In Development, Always Be Learning

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about how we use the term “WordPress Admin,” how I suspect that we’re using it incorrectly, and I discussed the significance and importance of consistency of terminology when working with customers and clients.

The post generated far more discussion than I would have expected, which is a good thing, but one particular comment struck a chord with me:


I sent a Jr. level WP developer through your TutsPlus course on plugin development. You use the word “Admin” more times than I could count! You even use it for file names, etc.

What’s up with that, brother? I respect you so I had to chime in with that lil’ observation.

I love comments like this because not only does it hold us accountable to our own actions, but it also gives us an opportunity to show that throughout the course of whatever it is that we’re doing now may not what we’re doing tomorrow.

Always Be Learning

In our industry, we’re constantly told that we should always be learning. This is true of new technologies, languages, devices, software, hardware, etc., etc., etc. And there’s truth to it – we do need to keep up with what’s happening in our field lest we become irrelevant.

No, our industry isn’t the only one for which this is true, but it’s the industry in which I work so, y’know, it’s about what I opt to write (because it’s what I know).

Always Be Learning

With that said, I loved what the comment had to share. Specifically, I loved that it asked, within the context of a post about using the proper terminology, that I was doing something completely opposite of what I was talking about.

And this is where the change comes: Over time, you’re bound to work with enough people to find out the terminology that they use when working with WordPress. And that’s something with which we need to be consistent – we need to make sure that we’re not using jargon and we’re not convoluting terms for those with whom we’re working.

As other comments point out, some people use:

  • The back-end
  • The dashboard
  • “Going into WordPress”
  • The admin
  • WP-admin
  • …and so on

And I’m not one to say that any of these are wrong. Though they aren’t the ones that I’ve personally been using, if this is what works for the customer base with which the service provider is working, then go for it.

Anyway, back to the original comment: So in this series of videos, I was using the term “admin more times than could count.” It’s true, too – I mean, it’s on video. You can look it up.

But I’m completely fine admitting it, too.

Because when I was recording those videos, that’s the term that I thought worked well for most people (and had worked well for most people). But as Pressware’s customer base has grown and I’ve had to have more conversations with others about this particular aspect of the software, I’ve needed to adjust my language.

And that’s okay.

Not that I was being called a hypocrite – the comment was completely valid and I want to make clear that I appreciate things like that! – but some may see it coming off as hypocritical.

But that’s not it at all.

For those of us who are in the trenches working with software, languages, customers, terminology, etc., on a daily basis, then it’s only natural that our habits our going to change as we adapt to the needs of our customers.

There’s An Educational Component

With that said, I think there’s also an educational component where it’s up to us to educate our users on how to use the software with which they are working.

Though it’s true that sometimes we adapt to their language, sometimes we need to make sure that they’re using the proper terminology.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be pretentious developers about any of this (which is something that our culture desperately needs to work on, but I digress for now) – it just means that we need to talk with our customers about how to use the service that’s being provided for them.

That’s not so bad is it? I mean, we’ve all gotta learn the right terminology for the things that we deal with be it products, services, devices, and so on.

Why is this any different?

What’s The Point?

The point is that if, in the course of your career, you opt to change the terminology, approach, languages, design, development, tools, etc., that you use, that’s okay.

We can’t use the same terminology when talking about computers now as we did in the 90’s. Things change and that’s fine.

But consistency is key. I think it’d be far more confusing for me to start off working with someone using one form of language and then stop change it up in the middle of the project.

That would be weird.

7 Replies to “In Development, Always Be Learning”

  1. Great post! I couldn’t agree more that the semantics we use really do make a difference. Words mean things, and we often don’t give much effort to choosing words which convey the most accurate meaning. We are often lazy because we either don’t want to do the thinking required, we don’t want to take the extra time for that thinking, or we don’t have a rich enough vocabulary make the effort worthwhile. We (or our listeners or readers) then pay for it with errors and much longer explanations about what we really meant.

    This is particularly true for us developers. We resist picking truly meaningful variable and function names, and write easy, me-focused code comments (when we write them at all) instead of aiming higher for better communications with those who inherit our code. I, too, am guilty as charged.

    Thanks, Tom, for reminding us how important it is to choose our terminology, the first time around, with more care than is often our habit.

    1. Great post! I couldn’t agree more that the semantics we use really do make a difference.

      Agreed – obviously ;)

      We (or our listeners or readers) then pay for it with errors and much longer explanations about what we really meant.

      Yep – and it’s important that we hold our consistency.

      This is particularly true for us developers. We resist picking truly meaningful variable and function names, and write easy, me-focused code comments (when we write them at all) instead of aiming higher for better communications with those who inherit our code. I, too, am guilty as charged.

