My JS Story Cory House

On this Episode we have another JS Story, and this time it’s with Cory House, a Pluralsight author, software architect for Cox Automotive, and a consultant with a focus on React. Listen to Charles Max Wood and Cory discuss a bit about how Cory got into programming, how learning how to learn is vital to being a talented developer, as well as using documentation as your development environment to ensure your code’s documentation doesn’t fall behind. This and more right here. Stay tuned.

How did you get into programming?

Cory starts his story as a business major in college but had interest in computers. He spent time around various computers and machines, giving him experience in various operating systems and platforms. On any given day he would be using any of three different operating systems. His interest in computers inspired him to double major. He started learning Cobalt and Visual Basic and C++. He talks about being interested in web development, including Flash. He specialized in Flash throughout college, as well as early on in his software development career. He also talks a bit about that the open web seems to innovate in a way that keeps it relevant. He talks about using Flash to make websites with entering screens and animations and now that is obsolete. Charles mentions that it’s interesting that his main interest was business and computers became something he was interested in later on and that you don’t have to be someone who started young to be proficient. Cory talks about being driven to catch up, being around people who knew things off the top of their head while he was still asking questions and looking things up.

Learning How to Learn

Out of college Cory found that he had a degree, but what he had really learned was how to learn. He never used Cobalt, C ++, or visual basic after school. Learning how to learn combined with being able to create a focus on a specific technology are vital. Charles adds that he would hear often that it took being a natural in programming to get it, and that maybe being a natural was really just being someone who has learned how to learn and to focus.

Getting Good With Your Craft

Cory mentions that working with someone who head and shoulders ahead of everyone else. They were working in Unix and seemed to know every single Unix command and flag. He found it inspiring to see someone take the craft so seriously and to learn a specific technologies tool with so much dedication. Some technologies will be so important that they will be key technologies that will still be useful many years later. Cory suggests that one of those tools seem to be JavaScript. JavaScript is almost mandatory in frontend web development. Additionally, JavaScript is reaching into other new technology types including IoT and VR and other places, constantly expanding.

How did you get into JavaScript?

Cory talks about how it really all got started when Steve Jobs killed Flash. He opened his mind to other technologies and started working with JavaScript. Remembering learning jQuery, he found himself really enjoying it. He started building online business applications. Browser inconsistencies were a huge issue, making it so that you’d have to check your work on each browser to make sure it worked cross platform. Things are moving so quickly that being a full stack developer is becoming less and less prevalent, to the point where he considers himself primarily a JavaScript developer. Being an expert in a single technology can make you really valuable. Companies are running into issues with not finding enough people that are experts in a single tech. Cory suggests that employers should find employees that seem interested and help allow them to focus and learn whatever that tech is. Charles talks about the split between developers that tend to lean full stack and plug in technologies when they need it versus developers that work exclusively in front end. He suggests it may be a case by case situation.

Service Oriented Architecture

Cory suggests that service oriented architecture movement has moved us that way. Once you have a set of services set up, it becomes more realistic to turn on the front end. If there were a good set of services there, Cory adds that he doesn’t think he would be able to build services faster using a server side framework like Rails, Django, or ASP.Net MVC than he could in React today using something like create React app. The front end has become much more mature. Cory mentions that he has had good experiences with ASP.Net NPC and Visual Basic being a Microsoft stack developer. He adds that he doesn’t feel like he has given up anything working with JavaScript. He adds that with the nesting of different models together, he gets to reuse a lot of code in server side development. NPM makes it easy to stand up a new package. If you are planning to create an API, it becomes much harder to use a server side rendering stack, with so many APIs available, it’s a logical move to go client side.

Possible Future for Front-end and Back-end Roles

Charles brings up that the development of things like VR are making changes in the roles that front end and back end development play. The front end will more to taking care of the overall application development of apps, while the back end will become supporting roles as services and APIs. New technology like VR and artificial intelligence will need a high amount of computing power on the backend. The front end will focus more on the overall experience, display, and the way we react with things. Charles talks about how the web may move away from being just an HTML platform. He says that it will be interesting to find where JavaScript and frameworks like React will fall into this shift into this next generation. We already are seeing some of this with the capabilities with canvases, WebVR, and SVG and how they are changing how we experience the web.

