16 April 2013

Training Resources for Folks Getting Started on the Web

From time to time I get asked about resources available to help a self-starter learn more about web development. We try to foster a culture of learning here at Gaslight. As such, we’re continually looking at new stuff. This is the short list of what we like. If there is something missing, let me know and I’ll take a look at it.

code school

Overall, I really like these guys. I think they got their start with the “Rails for Zombies” course. My impression is they are stronger on the Ruby/Rails side than they are on other languages and frameworks. The cost is very reasonable: $25/mo for unlimited access to all their content. The material is all available in the browser and does not require any setup on your local machine. They focus on “gamification” by providing challenges to “unlock” the next level and badges.


This is another broad-spectrum in-browser curriculum. I think they started with more with Javascript and filled in Ruby and PHP later. Right now they are funded and don’t charge for their curriculum. It’s not clear to me how they make money. They also provide ways for the open community to submit content for the curriculum. This shows in some places as the content isn’t always as polished as code school’s.

Girl Develop It

I really like GDI. This is in person training at a nominal cost. I think they also have a scholarship program for those who need it. Their goal is to help people get into development who might struggle in other environments. They focus on the basics in a welcoming community setting. If you’re not sure about development, this would be an excellent place to start. It’s a great way to meet people who are in your same situation trying to learn technology from scratch. The community aspect of it can’t be overstated. Even though “girl” is in the name, they welcome us guys too. I think I heard something like 25% of the students are male.

Other specific resources

These resources are a little more focused and a little more advanced. After having worked through some of the stuff above, you might be left wondering where to go next.

  • User Groups. This is the number one resource for continuing your education. Get plugged into your local community. Here in Cinci we have all kinds of good user groups.
  • Git Immersion - An excellent intro to git source control written by our local friends at neo.
  • Ruby Koans - A deep dive look at Ruby using an innovative fill-in-the-blank style test driven approach; also by neo.
  • Shay Howe’s Beginning and Advanced Guides to HTML & CSS. This curriculum was developed as part of The Starter League.
  • Greg Smith and Isaac Durazo of Bocoup have written a follow-on guide to Shay’s called Learn CSS Layout. This more about the building blocks of laying out a site rather than the details of HTML and CSS.
  • For a different approach, Gregory Brown’s Practicing Ruby is a great resource at a quite low cost.
  • Geoffrey Grosenbach (@topfunky) started peepcode. These are inexpensive screen casts on specific technologies. Most of them are more programmer oriented than design. I’ve enjoyed many of these.
  • A great resource is Rails Casts and the corresponding ASCII Casts. These are obviously geared towards Rails. They cover very specific topics like authentication or asset pipeline. The ASCII version is a transcript of the screen cast.
  • I feel I should mention Destroy All Software which bills itself as “screencasts for serious developers.” There’s no doubt Gary is a fantastic developer. He covers some fascinating topics and shows some great principles. I feel I should also mention a word of caution. His style of development is somewhat hard to adopt and also somewhat controversial.
Heads up! This article may make reference to the Gaslight team—that's still us! We go by Launch Scout now, this article was just written before we re-introduced ourselves. Find out more here.

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