      Yeah. I think at some point we’re all guilty as charged, but as we progress through out careers, I’d like to think we get a little bit better :).

      1. But when is too much?

        I tend to comment code for purposes of other developers or to remind myself what I was exactly doing.

        With for example WordPress community oriented code a programmer need expect non-programmers be fiddlin’ around with the source. Same in CSS.

        Presumably its why so many theme’s have the billion option deal going on.

        For them, if they options are not there then a user is libel to go “Oh, see, this says “float:left;” so if I make that “right” then things ought go right! Right? Wrong as the layout collapses into spaghetti on the floor. Followed by the email to the developer going, “Help?” or worse yet, “I dont know what I did”.

        I dont yet know what we may publicly release into the WP community. I’m a new-bee. I havent used WP for a site since version 2.paleozoic. :) And I dont recall ever writing a lick of code for it. Learning this is not as easy as I figured it would be. Thats how I ran across your stuff. I was like, “OH Halleluiah someone who’s writings and teaching is consistent!”.

        I tried reading Justin’s stuff and I am cool with it. But as a seasoned developer when reading and I see, “But this is a more advanced or this is not relevant at this point” statement I go… “Noooooo…..” as then I am on the hunt.

        You should do a book. Seriously.

        While might not make a ton of dough on it you will surely get Xmas cookies and cupcakes from me.

        Better yet! A Tom’s WP Quick Reference Guide, call it, WP Sanity! Yes!

        And where young man is your theme framework? Everyone else who’s name I see around has one. There’s this one and that one and underscore this and overscore that.

        I mentioned all that stuff to my chickidee. Note: My interest in WP has not been one of becoming a themicator, widgetMan or plugMug. I’ve been working on a sized .Nut application that needs a reasoned CMS to support several areas. Worked with Jooml’r before so started there. It cant handle expectant load. So, WP here I is so to speak.

        So whats she say, “With these frame-thingies can I make money?” Shes a decent artist. I said, “yeah probably”. “Would you teach me?” and bam, there is another schlock of my hair laying on the ground which her cat picks up and runs away with followed by, “But but but but but….”

        So she says, “Why dont you make a framework?”. What? Where are my Jack Russell Terriers when I need them! She says we can call it “voltage”. My response, “Yeah. Cause’ its going to take alot of that to start my heart again”.

        So, slow but surely I am working towards an as completely as can be done in a world of Procedural oh my’s, making her, her framework as time allows and she wants give lions share of revenues to proper charitable causes which I am good with.

        So… I am forced now to learn more. So here I sit, reading through things. Two Jack Russell’s next to me. I say, “What? Or Thats odd… or anything pretty much.” Off go their tails, and heads swivel like JRT’s do. Followed by me saying, “You wouldnt understand this.” Followed by them looking at me with the “We can help clause” on faces. Followed by me saying, “Stop. You really wont understand this.” Followed by them looking at me with the “Neither do you apparently” face on.

        This is the regiment. My workflow in learning, LOL.

        1. But when is too much?

          I believe this is an unanswerable question because it’s so subjective. It’s what works best for you and your environment. 

          If others have an issue with it, what can be done? They aren’t the ones who wrote it and they won’t know if it would have been beneficial or not had the comments not been there to begin with.

          I tend to comment code for purposes of other developers or to remind myself what I was exactly doing.

          I do it both for myself and other programmers, usually. In that order.

          You should do a book. Seriously.

          I appreciate that, but oh the time commitment. Plus, I just don’t feel as if I’m on par with some of the other great developers that are out there (at least not yet – working on it! :). 

          Better yet! A Tom’s WP Quick Reference Guide, call it, WP Sanity! Yes!

          This assumes I have a level of sanity to begin with. 

  2. Code commenting .vs. humanity outside the code .vs. humanity having nothing to do with code all gets sorta partitioned in my brain.

    More to life than code and things and stuff. Much more.

    I am 52, I started in computers at 15, actively coding in assembler at 17. By 18 & 19 I was coding everything from plastic bag games we’d drop off at computer stores literally in zip lock bags they’d hang on pegboard to beginnings of workings with corporates.

    In commercial games for years commenting code was sorta a “dunna wannna do that” because if some company comes at you wanting your game code they’d have to hire you LOL. Even alot of that proprietary level stuff now is documented yes, but not in the codebase. Thats one of the next future waves that will hit coding separating code level doc even at minimalist levels from core code.

    Descriptive functions and vars also can be excessive but tis’ what it tis’ I guess. Coding in itself at somepoint down the pike many years, perhaps 20 or 25 will undergo a restructure IMHO. Alot of applications will just be component based deals where a user can program basically via drag n drop and associate etc. Alot like the next gen CMS’s but at a more robust level of options.

