This (Article) is not About Development or Design, it’s About Us

Posted: January 23, 2012 Comments(7)

I realize the core purpose of this site is to discuss Web development and design, but over the past couple of weeks it’s become so apparent to me that the actual work we do every day is just a segment of the big picture.

I’ll stand behind the fact that the work produced, the end product is inherently more valuable than the process by which it was completed or the tools that were used in production, but that process is equally interesting to us, isn’t it? With a focus on just that, I’ve taken a more blatant effort recently in affording more specific attention to those behind the processes; the people I’m blessed to have met and interact with on a consistent basis. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times (and I probably have): the Web community is awesome.

As part of the bigger picture

Every industry has its own culture and when it comes to us, doing client work provides a quick glimpse into the industries we’re hired to work within. To date I haven’t seen a community that begins to compare to ours, and I’d like to encourage you to take advantage of that.

Perhaps the most magnificent attribute of our industry is the knowledge sharing that takes place every single day. I don’t know how much is directly correlated to our industry being enveloped on the best knowledge sharing medium to date, but we constantly give away our secrets. Members of other industries have the very same access to one another we do, but I don’t see the immense volume of [free] peer education taking place every day. I fully realize that my not being equally involved in other industries significantly biases my position, but it leads me to my next point.

In no other industry do I see the camaraderie by way of anti-competition. At any time you could take a quick look at your Twitter timeline to see one designer looking to find someone available for work because said designer is booked solid and can’t take on the inquiry that just came via email. Instead of overextending ourselves, we prefer to guide these inquiries to our trusted colleagues, to share the wealth. It’s not something I’ve seen in many other industries let alone be so prevalent. We don’t compete with one another, we’re all in it to make great stuff without letting greed get in the way. That speaks volumes.

The final piece worth shining a floodlight on is the encouragement we’re surrounded with. Many times a core purpose of our clients is to one-up the competition. I don’t say that in a discouraging way, as a big factor of business is competition. We just don’t see it here. If anything, we’re just as excited about the work other people are doing as we are about our own. We’re not trying to keep things under wraps or deceive one another about the progress we’re making. In fact, we can’t wait to show it off even if it’s just a trial run or a side project. Our industry has specialized in such a way that there’s work to go around, and I think we all recognize that and take comfort in it.

Some backstory

Over the past couple of years I’ve been shown just how much of an introvert I really am. I also learned through that time what introversion really is. My ignorance once told me that an introvert is someone who doesn’t like people, someone who seldom leaves the house unless completely necessary. I once thought that introverts don’t like to talk to people and much prefer a hermit-like lifestyle of seclusion. I thought being an introvert was an excuse to be a bit rude and not give it a second thought. I also thought that an introvert who is active in a community would cease to exist were it not for the Internet.

Introversion is nothing like that, not in the least. I’ve been thinking a lot about how being an introvert can help you to become a valuable part of a community just as much as extroversion can, the path to go about it is just a bit different.

I’m making a point of this because my introversion often takes a toll on my productivity when I let it. Things can get discouraging from time to time and feel fruitless, and I want to try and publicly denounce that in case you’re in the same boat. Don’t mistake recognized introversion for self-deprecation, a line I admittedly tend to blur at least some of the time.

My take, my advice

What does this have to do with the Web community? I’m laying things out like this in hopes of encouraging those of you who have been sitting on the sidelines to jump out and go for it. I’m not saying quit your job and start that company you’ve been planning or to move across the country to be surrounded by venture capital and startups. I’m saying start small. Publish some content to that domain you’ve been holding on to. Push that personal project to GitHub and get the word out. Be more active on Twitter.

Don’t let the fact that “no one is going to read my stuff” keep you from doing things any longer. Of course no one is going to read your stuff. Yet. Things need to start somewhere, and you shouldn’t set a bar for yourself that stems from all things unrealistic. Continuing on that, participating in the community in pursuit of Internet freedom is the wrong way to go about it. Contribute from your heart and exposure will follow, it just takes time and patience from you.

