I'm at a crossroads, need some advice


TL;DR: I enjoy freeCodeCamp because of how well-structured it is; I do not enjoy learning to code through scattered/poorly organized crash-course tutorials/resources (let’s call them SPOCTRs). Should I sacrifice the morale-boosting sanity of learning the way that works best for me by putting freeCodeCamp on hold so I can tough it out with the SPOCTRs in order to build my first real-life website with a looming (albeit tentative) September deadline?

WARNING: This may be a bit lengthy

Hello everyone,

I am facing what I think is a pretty important decision - pause freeCodeCamp and help a friend build a minimal, prototype, live website for his startup, or continue down the freeCodeCamp path while maintaining a more structured learning experience.

I am currently trying to balance the two sides, and have been for about a month now. However, there is a structure to freeCodeCamp (and Codecademy, which I use as a supplement sometimes) that is simply missing when I try to learn other stuff needed for the website. For example, over the past two weeks, I have been learning PHP and SQL so that I can begin work on the backend of the website (I have built some frontend webpages already). However, it feels really scattered, because the tutorials I have used do not provide an actual starting point if you want to make, for instance, your first dynamic webpage (think of the first ever Dr. Borlaug webpage we made and the guide to Codepen and all that). It is always just learn variables, arrays, functions, objects, DONE! :frowning:. As such, it feels like I could spend the next month learning the different parts of the languages for the backend without actually starting on the backend. More so, the website will need signup/login functionality, so I envision my complaints worsening when it’s time to learn OAuth/Auth0 with my superficial knowledge of the languages/environments in which they will be implemented. If you’re wondering, there are other people who were supposed to be building these others parts of the website, but who have not held up their own ends of what we thought was an agreement.

The flipside to all this comes from the fact that this website, should I pull it off, will be my first real-life application created for and used by real-life people. I have read enough to know that this is crucial to building one’s portfolio and actually making strides in the CS field. I love the order and deliberately progressive nature of freeCodeCamp, but when I try to give into the allure of getting that first real-life app in my portfolio, the random nature of trying(/having) to learn SO much in such a disorganized fashion is a real morale killer.

In addition to these, there is the truly unfortunate fact that some of the people I live with and once held in the highest regard struggle to hide how much they look down on my decision to ditch going to medical school in order to pursue a career in what I have come to love doing (:heart: coding :heart:). This is something that weighs on my mind most days, and my best release is when I am following a structured process of learning to code, such as that which comes with freeCodeCamp. When I try to move into the less organized stuff, it just isn’t as fun and the stuff I would like to forget finds its way into my mind more often.

So, which option do you think I should prioritize? I would love to hear what you think because I know so many people here have had experiences that taught them lessons on what is more valuable, when, and why. Thank you so much for reading this far, and thanks so much more for whatever gem :gem: you drop in response! :slight_smile:.


You do have a lot in here to unpack. Lets take it a piece at a time.

PHP and SQL are both useful skills that never go out of style. And there are a ton of tutorials on learning them (some good and some not-so-good).

For this part, it seems like you’ve been overwhelmed because other people on your team haven’t stayed the course. I’d love to say this was a terrible one-off, but it happens a lot. People prioritize lots of stuff ahead of the start-up grind… usually because they can’t see far enough into the future to see the potential and it scares them.

Kudos to you for taking on the added responsibility. Now, find ways to simplify and bootstrap the whole process so that you don’t make yourself sick with “a month of 16 hour days”. I’d recommend checking out From Idea to Web Startup in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com, which was a short read and had a lot of great stories on how they short-cut the start-up process in ways that allowed them to build as they grew.

Absolutely! Start building your own things as soon as you’re comfortable. You can keep your progress organized by building some scheduling into your planning (either through something like Trello, the Github project tab, or just plain lists). Break it up into chunks that make sense and don’t get frustrated when you need to change it. Just update and keep moving.

Yup. There’s always going to be pushback for the same reasons as above. People want you to have that top-dollar future. Don’t worry too much about it. When they bring it up, thank them for caring (which they do… and people caring about you is a wonderful thing) and gently tell them that while you might not have all the answers, this is a passion and you’re going to chase it down.

The big question with no straight answer. :frowning:

If you can see the future in your friend’s site, I say go for it. Just a warning… I’ve helped friends with their side projects a few times and haven’t hit one yet that was “minimal”. Scope creep happens, so expect to have hard “this should wait until version 2” talks.

Also, depending on the nature of that project, remember that you can skip ahead to the fCC back-end portion… and then use that knowledge to build the entire site in javascript.

Or bootstrap (not the library, but the process) and short-cut where possible… you mentioned that this was supposed to be a prototype, so keep “eye candy” to a minimum and only focus on functionality. Use prebuilt tools (Wordpress, Codeigniter, and others if it must be PHP. Node, Express, React, if it can be JS) and the skills you already have for quick turnaround.

If you can’t see the future in your friend’s site, you have even harder decisions ahead. I’ve had to walk away from friend’s projects too, because I didn’t feel like it was a solid use of my time. Remember that every time you agree to do something, by proxy you’re also agreeing to not do other things (like spend time with family and friends or pursuing your own dreams). Time is fixed, so use it wisely.

Hope this helps.


Thank you so much Dave! Yeah “overwhelmed” is fairly accurate, I will definitely check out that book and see what I can glean from it.

Yeah I am aware of Trello, I think it will come in handy on this front.

Yeah I started to realize this last month. Thankfully, my friend is also well aware of this and has been very amenable as far as keeping things very simple for the initial launch.

Hmm I felt as though these would have an additional learning curve, so I thought it reasonable to try not to learn libraries while having little knowledge/understanding of the language itself. But Bootstrap (the library) has been a life-saver on the CSS end, so I think I’ll have to reconsider. I continue to read great things about the intuitiveness and simplicity of React and its very supportive dev community, so I think it may come in extra handy here.

This is very true. I do see a future with this particular project, so I think I will stay the course.

It absolutely did! Thanks so much!! :raised_hands: :clap:


I am going to keep it gangster with you. I didn’t read all of your post because it had too many words. So, you may not want to read this reply. I feel like I know where you were going with your post. You are wanting to know if you should continue with FCC or leave it alone and do something else. First, you should have been developing your own site while learning this anyway. Also, what you are doing is the same thing I do which is find a reason to make an excuse. STOP MAKING EXCUSES!!! and do what you came here to do. You are spending too much time thinking about stuff that does not matter instead of completing something that you signed up for. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this. (Which you could do before you go to bed) probably watching “Game of Thrones” If you have to debate on whether or not you should quit, finish it…


Next time, read all of the post. If you don’t/can’t, then withhold your wisdom.