Nothin’, I Tell Ya

I was, perhaps, over-optimistic about my productivity level this past weekend. The Chesterton remains unreadable; the Pushkin is trapped in raw text. I, on the other hand, am well-rested. Never discount the value of ignoring personal responsibilities.

A possible opportunity has arisen for me to teach introductory web design at one of the local colleges. It probably won’t be anything too fancy; basic (X)HTML, a little Javascript and CSS, maybe touch on Flash. Nothing I haven’t done before. But the idea of teaching this thing has got me thinking about the industry as a whole, and I have some ideas where I think it could/should go.

First, development/programming is a skilled trade. As such I feel it could benefit from some sort of master/apprentice based teaching paradigm, rather than classroom-based teaching. After all, how many of the good web developers out there are self taught? Apparently college education is not germane to the coding world.

Second, the current incarnation of web development is young — five years old? — and therefore still, philosophically, at a very malleable stage. As part of the fallout from the internet boom/bust, with all of the wunderkind stories about 22-year-old self-taught millionaires, web development is chock-full of loud talk and mediocre skill-sets. Pundits like Jeffrey Zeldman and Jakob Nielsen complain about how bad the WWW is, and blame laziness and superficiality among developers. But are laziness and superficiality the fault of the player, or the fault of the game, which tolerates these traits? Certainly five years of explosive growth is not conducive to reflection.

Obviously there are serious implications to applying formal structure to the web developer community. A hierarchy of talent will suddenly be available, with clients able to pick and choose whatever level they feel appropriate. We coders will have to be honest about our skills. We will have “pedigrees”, wherein a guru can say, with authority, “This person can walk the walk. You have my word on that.” The internet tends toward self-regulation in that anything which is said in public can be critiqued and refuted in public.

How difficult would it be, then, to start an apprenticeship program, both on the ‘net and in the real world, to insure that anyone who wants to get into “the business” will be able to do so with proper guidance, and anyone who is looking for a developer will be able to find one who really knows how to do the work?

More on this topic when I have had more time to research it. In the meantime, here is a study which estimates the yearly global production of information. Hint: It’s a lot.

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