Sunday, February 14 2010
Somehow it happened in my life that I ended up being a web developer. That's one of my talents, but I have others. I can fix computers or do household wiring. I probably wouldn't be a bad copy editor, field botanist, or dishwasher. Yet web development is what I do for money. It's a talent that grew out of basic HTML knowledge combined with laziness and an adolescent ability to program. After automating myself out of one dull job after another, I eventually became the master of server-side robots, and so I have remained. When I tell most people that I am a web developer, they hear "web designer" and picture crimson sites with rainbows, animated angels, and ravenous mailboxes. They don't know about databases or backends or the philosophy of separating content from presentation. It doesn't really bother me that most people can't distinguish what I do from magic, but I do feel demeaned when they think of me as a designer in a visual sense. As an artist, graphic design has value, but in the world of computers it feels hopelessly trivial and superficial. Indeed, in most of my backend designs, I strive to make it so that the presentation of the front end can be a trivial afterthought.
Nevertheless, occasionally I find myself working with people for whom all variations in the display of data are some mix between magic and trivial. Right now one of my projects is one for which my only recompense is the fractional ownership of a company that probably will never exist. The guy who directs this project has power over me, mostly because he's been lucky enough to approach me during periods when I've had little work, and I'm a man of my word, continuing to work on his projects even when they devour time I should be spending on paying projects that later arise. This particular project includes a calendar that I'd been displaying as a conventional 30 or 31 block display of days. This had been fine until a phone conference today, when he suddenly wanted a weekly display broken into fifteen minute intervals. The difference between these displays is not trivial, and yet somehow he seemed to be assuming it was (given a looming deadline four days in the future). This ignorance was momentarily infuriating, but somehow I was able to sublimate it. When what you do is basically magic, it's best not to allow your clients to discern the level of the magic involved.
This evening Gretchen and I celebrated Valentine's Day at our favorite Kingston Indian Restaurant in Uptown. The place was crowded tonight, though we were the only ones there who had thought ahead enough to bring our own wine.
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