Further, check around your local community for meet-ups to talk shop. It’s a great way to quickly talk about your ideas and projects with people much more likely to follow up after having met you in person. I’m willing to bet that there’s something going on in your area. If you search and find nothing, start one! I think you’d be hard pressed to come up short in a local search for other people working on the Web. Meeting new people online is awesome, it really is, but being able to shake someone’s hand, sit down at a table with them, or stand around in a group with a beer is completely different. Seeing other people in person is nothing short of inspiring, and it will keep you going, it will keep you excited about the work you’re able to do every day. Beyond that, it will present new opportunities to you. Too many times we’re simply curious about the “what if?”s and don’t ask the questions. Having people to get together with regularly and speak to about just those questions is invaluable.

The community you surround yourself with is one of your greatest assets. Ambition, heart, and technical skill can carry you far, but balance comes from those around you. Not only through advice given, but observing the way other people live is a great way to reflect on yourself and to try new things, to be influenced.

Here’s to the community

I wanted to make sure to reflect on the value I see in our community and the respect I have for it. I want to thank you for reading Monday By Noon as 2012 brings the sixth year of publishing. If you’ve been reading that long I can’t thank you enough for sticking with it through the terrible designs, the much to-be-improved writing, and the horrendous schedule I’ve kept as of recently. That’s just another reason I’m so thankful for the support so consistently offered.

We’ve all got a ton of work to do, both professionally and personally, and nothing is a one man show. If you’ve been waiting in the wings for an arbitrary call to action, start planning your first steps toward integration with the community, I think it’s one of the best moves you can make.

I feel really blessed to be involved with you guys, and I wanted to make sure you knew it.

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Comments

  1. Well put Jon. Those are the reasons I’m proud every morning to wake up and get working. This is a catch-and-release industry — we take what we need, yes, but we send most of it back out and share the wealth. I love it.

  2. I can attest, first hand that, without the community of developers I’ve been able to interact with on Twitter, I probably would not have the skill set I currently have as a developer. Whenever I have found myself “stuck”, I have found an endless fount of support from individuals like yourself, Devin Price, Michael Fields, Vassilis Mast or a whole host of developers willing to freely share their knowledge with anyone who asks. Trust me, this rarely happens in the music business, my last industry of employ.

    It took me quite some time to realize that the two industries could not be more different in this regard. When I first entered this industry, I almost never would interact with others thinking, “they’re not willing to help someone just starting out”. How wrong was I? Very! I won’t say that everyone is open to sharing their “secrets”, but the ones who are far outweigh the ones who aren’t. You just have to take the first step and engage.

  3. Well said, Jonathan.

    To date I haven’t seen a community that begins to compare to ours…

    I was chatting with my brother, who works in the marketing department of a large financial org. in lower Manhattan. Even though he’s in marketing and works with design and ad agencies, when we each spoke about what our days usually looks like, it was like we came from two completely different worlds. His day is filled with meetings, layers of approval, and secrecy. Despite being able to learn from other co-workers in his rather large department, he doesn’t network outside of that or online. I’m not sure if success stories like the one Erik Ford describes above are even possible this way.

    For me, the conversation was a stark reminder of how lucky we are for choosing not to be trapped into that kind of thinking.

  4. Jonathan,

    “Perhaps the most magnificent attribute of our industry is the knowledge sharing that takes place every single day.”

    Spot on. This community is second to none and this site was one of the first sources of inspiration when I started my career. Thanks for all of the tips, advice and reviews you’ve published over the years!

  5. You make me feel included in this community, Jonathan. From our quick IM chats every few weeks to the short time we got to hang out in Brooklyn, you’ve been one of my strongest ties to this community of web creators. Thank you.

  6. It is very rare that one would meet a web developer, web designer or an online marketing professional who has not been assisted by the community at some point of time. It is because of the help that is extended when you are learning which obliges you to assist others if you can. It is a culture which should be nurtured and grown if possible.

    @ted thank you for sharing and recognizing your mentors. This indeed good for people like me who are new to the industry or have started reaching out to the community for help (I would say I’m the later).

    Cheers guys keep it up!

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