I began hearing about live code streams a year or so ago on LiveEdu.TV and saw a livestream with Jeff Fritz at DevIntersection, but I decided to become a regular on a stream called DevChatter a few months ago to really see how it could improve my own code.
Build a Community
I specifically joined the DevChatter stream because they had a Discord chat. I wasn't familiar with Discord, but I've spent time on IRC. I was expecting 3 months of ignoring, bad advice, trolling to make me go away, you know - the standard IRC vetting experience. DevChatter's Discord was actually VERY welcoming!
I like that they have a General chat but also VERY specific chats, like #azure, #dotnet, #php and.. #rants.
Regular dev's go onto that Discord chat asking for random code help, spitting ideas off each other or just ranting about the problem of the day: the bug that wouldn't go away, the pains of working with legacy, the random programming problem that won't leave your mind...
Every portion of that Discord chat lends you a bit of insight into this person. You figure out what timezone they are in, what languages and systems they work with. You start to know these users not just as chatters, but as developers, as everyday people, working and programming just like you.
It is a community working together to improve their code.
Learn Your Environment
I work in Visual Studio all day. I code in Visual Studio, research on Firefox, debug on Firefox and back to Visual Studio. On my most focused days, nothing else exists.
But, I'm still quite new to VS. I'm not completely sure what CodeRush or Resharper might offer me and I'm not even sure what I WANT in an environment. That is, until I saw someone else work in it.
If I pick up nothing else, watching a live code stream gives me the experience of seeing how quickly and efficiently a seasoned programmer works.
A live coding stream puts you face to face with an environment in real-time and makes you rethink your choice of IDE, extensions, plugins, etc. It makes you want to make your own experience as efficient as possible.
One stream, I got completely obsessed with the comment code and how a TODO comment stood out differently from a regular comment. I commented on this on livestream and I got various suggestions on how to make it happen.
There are constant comments every stream about what extensions to use, Visual Studio vs Visual Code, etc and each time, it is someone is discovering a way to improve their environment.
Conquer Your Imposter Syndrome
Some of the best streams I've attended were a struggle to just get going.
- Imported library wouldn't work.
- Firefox error message is vague.
- Project is getting too big for the logic behind it...
When live coding, the community takes every chance to offer their own experience to help. It can be a simple.."err, I got that error message before.. I was missing a JS file.." or it can be a more complicated logic refactor suggestion.
When errors happen on live stream, you have this urge to just spout ideas. Your doubts about your expertise are less important - you're just trying to help solve this! Everyone understands.
I saw a DevChatter stream fail with a 3rd party library, they fixed it and filed a GitHub issue. Though version control and GitHub have long been in my work process, I never got comfortable filing issues. As a sole full stack developer, seeing him do this live made me just a bit more confident to speak up.
I finally filed my own first issue on a library I work with last week: Libman
Everyone gets stuck and Googles, StackOverflows and sometimes narrow it down on a CodePen route. You learn you're not alone.
Live coding is a great environment to simulate the pressure of creating an app and fixing a bug live. The only difference is that the satisfaction is shared by everyone on the livestream, too!
What I also like about live code streaming is access to this level of a professional coding community without the pressure of always participating.
If you've attended conferences, names you know, like: JeffFritz - runs a great streaming channel. VisualStudio started their own Twitch channel not to long ago and I've also seen JamesMontemagno stream recently. I latched onto the DevChatter community.
But, I'm mostly a lurker.
I'm usually coding during the day for work and put a stream off to the 2nd or maybe half screen. I'm often not even sure how long I can stay. This doesn't mean I can't learn anything off that stream!
- Maybe a couple of devs had a random fight of F# vs C# and I get some new tips on F#!
- Maybe we all just bag on the obscene use of var and we all get a little more strict on our typing.
Those are the reasons I keep it on and will continue to participate in live code streams.