Of impostor syndrome and running in circles (part 3)Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 at 3:15 pm
These are the notes of my talk at SmartWebConf in Romania. Part 1 covered how Impostor Syndrome cripples us in using what we hear about at conferences. It covered how our training and onboarding focuses on coding instead of human traits. In Part 2 I showed how many great things browsers do for us we don’t seem to appreciate. In this final part I’ll explain why this is and why it is a bad idea. This here is a call to action to make yourself feel better. And to get more involved without feeling inferior to others.
This is part 3 of 3.
- Part 1: never stop learning and do it your way
- Part 2: you got what you asked for, time to use it
- Part 3: give up on the idea of control and become active
It is an inspiring feeling to be the person who solved a web-wide issue. It boosts our ego to see that people rely on our brains to solve issues for them. It is great to see them become more effective and faster and free to build the next Facebook.
It gets less amazing when you want to move on and do something else. And when people have outrageous demands or abuse your system. Remy Sharp lately released a series of honest and important blog posts on that matter. “The toxic side of free” is a great and terrifying read.
Releasing software or solutions as open source is not the same as making it available for free. It is the start of a long conversation with users and contributors. And that comes with all the drama and confusion that is human interaction. Open Source is free as in puppy. It comes with responsibilities. Doing it wrong results in a badly behaving product and community around it.
Help stop people falling off the bleeding edge
If you embrace the idea that open source and publishing on the web is a team effort, you realise that there is no need to be on the bleeding edge. On the opposite – any “out there” idea needs a group of peers to review and use it to get data on how sensible the idea really is. We tend to skip that part all too often. Instead of giving feedback or contributing to a solution we discard it and build our own. This means all we have to do is to deal with code and not people. It also means we pile on to the already unloved and unused “amazing solutions” for problems of the past that litter the web.
The average web page is 2MB with over 100 http requests. The bulk of this is images, but there is also a lot of JS and CSS magical solutions in the mix.
If we consider that the next growth of the internet is not in the countries we are in, but in emerging places with shaky connectivity, our course of action should be clear: clean up the web.
Of course we need to innovate and enhance our web technology stack. At the same time it is important to understand that the web is an unprecedented software environment. It is not only about what we put in, it is also about what we can’t afford to lose. And the biggest part of this is universal access. That also means it needs to remain easy to turn from consumer into creator on the web.
If you watch talks about internet usage in emerging countries, you’ll learn about amazing numbers and growth predictions.
- Bruce Lawson: Ensuring a performant web for the next billion people (SOTB2015) (Bruce’s slides)
- Tim Kadlec Better by Proxy (Mobilism 2015) (Tim’s Slides)
You also learn about us not being able to control what end users see. Many of our JS solutions will get stripped out. Many of our beautiful, crafted pictures optimised into a blurry mess. And that’s great. It means the users of the web of tomorrow are as empowered as we were when we stood up and fought against browser monopolies.
So there you have it: you don’t have to be the inventor of the next NPM module to solve all our issues. You can be, but it shouldn’t make you feel bad that you’re not quite interested in doing so. As Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame put it:
We all have different desires and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled.
So, be active. Don’t feel intimidated by how clever other people appear to be. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get thousands of followers and GitHub stars. Find what you can do, how you can help the merging of bleeding edge technologies and what goes into our products. Above all – help the web get leaner and simpler again. This used to be a playground for us all – not only for the kids with the fancy toys.
You do that by talking to the messy kids. Those who build too complex and big solutions for simple problems. Those doing that because clever people told them they have to use all these tools to build them. The people on the bleeding edge are too busy to do that. You can. And I promise, by taking up teaching you end up learning.