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Jonathan Yeong
Jonathan Yeong

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My first 3 months with Elixir

I've been learning Elixir as a side project for the past few months. And I wanted to share my process and the rough learning plan I've been following. Before we dive in, I wanted to give some context on my journey so far. As much as I want to, I'm not using Elixir at work. Meaning I haven't built a production-ready Elixir app. Luckily I had to prep for a conference talk on a deep dive into the pipe operator. Having that as a motivator helped push me to learn more. Since the conference, I've continued on my Elixir journey by following the learning plan below.

Learning plan

I love plans. Something about them makes me so happy. This plan reflects the concepts I've learnt so far. I've enjoyed this progression because everything builds on top of another. And I never feel like I'm overwhelmed by information or trying to figure out what to work on next. This plan doesn't cover everything to learn. And depending on your needs, you may want to focus on something different. Tweak it as you see fit. And if there's a concept I must learn, please let me know! Points in bold are concepts I haven't spent time on.

  • Elixir Foundations
    • Basic types and operators
    • Conditional statements - if, cond, case.
    • Modules and functions
    • Using Lists, Maps, Tuples
  • Practicing coding problems
    • Pattern matching
    • Recursion
    • Using Enums
    • Using binaries and charlists.
  • Building Elixir apps
    • Exunit testing
    • Handling state - Processes, Agents, GenServer
    • Supervisor and supervision trees (OTP).
    • Using mix to generate an Elixir application.
    • Plugs (if you're interested in web development)
    • Metaprogramming
    • Database Ecto
    • File handling
    • Date and Time
    • Deploying an Elixir app

My Learning Process

My learning process can be broken down into two parts; hands-on coding and reading books/guides. When I first started learning Elixir, I skimmed through the Elixir lang guide to get a sense of what the syntax looks like. To help me remember what I read, I used Exercism to get some hands-on practice. Doing coding challenges also helped me ask more questions about the language. To answer these questions, I alternated between the Elixir lang guide, blog posts, and Hexdocs.

Yes, I've only done the easy exercises

Exercism Elixir track - Yup, I've only done the easy exercises

From challenges, I started building Elixir applications. Well, just one application, a URL shortener. This project taught me about tracking state with GenServer, how to start a webserver, and how to build a router. Another idea that comes to mind for a side project is a CSV parser that will store transformed data into a database. Hopefully, this will teach me about reading a file and how to use Ecto. Ultimately, everyone learns differently. And I encourage you to experiment and see what works for you.

What's next?

Next up for me is learning how to deploy an Elixir app. Also, understanding how to read/write from a database or a file. And then more time spent with Plugs and concurrency. I'm sure tomorrow I'll add another thing onto the list! I'm also currently reading Metaprogramming Elixir by Chris McCord. He does a deep dive into metaprogramming and explains concepts really well. The final piece of advice I can give is revisiting code you've written in the past. It's always nice to see where you started and how far you've come. Good luck with your Elixir journey!


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