Josh Crompton

Screencasts are awesome

Apropos my earlier post on installing node.js, Giles Bowkett has a video up with more on TDD with jasmine-node.

It's part of a course/screencast series Giles is running teaching JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Node.js, Backbone and Socket.io. I've bought some of Giles' videos in the past, and they are awesome. If I were actually employed at the moment, I'd be enrolled in the course and watching the videos right now instead of writing this blog post. (Well, actually, I guess I'd be at the office, but you take my point.)

Screencasts are now my preferred way of learning. Being as there has never been much of a software development community in my hometown, one of the biggest hurdles to improving my programming skills has been a lack of peers from whom to learn. Well, I think I've found a solution. The answer for me has been screencasts. Screencasts are awesome. Essentially, I get to look over the shoulder of someone who's a better programmer than me, and watch them work. I guess this is similar to pair programming, except that a) I can rewatch it any time I like and b) they're rehearsed, so they're more informative than a regular pair programming session. I'm also not wasting anyone's time or interfering with anyone's work, which I might do if I'm pairing with someone significantly better than me.

Also, there's no ego with screencasts. I'm not competing to look smarter (or to not look dumb) as can sometimes be the case with co-workers. Even just the act of watching a high level developer working is inspiring and informative. Getting a feel for how she uses her tools, her workflow and her thought process is really powerful. But the best thing is that it no longer matters if you're isolated. Sure, you can read blogs and futz around on Hacker News, but it just doesn't compare to actually watching someone while they work, and listening to their explanations while they're doing it. Even the little things as developers self-talk, make mistakes, fix them and figure things out. So, if you're a little lacking on the technical peer front, or even if you're not, you should totally watch screencasts.

Some places to start:

  • Peepcode, especially the play-by-plays
  • RailsCasts has a bunch of free-to-watch videos, along with some you gotta shell out for
  • Gary Bernhardt has an ever-growing series at Destroy All Software which I'll definitely be subscribing to
  • Giles Bowkett, as mentioned, has a few videos (and some screencasts) which are pretty great, some free and some for pay. You'll have to search around his blog to find them, though. He really needs to put together a site where you can find them all.