Dev perception

Chris put together a terrific round-up of posts recently called Simple & Boring. It links off to a number of great articles on the topic of complexity (and simplicity) in web development.

I had linked to quite a few of the articles myself already, but one I hadn’t seen was from David DeSandro who wrote New tech gets chatter:

You don’t hear about TextMate because TextMate is old. What would I tweet? Still using TextMate. Still good.

I think that’s a very good point.

It’s relatively easy to write and speak about new technologies. You’re excited about them, and there’s probably an eager audience who can learn from what you have to say.

It’s trickier to write something insightful about a tried and trusted (perhaps even boring) technology that’s been around for a while. You could maybe write little tips and tricks, but I bet your inner critic would tell you that nobody’s interested in hearing about that old tech. It’s boring.

The result is that what’s being written about is not a reflection of what’s being widely used. And that’s okay …as long as you know that’s the case. But I worry that theres’s a perception problem. Because of the outsize weighting of new and exciting technologies, a typical developer could feel that their skills are out of date and the technologies they’re using are passé …even if those technologies are actually in wide use.

I don’t know about you, but I constantly feel like I’m behind the curve because I’m not currently using TypeScript or GraphQL or React. Those are all interesting technologies, to be sure, but the time to pick any of them up is when they solve a specific problem I’m having. Learning a new technology just to mitigate a fear of missing out isn’t a scalable strategy. It’s reasonable to investigate a technology because you genuinely think it’s exciting; it’s quite another matter to feel like you must investigate a technology in order to survive. That way lies burn-out.

I find it very grounding to talk to Drew and Rachel about the people using their Perch CMS product. These are working developers, but they are far removed from the world of tools and frameworks forged in the startup world.

In a recent (excellent) article comparing the performance of Formula One websites, Jake made this observation at the end:

However, none of the teams used any of the big modern frameworks. They’re mostly Wordpress & Drupal, with a lot of jQuery. It makes me feel like I’ve been in a bubble in terms of the technologies that make up the bulk of the web.

I think this is very astute. I also think it’s completely understandable to form ideas about what matters to developers by looking at what’s being discussed on Twitter, what’s being starred on Github, what’s being spoken about at conferences, and what’s being written about on Ev’s blog. But it worries me when I see browser devrel teams focusing their efforts on what appears to be the needs of typical developers based on the amount of ink spilled and breath expelled.

I have a suspicion that there’s a silent majority of developers who are working with “boring” technologies on “boring” products in “boring” industries …you know, healthcare, government, education, and other facets of everyday life that any other industry would value more highly than Uber for dogs.

Trys wrote a great blog post called City life, where he compares his experience of doing CMS-driven agency work with his experience working at a startup in Shoreditch:

I was chatting to one of the team about my previous role. “I built two websites a month in WordPress”.

They laughed… “WordPress! Who uses that anymore?!”

Nearly a third of the web as it turns out - but maybe not on the Silicon Roundabout.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that there should be more articles and talks about older, more established technologies. Conferences in particular are supposed to give audiences a taste of what’s coming—they can be a great way of quickly finding out what’s exciting in the world of development. But we shouldn’t feel bad if those topics don’t match our day-to-day reality.

Ultimately what matters is building something—a website, a web app, whatever—that best serves end users. If that requires a new and exciting technology, that’s great. But if it requires an old and boring technology, that’s also great. What matters here is appropriateness.

When we’re evaluating technologies for appropriateness, I hope that we will do so through the lens of what’s best for users, not what we feel compelled to use based on a gnawing sense of irrelevancy driven by the perceived popularity of newer technologies.

Have you published a response to this? :

Responses

john holt ripley

“It’s trickier to write something insightful about a tried and trusted (perhaps even boring) technology that’s been around for a while. The result is that what’s being written about is not a reflection of what’s being widely used.”adactio.com/journal/15011

fgte.ch

# Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 at 2:53pm

Trys Mudford

“Because of the outsize weighting of new and exciting technologies, a typical developer could feel that their skills are out of date and the technologies they’re using are passé …even if those technologies are actually in wide use.”adactio.com/journal/15011

Hidde

‘it worries me when I see browser devrel teams focusing their efforts on what appears to be the needs of typical developers based on the amount of ink spilled and breath expelled’ – @adactio on the bubble of exciting new tech adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by Hidde on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 at 7:27pm

