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Challenging

I‘m feeling pretty proud of myself – I actually managed to write a little javascript app that works!  Doesn’t do anything particularly useful, but that can come later 🙂  The more important thing is, it won me a challenge set by one of my workmates.
Because we’re all at different levels of ability as far as programming goes, we’ve been setting each other challenges to expand our skills.  I was given the challenge to make a bookmarklet (a mini-app that runs in your browser via a bookmark) that would allow you to highlight a word on any website and have it automatically search for that word in the university library’s catalogue. So yeah, not really something anyone is likely to ever actually need to use, but it was still a fun exercise trying to figure out how to do it.
The big thing I’m having to learn about the difference between programming in 1980-something and 2014 is the fact that the internet exists now,so it’s no longer necessary to try and figure out every bit of code from scratch – a bit of quick Googling is usually enough to find someone who’s done something roughly similar that you can steal the code from.  Then it’s just a matter of figuring out which bits to change.  Once I remembered that, the challenge turned out to be almost trivial, because I found a bookmarklet that does exactly the same thing except it searches on Wikipedia, so all I needed to do was work out how to construct a search URL for the library and substitute it in.

Of course, being me, I wasn’t satisfied with that, so had to spend the next hour trying to actually understand what all the bits in the code I’d copied actually did…  I think I figured most of it out (apart from one wee step that I could only interpret as “and then some magic happens” 😉 ).  But I certainly learnt a lot, which was the whole point of the exercise.
Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I can actually apply some of this to something that actually helps us do our work better (or more likely, I’ll just keep making silly stuff – the next challenge I’ve been given involves pictures of kittens…)

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2 Comments

  1. My word. You are spreading your wings mightily. You’ll be taking off to the heights next. Well done. While the thought of all the work behind this sacs me madly I am full of admiration for what you are trying. Your last few entries herein have been just great.
    Cheers from warm/hot sunny Brittany.

  2. I think it is VERY important that you wanted to know how the whole thing worked even if you didn’t write it all.
    There is danger in forgetting how things work.
    Remember in the Matrix when the guy in Zion said they didn’t know how all the machinery worked? Boy that kind of thing is REAL.
    Good for you for learning how the guts function on this marvel of technology!

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