Apr 14 2010

What Was Day 1 Like?

To start off the Learning to Program series with Nate Abbott and Natty Zola from Everlater, I asked them the simple question “What Was Day 1 Like?”  Nate responded first:

Day one was totally overwhelming.  Overwhelming because we didn’t know what we didn’t know.  It’s one thing when you don’t know how to do something (e.g., validate email addresses or change a button’s hover state).   But we didn’t know what we needed to learn, and that made it difficult to even start down a path.  The first week was spent just googling "web site design", "web site architecture" and "web server" to try to get a handle on all of the acronyms we were coming across (such as CSS, HTML PHP MYSQL, ROR, JS, AJAX).  Our goal was to piece together the list of skills that we were going to collectively learn in order to create a web service like Everlater.

Day one was also thrilling and exciting.  It’s the same feeling I get when I’m starting a long bike ride in the mountains, the same feeling I got when I first got to college, or when I got my first offer letter for ibanking in New York.  To me, there’s nothing more exciting than beginning a large task, and nothing I had done was quite like the task at hand.

Natty responded shortly there after with a few things to add:

We also researched sites we liked and benchmarked what they were doing/using to get a feel for what the popular/hot sites were using.  Most notably I remember looking at Facebook and seeing .php at the end of the url string.  This gave us ideas of where we should start our research.

I was excited like Nate, but also somewhat afraid.  We quickly realized we were going to be learning another language, but much harder than a foreign language because we couldn’t rely on familiarities like verbs, nouns, and sentence structure. Worse, we would have to learn the basics of speech in becoming functional at the command line, databases, and editing programs. 

The other interesting thing was that before we put any code down or started day 1 of our idea, we had spent a month brainstorming what we wanted to build.  While this was pre-day 1 it enabled us to focus on making code/tech decisions and learning the code rather than also having to think about what we were doing with it.  I think this sped our research because we had a framework within which to think about the decisions we were making.

Lastly, it really helped to research with Nate because we could bounce ideas around, problem solve, and challenge each other.  Plus, it made it significantly more fun knowing we were diving into the unknown together.

To summarize.  They were simultaneously overwhelmed and excited.  But fearless – they just jumped into the swimming pool off of the high dive and hoped there was water in the pool.