    For example, taking a list component, dropping it on a form. Typing in some fields. Dropping that atop a data container that then springs a UI for entry where constraints are entered etc. Programming will at some point advance past much of what we known today.

    In as far as human factors, there are fellow programmers and as Tom pointed out often pretty pretentious. People online have a hard time reading me as a person. Because I am no “fan” of any particular technology nor do I truly loath any form of technology. After 35+ years of working in it one realizes its all repeating. Whether its who’s best, this .vs. that on and on. Alot of times its planned marketing. Alot of times its just noise in the wind.

    Programmers often dont understand marketing, its more complex than coding. Programmers are often in “shells” never using the wonderful logic that coding teaches and applying that attained ability to engineer / reverse engineer to bigger aspects of life than the little box w/ a screen. I spent a bit over three years reverse engineering the world around me. The natural and spiritual world. Patterns everywhere. So complex they are literally mind boggling. No human being could possibly understand its completeness or complexity. But, the patterns are undeniable. That journey changed me.

    I still love to code after all these years, but at the sametime I have saw a rather common factor with coders overtime. The structuring required in coding also is as much a cage to more of them than not.

    Programming can be learned by anyone. Just like painting art can be learned by anyone. But, what part of either is talent learned .vs. a God given gift? A natural ability to reverse engineer is pretty hard to “learn” and be good at. Just as the vision a great artist has is often more a gift in them than learned.

    Many coders do not use that gift towards things much bigger than code. In fact, it often instead of being something that is an amazing talent when applied “outside code” becomes a box instead they live within. This is also true of much of the sciences. It took me 48 years and meeting someone ever so special to apply my God given talent of reverse engineering to looking at the world around me in a deep deep fashion. The results, just astonishing. Much more fascinating than any computer and I can literally floor people with base results.

    Humanity outside the box. There are those in technology/engineering and again as Tom said, often quirky in a variety of ways. Perhaps we all succumb to it in time through exposure.

    But outside the box there is tremendous diversity. When reverse engineering a microcosm of that diversity many things just jump right out. Most common I have found are traits and personalities. For years I was “in the box”. Lady I was with for quite a time showed me my gifts. Now, I am as comfortable in a tavern or car garage as I am at a $2000 a plate dinner with power politicians.

    See… admirable or wonderful traits one can see in others that really “Jump out” when you start really looking at doing a “diff” of someone && you are not things that are to be shrugged off. Thats what most often folks do. I learned through her “Me | Other” = Newest Me (pipe symbol). In the past 4 years on this reverse engineering journey I have learned “Me | God | Others” = A far far far more complete me.

    Not to get all spiritual on ya’ll. I made no leaps of faith. Not a one. I used my talent to seek information and my results showed me how absolutely stupid I am, how ever so complex our reality truly is and undeniable results. It blew any ego I had to dust, any glory I’d sought to wind. What do I mean?

    I mean a guy who makes chocolates for a living was more intelligent in purpose and the range of reason than me, Mr. Code Guru. He already knew what I found on my reverse engineering journey. His faith. Mine proof. I spent near four year to either prove or disprove. He spent a life knowing already. I am stupid.

    Logic which as is used in coding, in science is just as much a self-imposed trap as a really wonderful gift. It all depends on how its used. When its applied to code, eh, code is code. When you use it to start trying to find answers to much larger questions in life, no longer in the box. Just as an artist can use vision to show beauty or horror.

    In other words, the “logic focus” can very easily become a trap if you will. Where-as that gift in one’s being can also lead to tremendous enlightenment. Why? Because logic rules out random. We dont write code random. We dont reverse engineer random. We have a gift of bottom up and top down thinking. No programming task is easy peasy. We break things down to common or uncommon denominators with exceptions. We “Map” thought/problem or goal to code.

    Note: The human brain works alot internally like a computer. Infinitely more complex, faster, more storage etc. We see a “Stop sign” while driving and have all sorts of multi-processing going on from car control and associated appendage application to the mechanical device to involuntary functions keeping the heart pumping, lungs filling, every nerve in our bodies activated and pattern matching the red stop sign shape, color, words on and on. Just for a computer to recognize a “stop sign” is a TON of code.

    Brain is an unbelievable pattern matching machine. And thats what we do as coders. We reverse engineer, bottom up, top down etc. goals, structures, inputs, outputs, tasks. Everyone has this gift to a degree and its used every day and moment of their lives. But programmers have it MUCH more honed because we are physically and actively engaging it regularly.

    Now if you take that and move it out of the box. Apply it to specifics. You will be AMAZED at your results. As we all know, that reverse engineering takes time. Its not a “What is the purpose of love” and bang, instant answer. Just like “How do I model aircraft varieties and details into complex inherited objects” isnt, bam, done in two minutes flat.

