Sometimes I have to stop and just wonder at the world we live in now. It’s pretty cool living in the future. Right now we have handheld devices that allow us to contact anyone anywhere in the world, give us directions, play games, take photos, share memories, and much more – all in a single device. We can communicate instantaneously with people we would otherwise never be able to via avenues like Twitter, Facebook, and others. For example, Whitney Hess is someone of note in my industry. I’ve seen her an An Event Apart and started following her on Twitter. Several times something she has said interested me and I responded. Several times she has responded back and even once, retweeted me. I say this not to “toot my own horn” but to use an example that happened to me to prove a point – this is not something that could have happened 30, 20, or maybe even 10 years ago. Not only did we not have these avenues of communication but we didn’t have the mentality of public communication like Twitter or social networking. I am a relative nobody – a simple, average, web designer / UI developer, i.e. nothing of note. But through the power of the Internet and these tools built on it I’m able to communicate with people like Whitney, able to see funny / silly videos Wil Wheaton posts, and able to be exposed to the wonders of Felicia Day – who’s content wouldn’t have had a viable medium even 10 years ago.
The growth and acceptance of the Internet has allowed someone of average means to reach out to audiences that would, typically, be closed to them. Content creators can post videos on YouTube that go viral and are seen by millions of viewers. Artists can put their comics on the web bypassing traditional print media and make a living doing the thing they love. A web designer of modest talent can build a couple of modest themes, put them out on the web, and have them downloaded over 9000 times with hundreds of sites using them still years later. One can Skype with a person 3000 miles away that you’ve known for years but never met physically and be able to see them in totality – their voice, inflection, body mannerisms, etc. Or play a video game with a friend in another state on Xbox Live. We are able to juggle vastly larger social groups with minimal effort because of the technology and tools we have today. It truly is amazing.
>Perhaps it’s because of my age that I notice this. Having grown up in the infancy of the web, having used AOL with the iconic dial up tone and chat rooms, remembering before Google was not only a site but a word, and having seen it all change – surging forth at near the speed of light in just a blink of time really puts it in perspective for me more than my younger cousins / friends / acquaintances for whom a cell phone has always been a necessity, rather than a luxury. A few years ago I got my first real smartphone – one with Android – and to this day it still amazes me that it has more power and functionality than the first laptop I owned. I’m also blessed in that my generation – more so than my parents – rode this initial wave and so we accepted it rather than feared or misunderstood it’s power and opportunity.
The truly amazing thing is this is just the beginning. While dangers lurk – threats against our privacy (many, ironically stemming from our willingness to over share), net neutrality, and “walled gardens” like Facebook (as AOL was once upon a time), etc – technology is going to progress forward. In just over 10 years when my niece and nephew are at the age I was when I first started on the web how much further will we be? How will this openness of communication and tolerance of other cultures, ideas and life choices due to increased exposure fundamentally change our society and world? It’s both incredibly promising and terrifying at the same time. Ironically, that’s exactly how it felt as a teenager, first dialing in to the “World Wide Web” promising unlimited information, potential and, possibly, danger.
So, tl;dr living in the future is amazing. More so when we stop and actually realize how blessed we are, the opportunities it grants us, and how it is truly only the beginning.
I have not blogged in a long time. Mostly this is due to a combination of procrastination and a sense that anything I did wish to say about the industry – HTML5, CSS3, vendor prefixes, progressive enhancement, responsive design, etc – was being said better by someone with far more reason to listen to then myself.
I’ve come to two realizations. One is that even if I reiterate some points that others make – specifically by attributing them – that it’s beneficial as it shows and builds my understanding of the issue as well as – by attribution and, therefore, SEO – strengthens the views expressed by the “giants” of my industry. Second is that sometimes it’s ok to “remove the mask” and show the human side. Reading the blogs of my peers and mentors has shown that they have a willingness to showcase not just industry knowledge. Through this I’ve gained an appreciation for both the person and their skill as well as a better understanding of them as a whole.
This second realization is what I wish to touch on today as the last year saw two life defining moments for me.
The first was one many here in the US felt. For almost 5 years I was the sole and principal UI developer for Helium. My code still exists everywhere on their site. Last July I lost my position with Helium.
For many, especially myself, we are defined by our jobs. First because in having a career it validates us to have a job. It shows that a company trusts our skill enough to validate us by paying us to do something we love. Something we do on our own – often without compensation. Second because it gives us purpose. Having a job is a responsibility – a reason to get up every morning, get in our car, and drive to an office. We have responsibilities to our fellow developers and to our users – something that all (good) developers feel and are motivated by.
Fortunately, in my case, this was actually a good thing. At the end of my time with Helium I was spending a good portion of my week working from home and sleeping very little. This was because I was spending most of my hours as the primary caretaker for my dad who was under hospice care. On August 3, 2012 we lost Dad.
Dad had suffered a stroke and heart attack back in 2004 and almost died then. He was never the same after the stroke but he was living and happy – and that was good enough. For the year or so before he passed Dad had been acting erratically. We didn’t realize how serious it was until he ended up going into the hospital in May and they told us. We had a scare in June and then in the beginning of July, after much cajoling – as Dad was always stubborn – we convinced him to move in with me so I could take care of him.
Losing Dad was difficult. However, in the eulogy I talked about something my Faith has taught me – seeing the blessing even in the bad. Losing someone I was close to changed my perspective on life. Different things are important to me now. I don’t worry so much about things that aren’t worth worrying about. While I falter sometimes – as we all do – for the most part I know to focus on what is really important and not to let the small things in life get me down. I’ve learned to count my blessings. For that part of it, I’m thankful.