12 Experts to Help Jumpstart Your JavaScript Learning

12 Experts to Help Jumpstart Your JavaScript Learning

JavaScript is a red-hot topic for WordPress developers right now and for many, diving more fully into the language is a New Year’s resolutions.

As WordPress looks set to move away from its reliance on PHP thanks to the emergence of the REST API and WordPress.com’s Calypso desktop app, it’s a race to find the right resources to learn JavaScript.

And while some people learn best reading written tutorials, others study better socially. So in this article, we’ll introduce you to 12 coding gurus you can follow to jumpstart your year of JavaScript learning.

Is JavaScript the Future of WordPress?

2015 was the year that JavaScript’s increasing front end dominance worldwide finally started making itself felt in the world of WordPress.

The gradual integration of the REST API into core had been pointing the way to integrations with non-PHP scripting languages for some time, but it was the surprise release of Calypso at the tail end of the year that really made it clear which way the wind is blowing.

If Automattic’s decision to build the next generation of the biggest commercial WordPress platform on the planet around JavaScript wasn’t enough of a hint, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg made the future situation crystal clear in his annual State of the Word address, when he explicitly stated his belief that JavaScript and API-driven interfaces are the future of both WordPress and the web.

The race to make the most of the JavaScript ecosystem in a WordPress context has already begun. Companies such as Human Made are diving headfirst into the new technology, and we can expect to see seismic changes in the theming and plugin markets in the short to mid-term future.

Against that background, there’s never been a better time to roll up your sleeves and get to grips with JavaScript. Our recent article on JavaScript learning resources is a superb place to start, and getting familiar with our JavaScript gurus below is the perfect way to take your knowledge to the next level while staying up to speed with an extremely active and fast-moving community.

  • 1. Brendan Eich

    There’s no better place to start a list of JavaScript gurus than with its creator. Brendan Eich has run into his share of controversy on non-programming matters over the years, but is well worth listening to on the language he famously put together in a mere ten days.

    Check out Eich’s interview on JavaScript Jabber for more information on the origins of the language, and his Fluent 2015 talk for insight into where it stands today and what the future holds.

  • 2. Douglas Crockford

    Douglas Crockford won’t be winning any graphic design awards for his aggressively retro homepage, but he’s a giant of the JavaScript world whose work rewards close study.

    In addition to being Senior JavaScript Architect at PayPal, he’s also responsible for developing JSLint and JSMin and was an influential early populariser of the JSON data format.

    If you’re relatively new to JavaScript, Crockford’s JavaScript: The Good Parts remains an excellent overview of the language’s strengths and features on most popular JavaScript learning tracks.

  • 3. John Resig

    John Resig’s primary claim to fame is his invention of the incredibly popular jQuery JavaScript library, and if you’ve used WordPress for pretty much any length of time, you’ve already benefited from his work.

    A quick look at Resig’s home page shows that jQuery is far from his only contribution of note. As a developer at the Khan Academy, he’s using his JavaScript powers to help push the boundaries of online learning, and his popular titles Pro JavaScript Techniques and Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja deserve a place on any JavaScript developer’s bookshelf.

  • 4. Yehuda Katz

    Yehuda Katz has put together quite the portfolio over the years, in JavaScript and beyond. For starters, he’s a current member of the Rust Core Team and former member of the Ruby on Rails and jQuery Core Teams.

    Yehuda is also one of the co-creators of the popular JavaScript front end framework Ember.js and is responsible for other well-known open source projects such as Handlebars and Thor.

    The best place to keep up with him online in terms of JavaScript projects and wider web concerns is either via his regular podcast appearances or presentations at conferences such as Fluent and All Things Open.

  • 5. Addy Osmani

    Between his work at Google on open web tooling with Chrome and Polymer, and open source projects such as Yeoman, Addy Osmani is at the heart of the next generation of web technologies and a JavaScript expert to boot.

