Launch Academy, Weeks Three and Four

The past couple of weeks are practically a blur. We’ve all come a long way, and still have so much to learn. Next Friday will be our cohort’s halfway mark — Crazy!

Prior to Thanksgiving break, my cohort spent 3 intense days learning about how to use databases to store and retrieve data for our apps. Databases are a great way to organize complex information via a series of tables (which often have relationships to each other, allowing for even more precise data storage/retrieval). PostgreSQL is the software used here at Launch Academy, and I’ve found it very user-friendly so far. We also learned about database indices, which can help speed up data storage/retrieval.

After taking Thanksgiving off to congregate with extended family in a beautiful farmhouse in Middleborough, MA — a group which includes, in addition to a bunch of lovely humans, horses, a little white dog, and a trio of talking parrots — I spent the next 3 days of my long weekend diving into JavaScript.

About a year ago, I took a 6-week JavaScript course facilitated by Girl Develop It. It was a terrific experience. We moved through the JavaScript Codecademy curriculum together, the TAs were incredibly responsive and helpful, and I learned a ton. The course definitely helped convince me that I needed to move from teaching myself and taking online courses to a collaborative, immersive environment like Launch Academy.

Returning to JavaScript after dedicating most of my brain cells to Ruby was a bit of a challenge (though a worthwhile one). While JavaScript makes use of many of the same programming principles Ruby does, there are a great many differences! If you’re interested, you can check out some of the syntactical comparisons here.

One major (non-syntactical) difference between Ruby and JavaScript is that JavaScript works in the browser. You don’t need to reload a webpage to make JavaScript work its magic, which makes things faster and more efficient. (If you haven’t picked this up already, programmers like it when things are fast).

This week — in addition to becoming more familiar with RegEx, JavaScript, JQuery, and more — we began learning how to work with Ajax in web applications. Ajax, a great tool for retrieving or submitting information back to a web server without refreshing or reloading the page, allows for a smoother user experience. One example: When you use Ajax to add items to a virtual grocery list, you can watch the grocery list automatically update each time without needing to reload the page. Another example? When you scroll to the bottom of your Twitter feed, fresh tweets automatically load for you to read; You don’t need to navigate to another page to read those same tweets.

It’s been exciting to look behind the scenes and learn more about what goes into all the bits and pieces that enhance the modern online experience. Soon, we’ll learn more about UX and how to make our apps pretty and more user-friendly! Stay tuned.

Oh, and check out the video on the Launch Academy site: I’m in it! (Well, the back of my head is, anyway).

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