I was drawn to the web inspired by the potential that open information sharing offered the world. That was the enticing lure. No matter what I work on in my lifetime, I hope to leave positive contributions toward furthering that potential. Sometimes it might be work dedicated entirely to the cause, other times it may be byproducts of another system. Regardless, by and large I’m happy knowing when the work I do is good work.
The achievements of our connected technology are almost always expressed and preached in terms of global effect. Bringing everyone closer together. The websites we build, the applications and services, are accessible to all, and success (when not measured in terms of raw financial return) is measured in reach and broad social impact. Even niche successes will attract users the world over.
In traditional industry, the growth of new business will have a dramatic physical impact on the local economy and culture. The growth in goods manufacture will profoundly affect local employment, local wealth, all manner of supporting industries and suppliers, and influence the focus of local education. It may bring immigration and diversity, it may also affect the local environment negatively with the introduction of pollutants and waste. Either way, it is an active, physical effect. Furthermore, a physical product itself will initially target local consumption.
With development for the web, there are similarities, but the immediate, global nature of the internet causes me to struggle with a disconnect from my local contribution. What do we provide to our community itself? How do we offer our work to the benefit of the people most closely surrounding us? Is it even possible to do so when also appealing to the entire world?
I think that it is a natural desire to contribute positively to our local community, and to do so through our work. We want to build things that make a difference to people whose faces we see; those whom we interact with in the course of our daily life. The web can seem like a difficult medium through which to do that, everything is so broad and so big intrinsically.
Although local people may make up just a small drop of everyone who can see your work, they are there. It’s just that sometimes you need to adjust your mindset a bit to recognise where you fit in. It’s a lot smaller on the ground, but it’s your direct contribution to society, and it’s important to be engaged with it.