JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts

Title: JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts
Author: Anthony Alicea
Year: 2015
For: JavaScript developers looking to explore the quirks of the language.

In this Udemy video series, Anthony Alicea takes the viewer on a voyage from introducing JavaScript to building a functional JavaScript framework (or library). This perspective is something that really makes JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts unique; rather than listing off the features and quirks of JavaScript (as the series’ namesake – JavaScript: The Good Parts – tends to do), The Weird Parts pays close attention towards best practices that lends itself to code reuse, collaboration, and sharing. Whereas many JS resources teach little tricks to make websites more dynamic, Alicea teaches developers how to up their craft themselves through what he refers to as “an open-source education.”

The Content

In a lot of ways, The Weird Parts is a video companion to Secrets of a JavaScript Ninja. It doesn’t start off with the bare-bones fundamentals of programming, but does quickly run through the basics of the language. While it does get into complex territory quickly, The Weird Parts takes time to explain jargon and has several conceptual asides to accommodate beginners. Surprisingly Alicea chose to start the series with a concept that often trips up newbies to JS – Scope. From there he races through native types and operators before getting into Section 4: Objects and Functions.

While this is pretty normal ground for an experienced developers, Alicea begins to get into something that makes the rest of the video series very interesting and insightful: he starts digging through real, open-source code and reverse engineering their design patterns. Throughout the series he teaches with an eye toward framework and library development and in this section begins developing (an admittedly useless but functional) library with IIFEs, namespacing considerations, and other key techniques for code that may be plugged into other people’s sites.

This idea comes to a head in the last two sections: “Examining Famous Frameworks and Libraries” where Alicea explains the benefits of an “open-source education” by reading through jQuery and “Let’s Build a Framework or Library!” where he builds a simple Library that utilizes constructors, prototypal inheritance, and design patterns that allow for chain-able method calls similar to jQuery. From primitive types to library development in one video series!

The Style

The series is forgiving and approachable which isn’t always the case with materials that contain such a deep look at the language. While a lot of the early videos were a little slow for someone who already uses JavaScript, this was remedied by watching the series at 1.5x speed. And even though a lot of this will be familiar ground, I often found that it was when I was teetering on the edge of boredom that Alicea dropped some bombshell that showed me a lot about the language. It’s also this approachability that makes The Weird Parts such a great find – there are other resources that try to show you how to make a library from scratch, but none that make it seem like a goal the average developer can aspire to.

Something else that I enjoyed about this series is that Alicea doesn’t go through a lot of effort to hide his mistakes. When he runs code unsuccessfully, he uses it as an opportunity to show the invaluable skills of debugging – explaining common hangups and diagnostic techniques along the way.

Right now there are 85 videos (11+ hours of video), but the series gets updates occasionally such as lectures on TypeScript and ECMAScript 6. This is an amazing amount of content at any price, but Udemy often offers discounts on lectures; as I’m writing this the asking price is $10 – less than a dollar an hour.

Summary

JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts is a great bridge resource between JS fundamental books and deeper, dryer cuts such You Don’t Know JavaScript or Eloquent JavaScript. Alicea has the expertise and knowledge of a seasoned developer but maintains the enthusiasm and playfulness of a developer exploring the language for the first time. He teaches by breaking code and figuring out solutions using experimentation and debugging methods that aren’t the norm in many lessons. It is video and it does cover a lot, so The Weird Parts can often feel a little slow, but the pace pays off when Alicea begins dissecting real-world libraries. Highly recommended for advanced beginners.

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