From time to time, we all need a little pick-me-up. Eight hours straight spent grappling with code is enough to make anyone question the sanity of their existence. So, I’ve written this article to remind web developers why you’re important, why you matter, and why you’re part of a global movement that’s going to shape human history forever. Because, you know, you’re all lovely.
Web developers occupy a strange halfway-house between the world of consumer-focused innovation and the land of computer science. Living there seems to incur the derision of two parties: ‘real-world’ programmers laugh at the notion that the world of the browser could ever approach the complexity of the kind of stuff they do (despite the fact that Facebook is now as code-rich as Windows 7, and Chromium offers a bona fide native experience via a browser), and the real world’s never really broken free of the image of web development geeks as code-monkey (although it can be one of the most creative, intellectual professions in the world).
Let them have their say. Because, right now, being a web developer is about more than pushing out code. It’s about more than making good websites. I’m not unusual, for a web dev – in my spare time, I’ll contribute to open-source projects that are going to wind up powering mind-blowing technology in years to come; I’ll vote in polls to define and declare what technologies the graphical interfaces of the future should and should not use. But we’re not even scratching the surface.
The web is, hands-down, the most efficient way to disseminate information to a huge audience. It’s a great acid test of what matters to people, with discovery and personalisation services competing to bring less prominent material to attention. It’s a (relatively) flat playing field, too: if you’ve got good content, you’ll get an audience (assuming that you’re reasonably operationally competent).
This has propelled the Internet to become a – maybe the – globally dominant force in little over two decades. It is at once the ultimate communication technology, sharing portal, and discovery device. And it was built by web developers – people who, together, built and maintain the technologies that power the whole thing. It’s a rare career that you get to contribute, daily, to the most powerful product in the world.
Thanks to the fact that we’re all in essence refining the world’s most effective communication tool, it’s not surprising that web developers have a wider collaborative circle than any other profession I can think of. Take a look at Stack Overflow, GitHub, CodePen: these are custom-built tools that allow highly-skilled people to collaborate on projects without ever needing to meet face-to-face. They’re the places where the technologies that will power the internet of tomorrow are made. And, in the most part, the only qualification you need is your ability.
Global connection, a real and practical purpose, and a direct impact on outcomes that will affect untold billions around the world for years to come: there are few jobs that can offer this kind of satisfaction. All this, before we even consider that individual web designers, developers and managers get to use – as a matter of necessity – the best laptops money can buy.
In years to come, web developers will be able to look back at current events and not only say ‘I was there’, but ‘I made that happen’. Is there anything more self-affirming than that?
image courtesy of: wired