I learned HTML in 1998, by viewing source code and trying to replicate what I’ve seen. I built on that knowledge by making my own websites: about myself, about books and series that I loved, communities like the long-forgotten web rings and those cute little adoptable graphics. (Which brings me to another point: I learned to make graphics and some pixel art from those days, too.)
I learned CSS shortly after, as I made websites, starting from the shiny that is absolute positioning and continuing on to learn about fluid layouts, floating, the box model, etc. as I went along. My shrines and cutesy sites made way to personal journals and blogs.
I learned PHP on my own in 2002 or 2003, after I started liking Python for web apps but found it difficult to find an affordable web host with Python–PHP was much more available. I used it for small websites–directories, cliques, and making my own little script to manage fanlistings, which were becoming a big part of what I did online. (I wish I could say I learned SQL on my own, but not really–I took up database courses in college.)
I think it speaks a lot of how learning for yourself, and using it as you learn, is one of the best ways to learn. And this year, I think it’s high time I learn something new again, and use it in something I build while I learn.
I haven’t decided what the new tool will be–a new framework? a new language?–nor the product, for that matter. But I do know that making time for pet projects opened me up to much more than just the enjoyment of creating and building for myself, that it’s something I want to do for myself this year.
So in 2011, I’ll learn and create something new.