More thoughts by Dan Denney
The W3C is keeping a copy of the first website ever made online. If they weren’t, though, it could just be gone forever. This makes me wonder what we should be doing to preserve things from this digital world that we are creating.
As we move more parts of our daily life to bits instead of materials, are we risking their total loss? We have learned so much about human life by archeologists piecing together drawings, writings, tools and personal items found from people that lived long before us. As we do less of that on materials that don’t require power, I believe that we have to be more adamant about ensuring that there is a way to protect them.
It seems like we need a plan for preserving things both digitally and physically. Like we do with national parks or historic zoning, maybe we should protect significant properties. Showing an archived progress of sites like dictionary.com and Wikipedia (amongst others) would say a lot about the internet and human life. There also needs to be protection against the biggest enemy of our digital world: lack of power. We have always lost important artifacts to fire, natural disasters and human destruction. Digital items are significantly more fragile in that they require specific technology and power in order to access them.
It’s important to keep moving and growing the internet at this fast pace because it is changing the world. I just think that some of us might need to make sure there’s a way for people to know how we did it.
Lately I’ve been wondering what is next for web conferences and events. More specifically: what events will get created that engage the talented people in the intermediate to advanced range?
Since attending my first FOWD in 2009, I’ve noticed serious growth in the number of available events. In the U.S. and the U.K., you can attend a high-quality event every month.
There are many events that are a mix of beginner-to-intermediate topics and some events where topics lean towards the thought leaders. While everyone can benefit from the camaraderie and inspiration that comes from attending any of these, many reach a level where only a couple of presentations at an event teach them something new.
During this growth period in skill development, the bulk of learning is done hands-on (preferably working with people who have more advanced and varied skills). I’d love to see some events pop up that are focused on this group.
I’m thinking that they would take pieces from conferences, workshops, hackathons and competitions like the Rails Rumble. There would need to be discussion, coordination and a goal for creating something. Let’s figure out a way to get groups of people together to share knowledge and create awesome.
You often hear about people learning a trade from an elder, choosing it for their path and working their entire career in that trade. Given the amount of change that web design and development has created in the world, it amazes me that it is not yet old enough for anyone to have done that. We’re really just getting started.
As far back as trade work goes, there has always been someone who excels at the craft teaching others. In 2011, Kevin Hale gave a fantastic keynote at Converge SE, that led me to dive into research into craftsmanship and guilds. The history is so wonderful and I highly recommend reading The Craftsman. In the pursuit of mastery, people have learned directly from a master in their area. Many even lived in their master’s home and helped with other household chores in exchange for the teachings.
As communities grew, people formed guilds and established guildhalls for meetings and information sharing. These were formed for many reasons, my favorite of which is the good-hearted sharing of knowledge. However, there were plenty of examples where they were created in order to “influence” the flow of trade or in secret as a response to political happenings. Either way, there were now groups of people getting together to share that had learned from various masters (or journeymen at that point).
The very nature of the web made it so that people could instantly share their information with people all over the world. This is is a huge reason for the amount of impact that we have made. However, we’re missing out on something.
Blog posts, tutorials, online code challenges, magazine articles, books, etc. all inspire people to learn, but there is so much nuance lost in getting them into the medium. Watching someone perform their tasks is so important.
There are a few people beginning to do this and I hope for much more of it. The Sparkbox team are running an apprenticeship program and Chris Coyier is running The Lodge. I share them both because one is in-office training and the other is video training. I understand that not everyone can allow people in their office (or homes for that matter) to watch them in action. Screen recording and talking through processes is a really close example and can capture much more of the nuance involved with creating something for the web. (It’s much more powerful when done over the course of an entire project.)
I hope to see lots more of things like these.
I have a really bad habit or anti-habit that I am trying to break. Documentation and specs are often the last place that I look when I’m trying to figure things out. (I know, I know. I’m so glad I can’t see the look of horror and disdain on your face.)
When I’m messing with something new, I tend towards “just figuring it out” or Googling in order to find related blog posts and Stack Overflow questions. I’ve tweeted questions and even reached out specifically to people involved with the project to ask a question before reading documentation. Super bad. (I’m on Twitter a lot so I also know I'm not the only one with this habit.)
I’m not sure why I’m so documentation averse. Maybe it’s growing up in the 80s and 90s where novels were shipped with electronic devices to explain them. Anyhow, something clicked a while back and I’ve been slowly changing my evil ways. I realized that the people I look up to in front-end development all learn by reading specs and documentation, then experimenting. I could tell from their blog posts or their in-office explanations that they dive into these mysterious collections of information and learn useful information that makes them better.
I’ve been playful about explaining this, but here is my real point. Documentation is seriously underrated in our community and the people who write it tend to be unsung heroes. A ton of work goes into writing supporting docs. If you make the time to really read them you will learn so much more. The more that we focus on consuming docs, the better they will become.
If you’re like me, let’s dive into the docs a little more and use Twitter to thank people for writing them.
We all know that it is important to find a good balance between life and work. What doesn’t get shared as often is how important it is to balance work that inspires you and work that does not. My all-time favorite quote is from Howard Thurman and he says “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
If you have been watching the activity in the design and dev community over the past couple of years, you will see countless examples of people who did this. It had never been more apparent to me than a couple of weeks ago at Converge SE in Columbia, SC. Every speaker that shared their story on the main day had a common theme. They worked on something that made them come alive (in addition to their daily job or work). Doing this led to some big opportunity or career change and ultimately led them to the stage to inspire us.
On an individual level we see people doing this kind of work (and sharing it) earn new positions or the type of clients that they really enjoy. At the company level, we see teams that build their own product get picked up by bigger companies to work on products with more impact. I can’t say how much longer it will last, but be sure to strike while the iron is hot.
Our industry is spoiled right now. The demand for what we do significantly outweighs the supply of people who can do it well. The things that we build are creating new industries with new opportunities and shaking up existing ones. There is work out there that would make you happily get out of the bed in the morning or work late at night. You just have to show the world that you want it.
Here are the dates of Dan Denney's future thoughts
- Monday, 17 June
- Wednesday, 17 July
- Saturday, 17 August
- Tuesday, 17 September
- Thursday, 17 October
- Sunday, 17 November
- Tuesday, 17 December