Reasonable Component Story

Cory brings up being interested in the Reasonable component story. Sharing code from a traditional web app, to a native app, and to potentially a VR app as well is exciting and he hopes to see it flesh out more in the coming years. He talks about going to conferences and how much we have built and how much we don’t have easily sharable innovation. He hopes to see it solved in the next few years.

What contributions have you made to the JavaScript community?

Cory mentions working on the open source project Slingshot. He was trying to solve issues that many found in React. React isn’t very opinionated. React is for writing reasonable components for the web, but it doesn’t have opinions on how you structure your files, how you minify, bundle, deploy, or make API calls, etc. He realized that telling people to use React and to deal with those issues wasn’t reasonable. He created React Slingshot as a development boilerplate. He put it to use in many applications and it became popular. It’s easy because it did things like allow you to run NPM to pull independencies and pull a file, it would fire up a web browser, watch your files, run tests, hot reloading on save, and had a running Redux application build it. It allowed people to get started very quickly. He talks about how he wasn’t the only person trying to solve this issue. He says that if you look now there are well over one hundred boiler plates for React that do similar things. Most popular being Create React App. Contributions outside of this, he talks about editing documentation on open source projects being part of his biggest contribution, writing it in markdown and then making pull requests.

What are you working on now?

Cory adds that he just finished his 7th or 8th Pluralsight course on creating usable React components. At work they create their own reusable React component library. He says that he realizes that it’s a complicated process, where all decisions you make, in order to have a reusable component story, you have to make a lot of decisions. Things like how granular to make the components, reusable styles and how they are packaged, how they are hosted, will it be open or source, etc.

Publicly Closed – Internally Open Source Projects

Cory talks about the idea of having it as a closed source project, but treating it like an internal open source project for the company, having many people feel invested into the project. He found creating the documentation story was the toughest part. Having solid documentation story that helps with showing how to use the components and it’s features and behaviors. He spends much of his type looking at other documents to help him come up with ways to create his own. He talks about generating the documents automatically with the updates so that they are always in sync. Charles adds that documentation syncing often happens right in the comments, which are also acceptable to being outdated.

Cory adds that a useful way to allow for well documented and safe pull requests is to make a pull request template in GitHub by creating a file called so that any time someone makes a pull request, that .md template will populate the pull request. Cory has a checklist for a pull request like making sure there are tests for any new components, the file name should have an uppercase character, is there a ticket open, etc. All of the basic things that should happen in a pull will be in the Charles adds that documentation is one of the things that gets ignored. Having a standard process is very important, more so than getting the job done faster. Also having an outlined expectation for how it’s delivered is important as well.

Documentation as Development Environment

A useful trick that Cory uses, is using the documentation as the development environment. Anytime they are working on a new component, they start with a documentation site, making changes within the documentation and then it hot loading your changes live. This way your documentation is front of mind and keeps the documentation fall behind.

Why React instead of the other frameworks?

Cory says that he can sum up React in a single sentence. He says that your HTML sits right in the JavaScript. Which usually sounds bad to a large group of developers. He expects people to react negatively when he talks about it. What he has run into as a common problem, is people separating concerns by filetype and technology, but with React he seems the common problems in terms of components. Cory says that components are the future. Industries that have matured utilize components. For example car manufacturers or even electronic manufactures build things in modules and components. Things that are reusable should be encapsulated into a component instead of trying to hold it in our heads. This makes it so things look the same and reduces many mistakes. You can create components in different frameworks, but React co-mingles markup and javascript with something like JSX. You’re not writing HTML, you’re writing JSX that boils down to HTML. That one element is fundamentally what makes React easier to Cory. For the most part, React can be learned by JavaScript developers in less than a day because many of the things you need to do in React, is just basic JavaScript. Charles adds that components are a concept coming up in various frameworks and is becoming more popular.


Cory’s React Courses on Pluralsight Essentialism the book


Get a Better Job Course Angular Remote Conf (now Ruby Dev Summit) React Podcast Kickstarter


Cory’s Twitter