The Unforeseen Consequence of Being Self-Taught

Posted December 12, 2010

I had yet to notice any drawbacks of working in a field where I have either taught myself what I need to know or learned through work experience. Until now.

Hopefully you have realized, that I am a Web Designer & Developer. And,
I’ll now let you know, that I learned nearly everything for this career with
trial & error and the internet. And, perhaps more surprising, I can
honestly say that my gateway into this career was playing a popular computer game nearly nine years
ago.

Becoming A Self-Teacher

Sure, Counter-Strike itself was rather addicting but what really got my
attention was all those files (just left there for me to explore!) inside
the install directory. There were graphics, sounds, levels and even a unique
scripting language! So, through the power of the internet, I taught
myself how to write Counter-Strike scripts. But, after finding or reading
about most of the exploits, scripting became dull—I wasn’t actually
playing the game that much at this point, so there was no utility left. Soon
after, I discovered hacking. Naturally, I taught myself how to create multiplayer hacks.
Actually, I even worked on some of most popular public cheats of a rather
limited time. From the amazing scripting community to the even more amazing
hacking communities, I found a viable way to learn whatever I was interested
in. And, I continue this approach even today.

Relevant Lessons

My foray into creating websites was Geocities. Thankfully, I desired more
control and eventually learned HTML; my resource was the HTML Goodies
Primers
. Which, looking back on
it now, seems like a well structured lesson plan that could resemble what’s
taught in school. Sadly, I can’t recall what my main resource was for
learning CSS, but for PHP Tizag covers the basics pretty
well. From that point, I had developed a strong enough base, that the rest
of my learning could be achieved by reading the docs and spec sheets for
the technologies I was interested in.

The Problems

Recently, I was reading a bunch of the latest articles on A List Apart and I noticed something I didn’t have an answer
too. Which was, half the articles seemed useful and applicable while the
other half seemed obvious. My opinion is that A List Apart offers the
highest level of HTML (and similar technologies) understanding. Which lead
to my confusion: are only some of the articles aimed for professionals while
others are well-suited for beginners? Or, since after following the HTML
Goodies Primers I learned much of everything else as it came up in actual
work experience, that my knowledge is scattered? Perhaps, I have an
understanding of some seemingly expert-level front-end development concepts,
while missing other, intermediate or even beginner-level concepts? At the
moment, I can’t answer those questions. And, that brings up two problems:
Even though I spend almost every hour living inside Web Development, can I
claim expertise?
I don’t have any physical or widely-accepted
certification—just experience. This is a problem, because I don’t
want to lie and I don’t want to claim more than I mean. Another problem is,
where do I go from here? How do I determine what level of knowledge I have
of Web Development, and how do I properly determine the next step of
progression?

Is anyone else self-taught? Have you found any problems associated
with being self-taught? I’d love to hear from you either via [email](mailto:
comments@staydecent.ca) or Twitter.