A Proven Cure for JavaScript Fatigue

As an ADHD-addled obsessive who’s been writing JavaScript since 1998, the drive to stay avante garde is nothing new to me. Whether it’s collecting the latest comic books, tech tomes or guitar effects pedals—I’ve always yearned to get my hands on the latest. From childhood on I’ve used a proven set of techniques and principles to guide the way I consume fresh information. The same techniques that helped me transition from a construction worker/dishwasher to a Netflix software architect are the same techniques I use today to upgrade from Babel 5 to Babel 6.

I'm not tired

Now on to JavaScript Fatigue specifically. JSF has relatively recently entered into the web developer’s lexicon. However it’s been a part of technical work for much longer. The difficulty of keeping up-to-date in our industry has been there for many years, but only recently has it become a social pressure. An in-depth exploration of the reasons for the rise of “JavaScript knowledge as fashion” are not in the scope of this article, but the drivers include:

  • Github’s socialization of code
  • Twitter being a key forum in which we examine our place in the industry
  • A rapid increase in salaries—and the subsequent gold rush of smaller-better-faster code jocks. This includes the me-first virus in our industry (see this)

Regardless of the causes, the following 6 principles are the cure for JavaScript fatigue that works for me:

  1. Automate, automate, automate. Any sites that you repeatedly visit for information should be automated as feeds via services like IFTTT.com. An example of doing this can be seen here.
  2. Eliminate all information inputs that are not essential to being the best programmer/manager/artist/human you can be. I follow something resembling an inverted Mad Max version of Pareto Principle here. If a Google Group, newsletter or Twitter user do not produce life-enhancing content to you at least 80% of the time, eliminate it. That Ruby on Rails user group that was really active in 2007 but it a shell of its former self? Unsubscribe. That high school buddy Bradley that was fun in 2003 but now posts 100% negative rants? Bye Bradley.
  3. Constantly replace your previous realms with new ones. If you’ve already covered following 100s of mobile development brothers on Twitter, try following some of the web development sisters. Learn about new areas of life from as many different types of people as possible! Default to saying yes, then revisit and say no aggressively. Say yes to trying new meetups, modules & software, but don’t stay too long if they’re not working for you after you’ve given it the ol’ college try.
  4. Ensure you’re constantly around experts in different but related fields. Contrary to popular wisdom, only associating with teammates that are focused on your realm can result in suboptimal performance as you will spend more time debating choices than making them and executing on them. On my team at Netflix, I’ve an author & former Digital Humanities Specialist from Stanford, a design-savvy D3 expert & a Data Scientist with a business degree around me at all times. We’re all multi-disciplinary and hold one another accountable, but defer to one another on the implementation details of our respective areas of expertise. I learn about new things—so do they—and we focus more energy on learning than arguing.
  5. Allow the wisdom of the crowd to lead you to treasure, but don’t let mob mentality dictate which gems you put in your rucksac to take back to camp. Crowd-sourced wisdom is o’plenty on the web and can be found at Product Hunt, by following key individuals on Twitter & by subscribing to the popularity feeds of Github.
  6. Never study when you’re fatigued unless you’re in-the-zone. Ensure your body and mind are primed to effectively take on new information. There’s no point in going through your info feeds when you’re too knackered to move any of the info into long-term memory. Physical health is deeply tied to mental health too—take walks in the sunshine frequently.