Breakable Toys

Problem

You work in an environment that does not allow for failure. Yet failure is often the best way to learn anything. Only by attempting to do bold things, failing, learning from that failure, and trying again do we grow into the kind of people who can succeed when faced with difficult problems.

Solution

The solution the text offers is to build “toy systems that are similar in toolset, but not in scope to the systems you build at work.” Experience is build upon failure and success, having a more or less private space to seek out failures in order to learn from them. When implementing this pattern, the text suggests making your systems relevant and useful to your life as an apprentice. Suggestions include building a wiki, calendar, or address book.

“Breakable Toys is more about deliberately creating opportunities to learn by stepping beyond your boundaries and single-handedly building complete software projects.”

The projects you take on may be excessive and not complete but having the ability to fail, and find solutions trial and error will benefit you in the long run. Maintaining a wiki leads you to learn about things like HTTP, REST, parsing, web design, caching, full-text search, databases, concurrency, and possibly data migration. Other forms of breakable toys include games like Tetris and Tic Tac Toe, blogging software, and IRC clients. The intent of Breakable Toys is learning new things and allowing yourself to learn from roadblocks that might occur.

The idea of building a wiki to record what you learn is similar to this blog in that I am tracking my progression as an undergraduate seeking employment and mentors to help become a software craftsman. I’ve been using WordPress for some time and have slowly learned more about PHP, HTML, CSS, and SQL databases. I think the Breakable Toys pattern is an essential part of learning new and complicated projects. I liked the idea of creating other tools that help you in other aspects of life, like making your own calendar or address book. My first angular 2 project could be considered a breakable toy, I didn’t know anything about Angular and very little about Javascript but having the time to sit down and create a workable web app helped me learn about something new and has prepared me more for the Angular project I’m working on now.

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