GRRR Tech

”[…] a typical developer could feel that their skills are out of date and the technologies they’re using are passé …even if those technologies are actually in wide use.”@adactio is considerate and insightful as always. adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by GRRR Tech on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 12:10pm

zeldman

Our tech conversations are misleading. @adactio explains beautifully why what’s being written and spoken about in our tech blogs and conferences is not necessarily what’s being widely used.adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by zeldman on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 12:29pm

Brad Frost

“When we’re evaluating technologies…I hope that we will do so through the lens of what’s best for users, not what we feel compelled to use based on a gnawing sense of irrelevancy driven by the perceived popularity of newer technologies.” -@adactio adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by Brad Frost on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 12:52pm

DΛTΛSSETTE

fundamental knowledge of browsers and languages > knowing the latest frameworks and buzzwords

Ana Rodrigues

The dev perception has a big impact on hiring and job searching. Not only companies feel ashamed to reveal “their legacy tech” but also people are too afraid to apply because of their previous job’s tech of choice. adactio.com/journal/15011

Richard Eskins

A particular issue for our grads, new to the industry. It’s a scary prospect. We brought back 2 of last years grads yesterday. They won’t mind me saying, not ‘coding superstars’, but normal guys with a healthy interest in the tech. 1/2

Ana Rodrigues

I understand that and I appreciate planning for the future. However, it has happened to me before in a previous job that the job ad said something but in reality I had to maintain their other projects that were in other/older frameworks. It can be misleading.

Val Head

“Learning a new technology just to mitigate a fear of missing out isn’t a scalable strategy.” An insightful look at why its easier to write about the newest tech stuff and how that can distort our perception from @adactio: adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by Val Head on Friday, April 5th, 2019 at 4:05pm

JP Reardon

I was going to use one of the popular frameworks for a very little project when three things conspired to put me on a different path. One was a problem of my own doing: I seemed to have hosed my NPM installation whilst trying to upgrade something. Then I read these two posts, which really came at the right time:

I love this quote from Jeremy Keith:

I have a suspicion that there’s a silent majority of developers who are working with “boring” technologies on “boring” products in “boring” industries …you know, healthcare, government, education, and other facets of everyday life that any other industry would value more highly than Uber for dogs.

Anyway, I got an initial version of my tiny project done in a couple hours. I’d still be fighting with the framework if I had continued in the original direction. I’m sure I’ll get my NPM fixed, and I’m sure I’ll use a framework in the future, but I’m glad I gave myself permission to just hack this thing out in very, very basic HTML, CSS and a few lines of JS.

# Posted by JP Reardon on Sunday, April 7th, 2019 at 2:16am

daverupert.com

Perceived Velocity through Version Numbers

# Thursday, April 11th, 2019 at 9:23pm

Alex Persian

Excellent article detailing how “old, tried and true, out of style” technologies are not bad, and you shouldn’t feel bad for working in them during your day-to-day.adactio.com/journal/15011

Pete

“When we’re evaluating technologies for appropriateness, I hope that we will do so through the lens of what’s best for users, not what we feel compelled to use based on a gnawing sense of irrelevancy” adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by Pete on Saturday, April 27th, 2019 at 8:36am

Nitin Khanna

Because of the outsize weighting of new and exciting technologies, a typical developer could feel that their skills are out of date and the technologies they’re using are passé …even if those technologies are actually in wide use.

I don’t know about you, but I constantly feel like I’m behind the curve because I’m not currently using TypeScript or GraphQL or React.

Dev perception

Sawyer

“When we’re evaluating technologies for appropriateness, I hope that we’ll do so through the lens of what’s best for users, not what we feel compelled to use based on a gnawing sense of irrelevancy driven by the perceived popularity of newer technologies” adactio.com/journal/15011

# Posted by Sawyer on Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 at 1:52am

Nicole Sullivan

I’ve looked at several data sources: This year in JavaScript The state of JS Stack overflow survey The state of CSS MDN survey MSFT forms surveys HTTP Archive NPM install data Chrome data Each has biases, but in total they paint a picture.

Melanie Sumner 💥🐹

So many of those are tiny echo chambers and should be thrown out from a data & research integrity method standpoint though. That being said, no idea what a “better way” looks like. I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now.

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