

Three Technical Things That I Learned This Year

ONE: Separation of front end and back end
All web development building should now have a clear separation of concerns between front end and back end. Now, I know that most of you are nodding your heads right now and thinking, 'tell me something I don't know'. But ask yourself,

"When you build an app, are you spending (let's say) three weeks working ONLY on the back end, without a browser in sight?"

If the answer is no, then you're probably old school. There's nothing wrong with that, by the way, and I'm not saying you should change. However, for me and from now on I'll be doing a very clear separation of front-end and back-end development. Specifically, this means that when I build something (let's say the new version of the Insider Club website), then I'll be spending about three weeks working on the back end before I even think about how it all looks.

TWO: Sessions and cookies are dead
This is just a personal thing and, again, you certainly do not need to copy what I'm doing. However, I have to be honest and tell you that I never had much luck with sessions and cookies. Even at the best of times they were temperamental.

Moving forward, I won't be using sessions and / or cookies any more. I'll be using either local storage or Chrome storage.

This obviously has huge implications for how security is handled. I'll spare you a speech about this but the upshot is, on the database side of things nothing has changed. However, the sessions and cookies are out and it'll be tokens all the way, as far as authentication and authorisation goes.

THREE: It's a bad idea to turn NodeJS into PHP
Right now there are thousands of Laravel developers, trying out NodeJS - and they cannot wait to build their MVC 'Laravel-type' frameworks for NodeJS. Every week there is a new NodeJS framework and they all seem to be unashamedly copying PHP frameworks like Laravel. Here's an example. Folks, this kind of thing is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

NodeJS is asynchronous and PHP isn't. The key defining feature of a decent NodeJS app is the callback - a special kind of function that does a task (that may take 'x' seconds to complete) that reports back (or calls back!) when the task is complete. The focal point and the reason for learning NodeJS is speed and asynchronous callbacks are the means by which NodeJS developers can enjoy fast apps that can easily handle huge loads of traffic. The moment you attempt to tether NodeJS to an object oriented/Laravel type structure then you've just defeated the point of using NodeJS in the first place.

If the last paragraph has left you feeling a little bit confused then don't worry. Here's your takeaway. NodeJS does not perform well, when it gets crowbarred into an OOP type structure. Trying to structure your NodeJS app like a Laravel app is like putting a shirt and tie on a tiger. It's a bad idea and it's not going to work.

By the way, just so you know:

People still aren't paying enough attention to site structure. After all these years, we can't agree on how to structure apps! Let me give you my two cents:

* If you're using PHP then I recommend HMVC all the way. That means either Codeigniter or your own custom HMVC framework. Those Codeigniter tutorials that I put out are still good and I think it's a good way to build apps, even now.

* If you're using NodeJS then I recommend using Loopback. It's very fast, backed by IBM and it'll enable you to quickly build NodeJS apps the right way.

Okay, I'm done. This has been three things that I learned this year.

Thanks for reading.

Stay cool,


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