Feeling underpowered

Where to begin?

This is by way of a whinge, and the solution is at least straightforward. Learn how to do what you want to be able to do, dummy.

For a good long while, I've been feeling seriously underpowered when it comes to being able to do what I want to do online. I can't really date the start of it, I just know that I am no longer able to scratch my itches as once I was. That irks me. I know there are professionals and, even more valuably, amateurs who will scratch itches very similar to mine. But they're not my itches, and I'm not scratching them.

The trigger for this latest bout of self-doubt was a really interesting article that sknebel posted on the indieweb chat. Someone called Chris Castle described in some detail how they gathered all their annotations from around the web and presented the results on their own website.

Having been doing some of this myself lately (so far only for notes from books I read on Kindle) I was interested to see how a proper programmer had done the same. Because I used to be able to do similar, though far less complex, things myself, I could perfectly well understand what was going on, even though I had only the vaguest idea of how the machine worked. I could see the inputs and some of the interim steps and the final result, but to all intents and purposes I was looking at a black box.

This was the latest example, but there have been others too as I made my way tentatively deeper into the indieweb. Plugins that are supposed to add what I need to my websites, but that don't work. Because I'm so out of date, I don't really know where to start trying to fix them. I'm not even sure what kind of "not working" I have on my hands. Are we out of fuel? Or is the battery flat?

The solution is, of course, to commit to learning more. And I'd love to do that. But where to start? Lots of the things I'm looking at seem to involve JSON. I look at tutorials about JSON, and they say I need to have a basic working knowledge of Javascript. I see other places that say Javascript needs to die in a fire. Do I need to learn a new programming language, or could I manage in, say, PHP, which I remember a bit? I'm confused as all get out.

Heck, I'm even confused about how best to manage things like fiddling with other people's bits of code so that they scratch my particular itches.

I figure I need two things, neither of which should be beyond me.

First, I should try and schedule some face-to-face time (probably online) with someone who can walk me through good ways to work on code that take advantage of git.

Secondly, I know I need an honest-to-god project as the basis for me learning anything. It needs to be something that I want to be able to do. And it needs to be simple enough that I won't frustrate myself beyond redemption. I have something in mind: retrieving highlights from Instapaper.

So where, actually, do I begin?

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