    You’re spoiled for choice in terms of ways of following Addy that could significantly expand your JavaScript horizons. His blog is an excellent and regularly updated resource, he co-hosts the highly informative Totally Tooling Tips YouTube show, and is also the author of two useful textbooks in Learning JavaScript Design Patterns and Developing Backbone.js Applications.

    Whether you’re a total JavaScript beginner or a grizzled veteran, diving into his body of work will be well worth the time investment. And if you’re baffled by the proliferation of front end JavaScript frameworks, his TodoMVC project is an excellent jumping off point for further exploration.

  • 6. Suz Hinton

    JavaScript isn’t just making waves in the world of WordPress; it’s been a key part of the ongoing revolution in the Internet of Things for quite some time now.

    Following the work of programmer, author, and Node enthusiast Suz Hinton is a great way of getting to grips with the wider world of possibilities that JavaScript potentially opens up.

    Her regularly updated blog is chock-a-block with deep dives on various hardware-related projects and she’s a regular podcast guest and speaker at events such as NodeConf and JSConf.

  • 7. Paul Irish

    Another JavaScript veteran, Paul Irish currently works on Chrome Dev Tools and has a long track record as an HTML5 evangelist, web standards advocate and contributor to popular JavaScript libraries and open source projects.

    If you’ve ever made use of jQuery, Bower, Modernizr, or Yoeman (to name just a few), you’ve already benefited from some of his work. If you haven’t yet checked out either his excellent blog or regular conference presentations, now is a great time to start.

  • 8. Jeremy Ashkenas

    When it comes to JavaScript, Jeremy Ashkenas is something of a triple threat as the creator of the CoffeeScript programming language, the Backbone framework and the Underscore library.

    Currently taking a break to tootle around America on a motorbike, his 2016 JavaScript-related online presence is understandably low-key, but his incredibly influential projects, consistently entertaining Twitter postings and excellent conference talks make him an essential follow.

  • 9. Peter Cooper

    Peter Cooper is an accomplished Ruby and JavaScript developer, publisher, entrepreneur, and the brains behind the highly recommended email roundup JavaScript Weekly.

    You’ll also find Peter popping up across the globe as a regular podcast guest and conference speaker/organizer, and his lively Twitter feed is also well worth checking out.

  • 10. Derick Bailey

    Derick Bailey is an engaging all-round JavaScript whizz with a passion for passing that knowledge onto others that’s fully on display in both his constantly updated blog and engaging Twitter feed.

    You’ll find him discussing the ins and outs of various parts of the JavaScript ecosystem across the web as a podcast guest, dishing up bite-sized expert tips on WatchMeCode, and knocking out handy e-books on JavaScript topics ranging from beginner level to advanced.

  • 11. Alex Sexton

    Alex Sexton is an engineer at Stripe with deep roots in the JavaScript community through his work on the Modernizr Core Team, presence on the jQuery board of directors, and organization of the annual Texas JavaScript Conference.

    His blog may not be the most frequently updated one on our list, but what’s there is quality in terms of both JavaScript and wider development topics. Alex’s regular conference appearances are also essential viewing for staying on top of the latest trends in front end best practice.

  • 12. Tom Dale

    Tom Dale is a co-creator of Ember.js and co-founder (with Yahuda Katz) of Tilde. In addition to his consistently enlightening blog posts, he’s also a regular conference speaker on JavaScript topics across the world. His presentation on lessons learned developing Ember is an excellent introduction to his work.

Getting to grips with the wider ecosystem of a language involves much more than simply boning up on syntax and tooling – you really need to start investigating the contributions of leading members of the community to get a more rounded picture.

While this article offers a great place to begin, the people we’ve chosen are obviously just a tiny subset of the community and a starting point for further exploration. We also confidently expect that a similar list this time next year would include substantially more names from the world of WordPress itself.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on leading JavaScript experts we may have missed. Let us know in the comments below how you have gone about learning JavaScript.

Image credits: David Calhoun, JS ConfGregers Gram Rygg.