Web Professional Anger

Web Developer snarky tshirts.

Rockin the nastiness in 100% cotton.

I am trying to name an elephant in the room occupied by those of us who work on the web. A recent Twitter exchange with another web professional reminded me that if we are not careful, web professionals immerse ourselves so thoroughly in what we do on a day-to-day basis that we ignore the facts on the ground: people. Those darned people. You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without ’em.

The web is one of those things that works best when it remains transparent: easy to create, easy to find, easy to use. The bulk of what web professionals do every day is with the intention of improving the experience for others. But, the reems of code written, and the subsequent exponential growth of the web, create an environment where so much is going on that, unless you ARE a web professional, you just don’t get it.

Then, the elephant enters. We grow angry, impatient, and sometimes downright nasty about people not getting it. They are no longer people, they are “users,” “clients,” name your euphemism. We want the world to go along for the ride, to keep up, stop complaining, realize that it’s a new world and either lead, follow, or get out of the way. There is humor all over devoted to making fun of that naive world of “users” that we have created. A personal favorite is here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell. A positively insanely funny episode of the IT Crowd called “The Internet” lays this out succinctly:

Then, there are the t-shirts (above).

A lot of this humor is legitimate. People do ask me to fix their home wireless network which has nothing to do with html, css, Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other of the technologies that I can actually negotiate as a web developer. The computer, to the average person, is a black box of magic, and any magician will do. As a community in the aggregate, web developers seem as incapable of grokking onto that reality as those pesky “users” are incapable of seeing that with respect to routers, wifi, and DNS servers, we, too are merely humble clients (who know enough to be dangerous, but not effective). This is one of the reasons why I find web developer conferences so uncomfortable: Half the equation is missing — that is, the actual people that use the tools and environments we are building. I realize that conferences are necessary to exchange information and to grow, but, I’m extremely socially uncomfortable at them. Faculty Academy is the only conference I’ve attended where the people (educators in specific) and the developers meet in a non-judgmental exchange and — surprise! — understanding ensues all around.

I’m not immune to this attitude. I laugh at this stuff, and I complain about “users.” But, it’s not something I hold as a badge of pride. Internally, I do wish that there were a way to exponentially grow compassion within the web development community and, closer to home, within myself.

One point of frustration for me is that I see so many sites not being updated. Since folks have a WordPress installation like no other in the world to work with, I was kind of hoping that they’d catch on to the whole blogging thing. Unfortunately, since we tweaked WordPress so well to make it a viable CMS, posts are not being used so much as pages, and this is starting to wreak havoc on information architecture, which, of course, makes me want to design a snarky t-shirt {“It’s a blogging platform, stupid!,” “Blog for once, will ya? It’s WordPress!”,”Gravity Forms much?” ). DON’T PEOPLE SEE ALL YOU CAN DO, FOR GOD’S SAKE??

So, with all deference to my legitimate frustrations posted earlier this year, the choir I preach to is not the audience with which I’m most frustrated, and for whom I sincerely want to make things better.

When I hear comments from those in my profession, mirroring back to me my own impatience, I begin to wonder if what we are doing is building a better world for others, or for our own aggrandizement, which makes me feel just a few yards shy of noble.