How do I learn best practices as a solo-coder?

I’m a decent coder, and have been coding for a long time. It’s never been my primary job though. When I DID code as a job, it was part of being well rounded. In those times I always thought of myself as a web developer. I’m not a graphics person, so I don’t consider myself a web designer. I’m also not a professional programmer, so I don’t consider myself a web programmer. The best coding I’ve always done has been for myself, hacking various random projects or even the ocassional business. As far effectiveness is concerned, I’m pretty good. I code in a structured manner and can do anything I need to do in a structured, efficient and readable way.

My main concern though, is how do I know someone wouldn’t look at my code and hurl? It is all done according to a structure that makes sense to me, and is well organized, but that structure is made up by my personal style developed over a decade of hacker coding. I don’t work on coding teams of any kind, and I get input on what my code does, but never the code itself. How do other solo-coders in this situation solve this problem, or at least reassure themselves they’re doing fine? Better still, does it matter that I made up my own coding style versus a standard, or is the fact that my standard is refined through personal experience a plus?

As I take a few ideas from hobby to web product, professionalism concerns me more and more.

About @BusinessCait

I’m a small business addict. Not that I’ve started a lot, but I digest every bit of information that I can. In the past I’ve started a web based game that did well, and I intend to turn it around soon with what I’ve learned since then. I also have new things I am working on, and if any of them make it past the first stages you might hear about them.

Lately I’ve taken an interest in social media management. I’m not a marketer, but I’d like to see how businesses can put it to the best effect.

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7 Responses to How do I learn best practices as a solo-coder?

  1. Amrita says:

    Does it matter how your code looks to someone else if you are simply coding for youself and/or your project, hobby or whatever you call it?

    All initial code is unreadable. When you hire the pros for your next big idea, they can do the work for you. Until then, enjoy yourself. Unleash your creativity.

    Cheers 🙂

    • @BusinessCait says:

      It’s not about how it looks, it’s more about efficiency of the code. Readability is just a bonus of that. Since I tend to work in a vacuum, maybe something that I think is the greatest thing since sliced bread is really stupid. I’ve had a few moments like that in my career. When I first discovered smarty for one. It just blew me away and it’s such a simple idea. Who knows what other simple ideas or best practices are out there that I don’t know about. Often you learn these things on teams.

  2. How does the phrase go? There are 100 ways to skin a cat…

    When it comes to the actual code, there are a few ways to look at it.

    1) The method or “algorithm” in which you design your code is much more important than the way you write it. There are many ways to write code to do a specific task, and only the most anal will want it written in a specific manner. Most often if it gets the job done and is not inefficient in design then it is good enough.

    2) Structure and organization are most important when there will be multiple coders involved. If someone else were to take over your code and use it, how hard would it be for them to understand it?

    I am a professional software engineer and often I will go back to old code and find ways I could have implemented it better. It’s always an ongoing process and nothing really to fret about unless you have a hard deadline to meet.

    I’m not very artistic either, but even on my blog I am able to eek out some decent graphics. The logo to my site was made in MS Paint 🙂

  3. With myself being a solo-coder, I always rely on the dependability and level of stability my code operated produces. Some code I copy, some code I use as a base to develop what I need. The great thing about this technology is there is more than one way to code something to work the same way. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way, unless the code you’ve written breaks, or doesn’t function in an efficient way.

    So in my book, if the code you have written performs the actions and returns the results you were intending to get, then you have a piece of successfully written code. Plus, in most startup cases, once the initial project is launched, and everything works, and investment money comes in, I would think after hiring on a development team to continue the project will go back through the original code and re-write a percentage of it anyways!

    Plus, if you feel there are areas you really excel at, and other areas you have some knowledge in, but don’t feel confident to code it, reach out for other programmers to get on board. Look at Facebook, as high-and-mighty he thinks he is, Zuckerberg did not code EVERY part of the then called “thefacebook.com”. He reached out to his coding buddies in school to help do a lot of the legwork.

  4. Scott Lewis says:

    If it works, it works.

    If you want feedback on your style. Share your code with someone and see what they say. 🙂

    In my opinion, the most important part of writing readable code is space. Proper indenting, and spacing between methods/functions, makes it easiest to scan and understand.

    Thanks for writing!

  5. CurtisJennings says:

    share your code with others – pair program a project – or join a hacker club that is just for women :
    http://www.meetup.com/Women-Who-Code-SF/

  6. Code alone, but in a group! Having people to bounce ideas off at coffee shop, coworking space or coding meetup helps a lot.

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