I think sometimes we forget that us people who work on the web maybe see things a bit differently to those in other jobs. From the earliest days of the web, we learned how to make sites from viewing each other’s source code, we’d write articles or blog posts around a method, process or technique. Maybe what we’d figured out might help someone else in a similar position. Social media came along and we’d have the capability to share everything through to what we had for breakfast. It’s a powerful opportunity we have readily available.
We’re the early adopters. We’re the ones who will answer a question from a total stranger on Twitter who may be experiencing a technical problem we can help with. We’re the ones that’ll share something that’s happened somewhere far away in another part of the world in seconds. Sharing is part of life on the web. It’s integral to how so many of us can do what we do. Without that reflex; offering up our own experiences with no expectation of direct reward, maybe we wouldn’t even be working on the web. I know I wouldn’t.
The web has gone from being a platform to facilitate collaboration between academics through to an immense, diverse, sprawling, messy, beautiful, ugly place. As wonderful as it’s been to connect us and help us to be more than individuals, it also amplifies the darker sides of humanity. The brevity and ease of publishing often leads to loss of context, loss of intent, confusion and misinterpretation. One person’s difference of opinion can be another person’s troll. One person’s right to privacy can be another’s wall of anonymity to hide behind. If we want to, we can hold on to the positive side of sharing.
When I got the chance to write for The Pastry Box, I had a few ideas of what I might write about but not enough for all 12 posts over the course of a year. I’ve never gotten myself into a habit of blogging, which I’ve always regretted. I post on Twitter a fair amount about but often find the character constraint too small to express what’s on my mind in a way that I feel might be of use to anyone else or to debate anything in a meaningful way. Bound by conventions and constraints of tools, I’m often not sure how to share whatever I have on my mind. That may just be a personal failing of mine but I think the ability to have a deadline on a regular basis has really worked.
I think I’ve surprised myself by sharing not just observations about what we do but personal stories and things I’d struggled to even share with family. I don’t know if any of it has been of use to anyone else but the process of creating something, however small, that means something to me has been entirely worthwhile. It’s been a great platform and I’m grateful to Alex & Katy for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their project this year. If there’s anything I’ll take away from this, it’s that I need to find a way to share that works for me.
It feels like in many ways I owe a debt to everyone that ever blogged a CSS fix, shared some code to do something I wasn’t yet capable of doing, or opened my eyes to something in UX or design. Finding a way to try to contribute in a similar way feels like it’s part of the job, part of the web and it’s all the better for it. That could sound like pressure. Like we have a real obligation. In a sense there is some truth in that. Everyone is at a different place in terms of what we know, what we do and what path we’ve taken to get there. Never make the assumption that your experiences or knowledge is any less worth publishing in some form than anyone else's. A first year college student has so many experiences I can’t know – about coming into the web as it is now, confronted by the realities of our times which are far beyond when I was that age. An older person who has perhaps recently discovered blogging would be as fascinating as any of the brilliant stuff we share in the sense of improving our skills. This is one of the most amazing strengths of the web. It’s all about people.
Every time we share on the web, we have a choice. We can choose to be supportive or sarcastic, share something we’ve learned or tear someone down. It’s not always easy to see how our words will be interpreted but each time we publish we have a choice. To try to make the web a good place. To try to be more than an individual by contributing to something bigger than ourselves.