This Place is Full of Rabbit Holes!

“Ooh, shiny…” Week 2 with Bitmaker Labs

Before I knew it, I was in Wonderland.

Web development is wonderful. And big. Really big. It is filled with different pockets to explore. The tiniest, most mundane-looking thing can suddenly appear very large and interesting, like you’ve shrunk after eating an “Eat me” cookie. While it is fantastic to learn these new things, it is easy to lose yourself and hours may pass before you emerge from it like an odd dream.

The week started off innocently enough. We were learning how to think like developers in the bootcamp. There is a lot of planning and thinking that goes on before the first line of code is written. And while there are many frameworks to help build apps, Bitmaker stresses that “nothing comes for free.” While frameworks give us a lot of extra functionality, it comes at a cost of extra code or defaults that need changing, etc. That’s why we learn how to do things like building a web server before using any frameworks so that we have an idea of what the “magic” is behind them, and have a better grasp for working with them later.

During this time, I had stumbled upon a rabbit hole I found particularly interesting. It started because I was looking for a way to take notes that maintained the syntax highlighting for code snippets in the Sublime Text editor. I didn’t like the way it looked if I wrote everything as a Ruby file and had to comment out anything that wasn’t code. And so I followed a white rabbit named “Markdown” down a surprising deep hole.

Markdown is a simple, markup language that can be converted to HTML and other formats. I installed some plugins for Sublime and loved the way my code blocks looked in it. Then in class, we took some time to learn HTML and CSS. Which meant that now I wanted to turn the white rabbit red, or green, or maybe even with polka dots! (But not red and green polka dots, blech!) Here’s what I actually ended up doing:

  • practiced Markdown syntax
  • installed and learned to work with the Markdown Editing, SmartMarkdown, Markdown Preview plugins for Sublime Text
  • installed the Markdown Preview Plus extension for Chrome
  • installed the Pandoc plugin for Sublime to actually get a .html file from the .md file (took a while as I was looking through the documentation…still got to get used to reading them I guess)
  • wrote custom CSS to style the .md file to the same colour scheme as Monokai for Sublime once converted to .html for preview by the Chrome extension/to apply after conversion by Pandoc. (I have since found out about highlight.js —I sense the edge of another hole…)

With all that said and done, I probably spent nearly a day playing around with all this. And it started with Markdown. Markdown. Seriously. Which brings us to the first “pro” tip of the week for taking this bootcamp.

Pro Tip: This place is full of rabbit holes. Don’t get distracted by all the shiny.

Explore what you want, but set limits to manage your time…sleep is important! Remember your goals for the bootcamp. If you don’t have any, it’s better to set these sooner than later to get the most out of it!

And with all that said, I spent the most time on the CSS portion of styling my notes which got me thinking. Through doing this I discovered I might really like front-end stuff (like really really). It was worthy exploration in the end (and now I have pretty notes!) but I probably still could have been more careful with how I spent all that time. Too much exploration = less sleep = brain no worky. Good thing I had some time to spare. For now.

Pro Tip: If you do go down rabbit holes, now is the time.

If you want to dive deep into things not already covered in the curriculum, now is the time to do it. The weeks just get progressively more intense.

I’m actually writing about what happened in Week 2 during Week 7 of the bootcamp. It seems that many of us without a real programming background may find that by Week 3 or 4, you kinda feel cognitively overloaded, let alone have the time/energy for more. Some of this stuff are still things you should be somewhat familiar with if you did the prep course, but there’s less and less of that as the weeks go on. So if you want to get super fancy with something like HTML5 Canvas, either experiment with it more during your first few weeks, or save it as a challenge for the final project. That way you can focus more on really understanding the core material when things heat up in the coming weeks.

Speaking of which, Week 3 gives us our first taste of frameworks with Sinatra and our first Rails app. Remember that magic I mentioned earlier? While we have uncovered the mystery behind some of it, there is a lot more where that came from. It would be impossible to go over everything little thing that each framework does and still have time do stuff during the bootcamp. If not knowing exactly how everything works makes you uneasy, stay tuned for my next post on manuals and dirty hands.

Want more? Read how we turned people into objects in Week 1.