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Q&A with Sean Fioritto

I have a "fake internet job"

My wife likes to tell people I have a "fake internet job", and I think that's pretty accurate. I have a popular newsletter for web designers. I wrote a book on designing in the browser, I do Angular training and I blog from time to time. That mostly pays the bills, but I also do consulting on the side, usually web development but recently I've branched out to marketing consulting.

How did you get started in web development, what is your background?

I've been programming since I was 12 (I'm 32 now). I started out with C believe it or not. I have a degree in Computer Science and I've been programming professionally for 10 years.

Where did you learn coding? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners?

My very first experience with programming was when I was 10 or 11, but I didn't know it was programming at the time. My dad had a laptop for work and he showed me how to log on and get on something called a MOO, basically a completely text based World of Warcraft. Some of my MOO friends could type in "spells" that would do cool things in the world, so of course I wanted to do that as well. It turned out that you could create your own spells using a little scripting language, so my first program was a spell called 'tornado'.

Programming was always really amazing to me. It seemed like magic. I loved reading about hacker culture, and when I bought my first compiler, (CodeWarrior), it felt like I was buying a wizard's spell book or something.

I'm not sure everyone has that same feeling of wonder when it comes to programming, but I do think most people will learn more quickly if they take a minute to realize what they're doing is essentially magic.

What are the books and weblogs helped you to improve your professional skills?

I learned Python in college. I used it for a project in a class I was taking on artificial intelligence. When I was learning Python, I used a book called Dive into Python. These days I recommend "Learn Python the Hard Way", by Zed Shaw for anyone getting started with programming.

By the time I learned Javascript, I already knew several languages, so I used Javascript: The Good Parts to learn Javascript. I do not recommend this book for beginners, but it is one of my favorite technical books.

Beyond that I've devoured scores of O'Reilly books over the years, none really stand out to me, but I'm always excited when I have a new O'Reilly book to work though.

What web development technologies and tools do you use for your work?

For my most recent client I'm using Backbone, React, coffeescript and Sass. At my last job I used pure Javascript and CSS with a framework written completely in house and the YUI 2 library. In real life you rarely get to pick the tools you use for your job.

Most of a web developer's job is working with other people's code, so you use what you're given. Reading and working with other people's code is the most important skill any developer can have, way above and beyond learning any particular framework.

The one tool that's consistent for me is Emacs. I don't recommend it for beginners at all, but I started using it 15 years ago and it's basically an extension of my brain at this point.

Who are the developers, colleagues in your city/country or outside you admire most?

I love Zed Shaw's code and his skill at teaching. Years ago I read through his open source project Lamson and I learned more about programming in Python from that one exercise than all the books I'd read up to that point.

Thomas Fuchs is the author of several Javascript libraries, he also built and runs Freckle time tracking with his wife, Amy Hoy. Amy has an amazing mind for business and is also one of the best designers I know. With their powers combined, these two do amazing things. You should interview them. :-)

You should also interview my friend Nick Disabato. Nick is an interaction designer. He's the author of THE book on interaction design, Cadence and Slang. He's absolutely brilliant and also lives about a block away from me in Chicago.