Joey Clover


Do you have the Learners Syndrome?

Okay, that’s not really a thing. However, I’ve noticed a trend in behaviour starting to appear — especially in the world of technology and software development. I didn’t know the name for it, so we’ll call it learners syndrome for now. It describes a behaviour wherein the affected persons will continuously be on a quest to learn and never truly apply the knowledge.

The most common area i’ve seen this problem is in web development. I’ve observed over recent years that the number of frameworks for the web have increased dramatically. The image below shows just how many there are.

You can see that in the last 5 years, there have been a huge number of frameworks. I’ve also noticed that web developers are expected to know a number of these frameworks as it seems to be a badge of honour. Why?

I suffer from learners syndrome quite a bit myself. I have to fight against it. Learning a new language or technology is always a fun experience for me. I’ve found myself building simple webapps using

  • Go
  • TypeScript
  • NodeJS
  • React
  • Angular
  • Spring
  • … x100

The list truly does go on. I’ve built a large number of todo apps, more than I’m willing to admit. I now consider myself adept in making todo apps. Maybe I’ll put that on my CV.

Interviewer: Have you built anything that’s in production?
Me: Not really but I do have a plethora of todo mvc web apps in my portfolio which I built myself using an isomorphic react server in NodeJS.

The largest problem with having so many of these technologies is that to be a “good” web developer, you’re expected to know most of them including the backend ones. I think that’s unfair. Several years ago, the boundaries between a front-end developer and a back-end developer were clear. Today, there isn’t really a boundary anymore. We call it “full-stack”. It sounds like a way to get one person to do twice the work and not really specialise in one of the two areas.

I , myself, find myself more attracted to the backend technologies, yet with the rise of isomorphic servers, I find myself also writing code for the front-end quite often. If you’re unfamiliar with isomorphic servers, here’s an example.

Isomorphic Javascript

I feel like when I learn multiple frameworks and technologies, my capacity to build anything valuable with them drops. I spend more time learning than I do building. If I start building something and investing time in it, I feel like I’m missing out on learning the new cool technologies and have a fear of being left behind.

I think the solution is to find a balance. Focus on a single technology and build around that. Sure, you can learn new technologies but spend one hour a day or less on them. Make sure it’s a hobby and not an addiction. Learners syndrome seems to be amplified when you have a job where you’re using a single technology, since we spend most of our spare time learning the new technologies rather than building something with them. However, if you work in a place that promotes learning, you’re able to get the best of both works. My opinions on employment can be found here.

I recommend that you take a step back and have a think. How many languages or frameworks have you become knowledgable in within the past year. How many todo apps have you built? If it’s more than 3, you’re probably learning too much. Of course, maybe that’s what you just love to do but I feel like a lot of us could benefit from spending more time dedicated to just one technology.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you enjoyed the article, consider following me to read more!

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