    YET!!!! YET!!! When asked the question “What is the purpose of love?” What is its source? Does it have a destination? What are its traits, variables, methods we like most of humanity have a “instant response”. YET!!! YET!!! coders have a refined gift. We can !instantResponce($Emotions->love) and start engineering on it. Will we get a refined structure like our aircraft objects? Nope. But what we will get is WAY deeper than the surface of instant response. The patterns we uncover are LIFE CHANGING.

    Apply it to everything/anything.

    More patterns and indeed anti-patterns arise. But not a lick of it is random.

    You will find so many common patterns you will in time go, “Ummmm…. guess what?” There is just no way anything is random. Its so complex its boggling, but, not random.

    Everything for example has a source and destination in time. Doesnt matter what it is in our reality. Dust, a friend, animal, a rock, grain of sand, asteroid, star, speech, sound everything. Along its path it may transform, it may become part or parts of something else. The time may be a moment or seemingly infinite to “us”.

    This is undeniable. We live this moment to moment. In something as simple as our backyard billions, hundreds of billions of interactions and transformations, sources and destinations happen moment to moment. Imagine slowing it down. Focusing on just one of them and being able to watch it through its timeline.

    Or a single drop of rain water in its journey through time.

    All things. Source, destination, common patterns in all of it exist. Took me near two years see many of them. But, undeniable, just as science is now finding universal constants that if they were just a tiny eenie weeny bit off, life as we know it could not exist and these constants go out buckets of decimal places.

    Thats not random.

    I explained to my fiance' last night, we cant make a random number generator. Its been tried with even collision of atoms. No go. The results are predictable. Of course. Because random is not real.

    Now and I will wrap up.... As I put it to my brother who is "Mr. Logic", "Mr. Programmer", "Mr. Astronomer ($55,000 Telescope)", "Mr. Giant Amateur Rocket Builder" etc. Who agreed with everything I put forth. No random. Everything source and destination in time. Patterns both common and uncommon in literally everything from a single human cell to a sub atomic particle. WHY would ANYONE think the Human Soul is different? That it in fact also has a source and also has a destination. On other side of phone is silence.

    That FACT now puts a WHOLE lot more on the table to be considered.

    What is my specific purpose then? What are the sources and destinations of oh so many things, abstracted but not, undeniable they are read. Good, Evil. What NOW is important knowing there is a source and destination of my living entity? Undeniable. Welp, what references do we have?

    We have spiritual stuff. So lets apply our engineering skills to that. Did it. Still doing it. But thats all "mans writings Rick". Uh huh. So is code, so is a microprocessor. But it works. Just because its mans writings doesnt make it wrong per se although, mans writings can be. So, reverse engineer.

    Results I have found thus far? People 2000 years ago knew more about the subject than we do today. Why? Because they were not interrupted with as many complexities taking focus off such things. They were not any dumber than we are today. While humanities collective intelligence and creative abilities have skyrocketed, the "human condition" as its called... Well... LOL... Not so much.

    Point all being.... I encourage coders to think broadband with that talent. Step it "OUT OF THE BOX" and you will find that the gift of it is perhaps the most enlightening tool you have in your life. And guess what? Thats not random either. You have that tool for a reason. And that reason will expose itself as you apply that tool in ways you never thought of doing so.

  3. This made me smile, as I write about the WordPress admin/dashboard/back-end regularly and struggle with finding a consistent term without repeating myself or confusing people.

    It can be confusing that we refer to the screens as ‘the admin’ and also to the site administrator as ‘the admin’. I’ve tried using ‘dashboard’ instead but got publicly criticised for it on a high profile blog. And ‘back-end’ just sounds odd (and would make my kids laugh, which is one of my tests of appropriate language!). When in doubt I try to use ‘admin screens’ but it’s still tricky.

    Mind you it’s not the only thing that’s confusing – widgets, widget areas and sidebars, anyone??

    Maybe we need to invent a new word!!

    1. This made me smile, as I write about the WordPress admin/dashboard/back-end regularly and struggle with finding a consistent term without repeating myself or confusing people.

      Yep – it seems this is something that we all have to deal with based on who we’re actually working with :). 

      instead but got publicly criticised for it on a high profile blog.

      That sucks. I hate hearing that. This is one reason that blogging can be a big turn off for people but whatever — not everyone is going to be as open and comfortable and having disagreements.

      And ‘back-end’ just sounds odd (and would make my kids laugh, which is one of my tests of appropriate language!).

      LOL – I didn’t even think of it that way. Now I’m giggling.

      Maybe we need to invent a new word!!

      Then we can try to get it adopted and be criticized on high profile blogs ;).

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