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This Week in Programming: If Everyone Learns JavaScript, Should You Too?

Feb 2nd, 2019 6:00am by
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This week, the technology press is again awash in another successful public relations push, this time in the form of a survey from HackerRank that’s accompanied with all the bells and whistles we like to see — interactive graphs and graphics, and even a neat little “microsite” that lets you peruse all of the details. And I, like the rest you, perhaps, can’t help but spend some time clicking around through different graphs to see what more than 71,000 developers had to say about their preferences.

The curious thing, I think, is the message that we often take away from these surveys. I’m taken back to a phrase that I feel like we have all heard a concerned parent ask us at one point in our lives — “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?”

Now, that’s not to say that learning JavaScript, for example, is like jumping off a bridge, but the implication seems to be inherent in most surveys like this, and the myriad summaries written about them: everyone else is doing it, and if you aren’t, perhaps you should too.

The two most common headline variations on the coverage of this survey involve one of two findings, it would seem. First, JavaScript has overtaken Java as the most “known” language. Second, these particular languages (Go, Kotlin, Python) are the ones everyone else is looking at learning in 2019. It just seems that there’s an implied “… and you should too” tacked onto the end of these headlines. Can’t you feel it? Everyone ELSE is learning these languages, and they already know JavaScript, so if you don’t… what are you waiting for?

Now, that’s not to say that it’s a totally invalid point, but it feels like a point that shouldn’t be taken for granted. After all, if there’s a dearth of JavaScript developers, perhaps — depending on where you are in your career — it might make sense for you to remain the stalwart [insert old, semi-deprecated language here] developer. There’s another possibly pertinent aquatic saying about the size of fish and ponds that may also apply here, after all.

So, with that caveat offered, the survey remains worthy of exploration. For the impatient, SDTimes offers a bullet point write-up of the already brief microsite, and for those of you not willing to go that far, VentureBeat boils down the findings into a video:

Some key takeaways: blockchain is mostly hype, quantum computing is cool but not there yet, young developers want better documentation, while old developers are more afraid of “spaghetti code,” and you folks really like your electronica.

Oh, and as for that whole bridge-jumping thing, maybe the bridge isn’t that tall after all and beneath it is some crystal clear and refreshing water filled with JavaScript dreams of six-figures a year and a perfect work-life balance and your response is “yeah, Mom, I’d jump.” But it’s worth asking the question, isn’t it?

This Week in Programming


  • Is Minecraft a Java Dev Gateway Drug? Speaking of Java moving down a notch in the aforementioned rankings, a story comes to us this week about the idea that Minecraft has opened up Java to a range of people who probably don’t even realise the skills they have acquired through it. According to the article in JaxEnter, the game offers the ability to create “mods” using Java, and the result is little Java programmers growing out of the Minecraft community. The idea appeals to me, personally, as I remember really diving into BASIC not because of a particular love for the language, but rather because my favorite BBS was written in it. Perhaps this is a strategy enterprises can take — just create massively popular games and offer mods in the language of your choice!

  • TypeScript 3.3: Well, it looks like TypeScript 3.3 has arrived to not much in the way of fanfare. As one Redditor points out “They can’t all be blockbuster releases!” Another thread has most commenters focusing on what appears to be the standout point of this release, which is an “improved behavior for calling union types.” Beyond that, the TypeScript plugin for Sublime Text now supports editing in JavaScript files which “means users will get more accurate completions, rename, go-to-definition, and more in JavaScript code that utilizes JSDoc and interoperates with TypeScript code.” Of course, for more details, check out the recently published six-month roadmap or the feature roadmap page.

  • They Took Our Jerbs! A few interesting stories on the theme of coding automation also crossed our feed this week, and it’s nearly impossible to not reference the eternally amusing South Park clip. First up, TechCrunch writes about Kite’s AI-driven code completion tool that one day hopes to, you guessed it, take your job. Currently, it just works as a nifty auto-complete tool. In an interview, Kite CEO Adam Smith explains the hope to someday provide “fully automated programming,” in that “Star Trek vision of where you tell computers in a high-level language what to do” and then they do it. Next up, GitHub is working to keep your dependencies secure and up-to-date with GitHub and Dependabot, wherein Dependabot “taps into the GitHub Security Advisory API to automate the process and create pull requests to fix vulnerabilities as they’re found.” Good thing, because GitHub says that “the average Ruby application using Dependabot pulls in over 100 dependencies, and the average JavaScript application has a whopping 742.” Finally, a story about the bots that review and write snippets of Facebook’s code tells us of Sapienz and SapFix, the automated tools that Facebook now uses to find and fix problems across all of the company’s apps. “To make its developers’ jobs more rewarding, Facebook is now using two automated tools called Sapienz and SapFix to find and repair low-level bugs in its mobile apps,” the story relates. “Sapienz runs the apps through many tests to figure out which actions will cause it to crash. Then, SapFix recommends a fix to developers, who review it and decide whether to accept the fix, come up with their own, or ignore the problem.” I don’t know about you, but this is the sort of automation I can get behind.

Feature image via Pulp Librarian.

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