I have been building web things for more than ten years. I was there when Zeldman told us to drop
<table> and start using this thing called "CSS". I don't actually feel that old (or wise) yet, but where wisdom remains elusive, I most certainly am developing a whole lot of grumpiness — and a very ambiguous love/hate relationship with the speed at which the web is growing.
The web is great
I love many things about working on the web as a frontend developer: The freedom of choice, the boundless opportunities for learning, the open-mindedness, the glorious selflessness and generosity of open source. There is something new every week, something great every month, and inspiring thinking is published not daily or hourly, but probably every milisecond.
On the other hand, it's this sheer mass, breadth and speed of evolution that threatens to leave me winded whenever I open Twitter or look at the massive amount of unread items in my feed reader (yes, some people still use those).
A simple definition of fulfillment
A recent trip to Bologna to the fifth and, sadly, last instalment of the From the Front conference provided some much needed insights. One quote from Lyza Danger Gardner's talk "Everyone else is so clever" really resonated with me:
"The trick is to seek out work that makes you feel both competent and challenged at the same time."Lyza Danger Gardner
It actually seems to be quite simple when you look at it this way. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing; focus on the task at hand and figure out the best way to go about it. My best way might differ from yours, but that's okay. My best way is shaped so that it let's me feel competent, but also encourages me to try out something new if I think it appropriate.
Two days ago I chanced upon an article on Mashable that I remember from when it was published in 2014 but had since forgotten. If you're a programmer and have never read "Programming Isn't Manual Labor, But It Still Sucks", then do yourself a favor and read it. It will make you laugh and discharge some of the pressure you may be feeling.
Some key points are:
- All programming teams are constructed by and of crazy people
- All code is bad
- A lot of work is done on the Internet and the Internet is its own special hellscape
One big mess
Coincidentally, ppk published a great piece titled "Web development as a hack of hacks" today. The article consists of cherry-picked answers from a Hacker News thread of the same name and ppk's opinionated commentary. I wholeheartedly subscribe to his perspective of the current state of frontend development.
It's a big mess right now, but it's also a great kind of mess. There's hope that the current burst of innovation in the frontend scene is indeed our Cambrian explosion that leads not to more or better frameworks, but to more and better standards.
And most importantly, to take a breath, look at the task before me and make a measured decision on how to get it built.