Hi, I’m a web designer. I make websites for a living. I try to keep up with how things are getting done in the industry in order to continue to make websites.
That means I learn new things. I’m fortunate to spend a lot of time learning about new stuff. I consult with and work with a lot of different clients and by extension get to learn new tools and technologies. I’m lucky I get to hear a ton of great conference talks. I listen to podcasts, read books, and subscribe to newsletters. I spend far too much time on Twitter, where I do my best to keep up with the latest in the industry. I’d even venture to guess I spend a fair amount more time than the average web designer learning new stuff.
Occasionally, when struggling with learning new technologies and tools, I’ll make observations and quips along the lines of, “This is hard.” or “I don’t understand this.” or “Wow this seems complicated.”
From there, all hell breaks loose.
One cluster of people come out of the woodwork to say:
“YEAH THAT SHIT IS DUMB.”
“PEOPLE SHOULDN’T EVER USE THAT STUFF.”
“I PROUDLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE THAT STUFF.”
“PEOPLE THAT USE THAT STUFF ARE STUPID.”
And then I have a whole other cluster of people shouting me down with:
“WHY DO YOU HATE TECHNOLOGY, BRAD?”
“ACTUALLY IT’S NOT HARD YOU JUST…”
“THESE TOOLS ARE INCREDIBLE AND YOU’RE ATTACKING THEM?!”
“IT’S EASY FOR ME AND THEREFORE IT’S EASY FOR EVERYONE.”
“YOU JUST NEED TO SUCK IT UP AND GET OVER YOURSELF”
“YOU FUCKING LUDDITE.”
“JUST USE THESE TOOLS AND STOP COMPLAINING.”
It’s fucking exhausting. It’s annoying to hear a slew of assumptions about my thoughts and my intentions. To clarify, when I say stuff like “Wow this seems complicated.” I mean, “Wow, this seems complicated.” That’s it. I’m certainly not attacking whatever specific tool or technology I’m talking about. I’m saying that it seems complicated, and that’s coming as someone who spends a fair amount of time trying to keep up with the latest and greatest.
I think being simultaneously curious and skeptical of new technology is a healthy attitude to have. If I had to put myself on a technology adoption curve, I’d probably put myself somewhere right in the middle.
I want to learn new things in order to keep making good websites. I also think there’s a lot of value in talking about the difficulty in learning new things. There are big paradigm shifts happening, and I’m finding my mind and my experience doesn’t always map well to these new paradigms. And because I apparently have to spell everything out, that’s not saying those paradigm shifts are wrong, it’s just that there’s a learning curve involved that warrants discussion. Because I spend a whole lot of my waking hours committed to making websites and learning about making websites, and a whole bunch of other people don’t have that luxury. If I’m finding this stuff hard, then I’d venture to guess other people are finding it hard as well.
That turns out to be the case. When I talk about this stuff, I have a lot of people — even seasoned, prominent people — quietly whisper to me, “I think this stuff is hard too.” There’s something very depressing about that. I believe that openness and sharing is what makes the web industry amazing, which is why it’s unsettling that these conversations increasingly feel like they’re driven underground. It’s especially depressing when women and people of color tell me now they especially don’t want to say anything too loudly.
We need to be able to candidly and thoughtfully talk about technology without people assuming you’re calling that technology and the people who create/use it garbage. We have to be mindful of the community we’re fostering, and encourage people to freely discuss all this stuff without getting dog piled on. And although I wish people wouldn’t take things so seriously and jump to the worst interpretation of a joke, I recognize I have to watch the tone of how I discuss all of this stuff.
Or maybe just fuck all of this. Maybe I should just shut up and silently slog through it all.