On Programming as a Hobby

I've been seriously geeking out on the internet since about 2001, when I built my first web page. Since then, I've learned enough HTML, CSS and PHP to "get by" as someone who runs a popular blog on WordPress. I pretty much only pick things up when I have to, i.e., when I want to add some look or functionality to my site but don't want to pay someone else to do it for me.

A year ago, I downloaded a free PHP manual onto my Kindle, and finally developed a simple web app using a CURL module. I learned what I needed to by looking stuff up online to solve my own problem.

Now that I'm playing around with Fargo verbs and writing my own scripts, I'm finding it not too challenging. With some basic PHP knowledge under my belt, I've just had to look up minor syntactical differences in javascript.

  • Because I already know about concepts like string replace and if-else, I know what's possible and just have to look at how it's done in a different language.

However, when I look at scripts written by real programmers, I am at a loss. I feel like someone who has taken a semester of French and gone abroad, only to understand 5-10% of what anyone is talking about.

When this happens, I hit a roadblock. I don't really want to sit down and formally read a manual on javascript. I have written what I've written for Fargo because it's fun. The moment it stops being fun, when it starts to feel like homework, I resist. It's one thing to go overcome a lack of knowledge because I feel inspired enough to search for a solution to a legitimate problem (or am just plain curious). It's another to study a language methodically because I feel I need to "catch up" with some Ideal Level of Competency.

Producer vs. Developer

I've been working in digital since 2006, mostly doing editing and web production. I love dabbling in programming, but I don't know if I'll ever make the transition to programmer or developer. It seems like a quantum leap is required to move from hobbyist to professional, and I don't know if I have the mind or the desire to make that jump.

  • Maybe out of economic necessity: if I am ever "made redundant" via technology or outsourcing, I would have to do what it takes to become more marketable in the workplace. As much as I'd love to earn a higher salary now, I feel too complacent to develop professional programming skills while I currently have a job.

Comment below: If you're a programmer, how did you "make the leap" or were you always doing this? And if you're a dabbler, how do you feel about coding-as-hobby?

Last built: Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 2:05 PM

By Jeffrey Kishner, Monday, August 5, 2013 at 2:38 PM.