How to learn JavaScript

(One of) My New Year’s resolution for 2013 is: learn JavaScript properly. The question is how to learn JavaScript properly.

Why is ‘properly’ emphasized? I read and wrote my first lines of JavaScript back in 1998. So, I’ve been using it on and off for 14 years- and it always felt bad. All those years I felt kind of ashamed that I never learned it properly. I somehow suspected that the code I wrote wasn’t really good although it did what it was supposed to do. Then I watched JavaScript: The Good Parts on YouTube. It was eye-opening in three ways. First, Douglas Crockford of then-Yahoo!-now-PayPal discusses why so many people are in the same situation like I never learning the language properly. Then it confirmed my suspicion that I new barely anything about JavaScript. And lastly, Crockford awoke my interest by admitting there are bad parts in JavaScript but at the same time showing all the good parts some of which I didn’t get. But…

How to learn JavaScript

I’ve been writing software for a living since 2000 (based on a “BS in software engineering”-foundation). Hence, I’m experienced and familiar with computer science. A JavaScript book that starts with Adam & Eve won’t do it, though. On the other hand for the various “Advanced JavaScript”-style books my JavaScript know-how wasn’t good enough. Also, attending a JavaScript course didn’t feel right to me considering my background. So, I set out to a self-study endeavor – with the help of Douglas Crockford’s material.

The books

There will be a dedicated post about Crockford’s book “JavaScript: The Good Parts” later. All I want to say here is: go get it! It’s an easy read in a way that it’s nicely written but it takes time to really comprehend the material presented. Reading it chapter by chapter and experimenting with the code samples was tremendously rewarding.

At the same time I also bought “JavaScript Patterns” by Stoyan Stefanov. Didn’t start reading it though.

Cover of Douglas Crockford, JavaScript: The Good Parts


The videos

Starting in 2010 and through 2011, Douglas Crockford delivered his acclaimed series of lectures on the history of JavaScript, its features, and its use. They contain some talk about about the new ECMAScript5 and a nice computer science history lesson, leading up to the invention of JavaScript. I highly recommend these videos – they’re very informative and entertaining. Aaaand the production quality is much higher that the previous three series listed below.

  1. Crockford on JavaScript – Volume 1: The Early Years
  2. Crockford on JavaScript – Chapter 2: And Then There Was JavaScript
  3. Crockford on JavaScript – Act III: Function the Ultimate
  4. Crockford on JavaScript – Episode IV: The Metamorphosis of Ajax
  5. Crockford on JavaScript – Part 5: The End of All Things
  6. Crockford on JavaScript – Scene 6: Loopage
  7. Crockford on JavaScript – Level 7: ECMAScript 5: The New Parts
  8. Crockford on JavaScript – Section 8: Programming Style & Your Brain

Below are some older videos from a 2007 trilogy which are just as informative but in lower quality. Needless to say that you’ll see a lot of the same material in both series.

  1. Douglas Crockford: The JavaScript Programming Language
  2. Douglas Crockford: An Inconvenient API – The Theory of the DOM
  3. Douglas Crockford: Advanced JavaScript

There are variations of the most of the above videos available on YouTube. Crockford is a frequent speaker at conferences and gave the same or similar talks.

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