Q&A with Frederic and Nynne, CSSclasses enthusiasts

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CSSclasses is back! Yes, our beloved community event returns to Berlin on Saturday, April 30 at Co-Up. We've talked about CSSclasses before in an interview with our own Lucie Höhler. This time, in order to celebrate not only the return, but the expansion of the CSSclasses movement which now includes new workshops in Hamburg and Edinburgh (courtesy of ScotlandCSS) this May and June, we bring you another Q&A with CSSclasses participants Frederic and Nynne.

At our latest event in December, some 50 participants came together at Wimdu's offices in Berlin for a day of knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Frederic and Nynne were among those ~50 and they were happy to share their experiences with us.

Hi Nynne, Hi Frederic. Could you introduce yourselves?

Nynne: I come from a background in Art & Design History. I always loved visual culture and was interested in colors, patterns, fonts and images. I especially love textiles! Then I discovered how fun and creative programming was and began learning as much as I could about talking to a computer. I always find it hard to say how long I have been learning to code because it didn’t happen overnight, but has been more of a gradual buildup. I would say that I have been learning front end skills on and off for a couple of years and have been focused on backend, specifically ruby on rails, for the past year.

Frederic: I’m a self-taught web designer and learned CSS from online resources, books, conference talks, but also just playing around with things. I’ve been planning, designing and building websites professionally since 2009. Almost everything about the web I know because others gave away their knowledge for free, so I always look for opportunities to pass on what I’ve learned and continue learning from others as well.

What was your experience with CSS prior to the event?

Nynne: I remember in the early aughts when everyone had to have a super CSS’ed up MySpace page! That was probably the first time I wrote a bit of deliberate code, but it was pretty limited. One of my first experiences with writing front end code after that was when I built a super rudimentary HTML and CSS page from scratch with a totally wild font and all the content fitted inside boxes in headache-inducing primary colors, which I was super proud of :) CSS really spoke to me because it is so visual and tactile. With CSS whatever you work on, you get to see the results immediately!

Have you been to any CSSclasses or co-learning events before and how did you like it?

Nynne: I think I went to pretty much all of the CSSclasses last year! I heard about it through meetup.com, and went and loved it so much that I try to never miss a session.

Frederic: My first CSSclasses was the RailsGirls beginner’s weekend workshop on Halloween early last year. I had such an amazing time being a coach, I just had to come back. At the Halloween ‘15 workshop, we were more coaches and a lot more learners, who were mostly beginners, so we used the day to lay the basic ground work to building websites. In December, we had much smaller groups of learners. A lot of them already had some experience so we could talk about more advanced stuff, like flexbox, or work together on their individual goals, which was a lot of fun!

What new things did you learn?

Nynne: Since I am not a total beginner with CSS, I have been using the meetups as an opportunity to delve into topics that I am particularly interested in. I found that these meetups are really well-suited for both complete beginners and someone like me who wants to do a specific project. This inclusiveness, combined with the fact that all the coaches are super lovely, are the reasons why I love to go. I spent the most recent meetup creating a special responsive, animated landing page. This was a project I had been convinced could only be done in JavaScript. During the workshop, I learned about so many fun CSS features that I never knew before! Frederic was my coach and he did a terrific job of explaining CSS animation, and answering all my questions. By the end of the day I had finished my project, uploaded it to codepen, and even had time left to start another project – styling a new rails app that I've been working on.

Frederic: The great thing about being a coach at CSSclasses is that you don’t need to be this walking CSS reference who knows everything. Coaches are encouraged to point learners to the right resources and help them find their own solutions. Sometimes you will run into a problem that’s new to you as a coach, too, and you can learn a lot from working on it with a partner. For example I knew about blend modes in CSS but I had never used them before, so we looked into the documentation and figured out how to use them together.

What did you like most about the event?

Nynne: I found that CSSclasses is a welcoming and open community. Everyone’s free to join. While the meetups are very beginner-friendly, coaches also encourage participants to push the boundaries of what we typically think that CSS can do. I have been working a lot with animation, for example, which is not something that I would have connected with CSS before. At the end of every workshop, participants are encouraged to show what they worked on. It's always fun to see what other people spent the day building. The best thing about the meetups, however, is that they are run by a group of really wonderful people. I have met so many new friends and had really nice experiences with every person involved.

Frederic: I love the friendly and inclusive community around it and the hands-off approach to helping people learn CSS, which I think is super effective (rule number one: don’t touch a learner’s keyboard). The food is great, too!

What would you like to improve?

Nynne: I’m not sure what could be improved. That’s of course because I really love the current format. In a way, I wish these meetups were more frequent, but then again I’m really happy that they are spread out over the calendar year, because it works so well that it's a full, intense day. I’d much rather keep the current format than having more frequent, but shorter sessions.

Frederic: I hope I find time to contribute to the learning materials. They are already excellent and I would really like to help expand on that. A huge win would be adding some basic design principles to the curriculum so people know better what to build once they’ve mastered the tools. But more than anything I’d love to see some familiar faces of people who started out as learners coming back as coaches to share their experience.

Would you come back to a CSSclasses event? What would you want to do there and what would you like to learn next?

Nynne: There are really so many things I’d like to keep on learning. Part of it has to do with understanding CSS better and realizing its full potential, and part of it is about working more on the craft of actually designing visually compelling and user-friendly sites and platforms. This stuff is fun and enjoyable on its own, but will probably also help me as a backend developer to build better structures. And of course I’d like to coach at some point and give back to the community!

Frederic: I would love to continue learning about advanced techniques like the CSS Grid Layout Module and also maybe look more into the intersection of CSS and JavaScript.


Thank you both for your time and hopefully see you at the next one (whichever one you choose that to be!)

All materials for CSSclasses are available online, so feel free to contribute, teach others, or start learning CSS yourself. Keep up to date with CSSclasses on Twitter and be sure to check the CSSclasses website for further information.

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