A few weeks back, I put out the call for a mentee for 2017. As part of the application process, I asked folks to publicly discuss why they love the Web. The applicants shared some amazing stories, anecdotes, and experiences in those posts and I wanted to take a moment to share them with you.1 I present them here, in order of submission.
I still remember the first time a friend with a different provider gave me their email address. I was used to the cozy confines of AOL, where emailing another user required only their “screen name”–what we think of today as the part that goes before the @ sign. (Mine was Maxinator1.)
“What’s this funny stuff at the end, after your screen name?” I asked.
“That’s the domain. Mine’s compuserve dot com. Yours must be AOL dot com.”
“What? You can’t not be on AOL.”
“How do you look at keywords?”
Believe it or not, the invention of the web was not to give me something to do when I grew up.
I see power in the web for the very real capacity it has for good — communication and connection, access to communication, and on and on. And just like magic, it can be wielded in the interest of the light or the darkness (and those lines aren’t always the clearest). I want to do what I can to use it for good.
I will never stop learning, and I will never stop putting myself out of my financial and intellectual comfort zone. I think that, ultimately, this attitude will lead me to be very successful, even if it means being dirt poor for the next few years :}
Web design and web development are not (just) about writing the most flexible, reactive and dynamic app, impressing colleagues and clients, and earning awards. First and foremost it’s about people using our products. I believe that from time to time we all need to be reminded of that fact.
I can still remember what it was like to build my first website. I had absolutely no clue how to do stuff, it was all trial and error. But going back and forth between blogs, tutorials and stack overflow, watching other people work, shamelessly copying bits and pieces — I improved.
The fact that I can just hit
view sourceon any website and see how it’s made still amazes me.
Altough I have a degree in web development now, I can honestly say that I learnt most of what I do by soaking up information available on the open web.
This is only made possible by lots of talented people who not only produce great work, but dedicate their time and energy to show others how to do it, too. I don’t know any other profession with such an open exchange of knowledge.
People from around the world actually work together on open-source projects, just to build something that others can use. Top developers in the field will share their latest findings publicly in carefully crafted tutorials and code examples on Github.
Think about how amazing that is — an entire industry where you can learn every last secret of the trade for free — all you need is dedication and an internet connection.
“Inter-Connectivity.” It’s a word I learned from an administrator at work. He challenged his team to reach out and reach through to other organizations. Organizations that are probably striving for the same goal that we are, but are too focused to look left or right to see others that are trying to do the same thing.
It’s why I love the web. The Internet seems to have a knack for inter-connectivity (hyperlinking, search results, purchase recommendations, @mentions, etc). It doesn’t come as naturally for humans at times. It takes risking assumptions and being intentional. Sometimes we need more of that spiderweb mentality and reach out, not just up or down. My administrator was telling us that, yes, we do a great work, but don’t be blinded to think we’re the only ones. Just imagine what good we could do together with more partners that don’t exactly look or function just like us.
I started making websites in the mid-90s when I was still in high school. I was fascinated that I could put something up on the web and people anywhere in the world could see it if they knew where to look. That feeling still inspires me, even after 20 years.
Every time you are revising your knowledge and things you used to accept as ‘it is so simply because it is so’. And very often can happen that during a process of your professional evolution (in fact does not matter what kind of profession you belong to), you were missing some obvious details which could make your present life as the established professional much easier. The most trivial question can open your eyes on some hidden secrets which were escaping from your attention just because there were dozens and dozens of the different and the more interesting things that seemed more important at that time.
What I love about being a developer is that I’m always learning something new and meeting other more senior devs that are so willing to lend a helping hand to newbies.
I love what I do now because my experience in development has been diametrically opposed to that previous job. Solutions to problems are almost never a 1:1 ratio, collaboration is embraced, the pursuit of continual learning is highly encouraged, and the communities I’ve been a part of have been thoroughly supportive.
I thought this was going to be difficult to answer, but it’s actually quite simple — albeit long-winded. I love the immense potential it represents; allowing people to help themselves, allowing people to help others directly, fostering connections in lieu of constant personal contact, delivering new experiences, helping people do good things for free — I could go on. There are just so, so, so many reasons why the web is important. The web extends beyond just websites for me: I used it as a crutch to overcome social anxieties and excessive shyness. I taught myself how to code using resources my parents would not afford on paper. I expressed myself. I entertained myself. I made friends when it was difficult for me to maintain friendships at school — and some of these individuals are close friends of mine seven years later. Heck, the web even introduced to me to my soulmate who is with me in Australia. I loved being on the web and I always wanted to be a creator on it.
There are so many lines being crossed for the sake of monetisation, for the sake of control, and I want this to change. Ultimately, I really want to give back in honour of the faceless strangers that made a lot of my life happen the way it did. The web should be better for everyone.
As a kid, I rarely played with a toy the same way twice. When I got older I spent my waking hours flipping, spinning, and grinding at the skatepark. In school, I pursued graphic design. A few months into my first nine-to-five, I discovered the web.
Every decision along the way was made with that question top-of-mind, “What else can I do with this?”
I want to keep learning until my children send me into a home, or even when I finally take that dirt nap I hear about.
I truly wish I could mentor all of these folks this year, but I’m only one guy with a day job and a family I’d like to see on occasion. This is going to be one heck of a tough choice. I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of these folks (and all of the other applicants) for sharing their stories and their goals with me, with us.
I urge you to read their posts and maybe write one of your own.
- In other words, there were so many great applications that this will buy me some more time to make my decision :-) ↩
This post originally appeared on my blog.