On Wednesday, September 30th, 2020, we spoke with Obed Parlapiano about his popular React blog series on Mental Models. A mental model is a concept used to reason about a system or process. Obed wrote up visual representations along with crisp descriptions of several critical parts of React application development. The recording of our broadcast, React Mental Models with Obed Parlapiano is available on Youtube.
Obed thought up the blog series and ideas when some friends wanted to get into application development. He wanted to have a place to send them to learn more about important React concepts. As a visual learner, images and drawings appeal to Obed more than articles or videos. He couldn’t find an existing website that explained these React concepts in the way he liked; thus, he decided to make his own.
Some example topics covered in Obed’s article series are what React components are, how to think about Component props, and various hooks like useState, and useEffect. Each has an excellent, concise explanation, along with a visual representation to make the concept clear. The first article is titled “A Visual Guide to React Mental Models” and addresses components, properties, closures, and the like. The second article is titled “A Visual Guide To React Mental Models, Part 2: UseState, UseEffect And Lifecycles” covering several hooks and lifecycles of React internals.
Christian Pillsbury from the Digital Primates consulting team attended the interview. He mentioned that our company has an extensive training program to teach React application development principles. The program also relies on the use of mental models, not only as a mechanism to understand complex topics, but also to have a shared vocabulary for our technical consultants to discuss issues more effectively.
Obed agreed with this point and explained that he worked hard to avoid big, fancy words during the article creation phase, instead distilling the topics down to simple, easily digestible forms.
An example is how Obed relates Closures to boxes with the insides insulated from the outside world.
During part of the broadcast, we discussed the different learning styles we’ve seen in technical communities. There’s no right way to learn anything. The right method depends on the learner’s proclivities, the type of subject material, how much detail they need, and their readiness to absorb certain concepts. Twitch user bluemilkrun correctly pointed out that the learning depends on how well-formed the learner’s existing mental model is. If the foundational models are mostly correct, it’s relatively straightforward to add new concepts on top. If the foundational elements are not correct, there will be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance that must be dealt with before the learner can add new topics on top of the foundational ones.
We found Obed and his mental models article through our Enterprise React newsletter. One of our developer team submitted the article for inclusion. I read the article myself and felt like I learned a bit more about React because of the clear examples and concise visuals. So far, Obed has two articles out on this topic, and there is an industry rumor of a third article coming sometime before the end of this year. We’ll be awaiting publication!