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What Languages Should You Learn in the New Web/Mobile World of 2014?

I've noted before how data-driven developers in general and SQL gurus in particular are pretty well set in terms of salary and job security. So I was curious how database skills fared in responses to a recent Slashdot.org question: "It's 2014--Which New Technologies Should I Learn?"

An anonymous reader's "Ask Slashdot" posting on Wednesday read thusly:

"I've been a software engineer for about 15 years, most of which I spent working on embedded systems (small custom systems running Linux), developing in C. However, Web and mobile technologies seem to be taking over the world, and while I acknowledge that C isn't going away anytime soon, many job offers (at least those that seem interesting and in small companies) are asking for knowledge on these new technologies (Web/mobile). Plus, I'm interested in them anyway. Unfortunately, there are so many of those new technologies that it's difficult to figure out what would be the best use of my time. Which ones would you recommend? What would be the smallest set of 'new technologies' one should know to be employable in Web/mobile these days?"

I was so curious I combed through more than 370 comments to total up and compare the "technologies." Obviously, that's a broad term and could (and apparently did) mean just about anything, so I just focused on programming languages (as opposed to, say, "Learn to lie and [BS] with a straight face"). And I wasn't alone in wondering what constituted a "new technology."

Of course, this being Slashdot, the readers branched off on all kinds of bizarre tangents. It's amazing how these people can take the most insignificant, meaningless aspect of such a question and absolutely beat it to death. It's often pretty darn funny, though.

Anyway, a lot of Slashdot readers know their stuff, so I was interested in what they had to say, regardless of the wide range of possible interpretations of the question. My sampling is in no way scientific, or a real survey or even reliant upon any kind of reproducible methodology. I simply tried to total up the language suggestions I found in each of the comments. I didn't subtract votes when a suggestion was hammered by other readers with the inevitable vicious insults and snarkiness (some things will never change).

I guess the results were fairly predictable, but I was kind of disappointed in how database technologies in general ranked.

What was completely clear is that the overwhelming favorite is ... you guessed it: JavaScript. A rough grouping (not counting a lot of people who said just stick with C) looks something like this:

  • First: JavaScript
  • Second: Java
  • Third: PHP, HTML(5)
  • Fourth: Objective-C, Python
  • Fifth: Ruby, SQL, C++, C#
  • Sixth: HTTP, ASP.NET, CSS

Several dozen more languages were suggested in smaller numbers.

Being the resident Data Driver bloggist at Visual Studio Magazine, I was disappointed to see SQL so far down the list. Even totaling up all the other database-related languages, such as MySQL, SQLite, MongoDB and so on, wouldn't result in that impressive of a number (I stopped counting these when I realized none would total more than a few votes).

A couple of comments might shed some light on the prevailing attitudes out there. One commenter wrote: "RDBMSes are going to die, so learn how to interact with one of the major NoSQL databases. Most bleeding-edge: Titan and Neo4J, both graph databases."

Another wrote: "Some SQL is very useful but you don't need to be an expert--any serious Web development team will have a database expert who will do the DB stuff, you just need enough to code up test setups, prototypes and to talk to the DB guy."

I don't know exactly why "the DB guy" is separate from the rest of the Web dev team, or why the original poster couldn't be "the DB guy," but whatever.

The question was limited to the Web/mobile arena, remember, so it's not totally disheartening. I mean, there is this little thing called Big Data happening, and vendors are jumping all over themselves trying to come out with applications and packages and such to let the SQL guys and other "DB guys" join in the fun along with the Hadoop specialists and data scientists. But I guess nobody will be doing any Big Data stuff over the Web or with a mobile device.

And SQL didn't fare too badly in more broad examinations of this topic, earning a spot in "Top 10 Programming Languages to Know in 2014" and "10 Programming Languages You Should Learn in 2014." Also, of course, Transact-SQL was named "programming language of the year" for 2013 by TIOBE Software.

What do you think? What would be your top suggestions for staying current in this new world? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/24/2014 at 8:16 PM


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