Confessions of an Eccentric Web Developer

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A few weeks back, Reinhold Weber played some Usher and spilled his confessions onto the pages of his blog. I thought this was a great idea and I have some web confessions of my own to share:

  1. I still occasionally use a <b> tag without thinking twice or feeling bad about it.
  2. As much of a Firefox fanboy as I am, I'm really starting to like Safari more and more.
  3. I giggle when I see JavaScript framework developers argue -- it doesn't happen often enough.
  4. I can't stand when other developers get high and mighty about validating HTML and CSS -- my customers could give a damn as long as the site looks good.
  5. If your response to #4 above is "Well, you need to adhere to standards to make it looks the same in all browsers", you're mostly right but save the comment -- it's definitely not always the case.
  6. I look at most advanced regular expressions like they're written in Arabic. It takes me forever to understand them.
  7. For the life of me, I'll never understand the popularity of HTML lists. I think they're completely overrated.
  8. I sometimes think that we're wasting our time when we code JavaScript. JavaScript can be turned off by the client in 10 seconds and all of our JavaScript work becomes useless.
  9. I'd put my CSS skills up against anyone.
  10. I think that any developer that calls him/herself a "webmaster" should strongly reconsider their title. Why not "HTML-inator", "Markup Manager", or "Code Captain"?
  11. I own more domains than I'll ever use and am always thinking of more to buy.
  12. At 24, I'm still not sure if this is the career for me.
  13. I don't think IE6 is really as bad as everyone thinks, but only because I think IE7 is atrocious.
  14. I visit my own blog all the time to look things up.
  15. I think bitching about browsers that have not implemented the most advanced CSS capabilities yet is pointless. Your customer still cares about IE6 and IE7 the most so you have to make their site look good in them. Use a JavaScript framework as a substitute.
  16. When I see websites that use that gangsta JavaScript code that takes the page's "<h1>" tag, sends it to a flash script, and flash renders the title in a special font, I cringe. It looks sooo bad.
  17. Out of the "major" JavaScript frameworks, I'm worried MooTools will be the first to implode.

Look forward to more in the future. I'm seemingly always full of annoyances. Also, feel free to share your confessions!

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Discussion

  1. I know people in their 30’s who don’t know if this is the right field for them.

  2. I sometimes think that we’re wasting our time when we code javascript. Javascript can be turned off by the client in 10 seconds and all of our javascript work becomes useless. – my developer workmate said: if someone turn JS off is an idiot….but I still have that in my mind: what will happen when JS is off… it is like disease

  3. The visiting my own blog to look things up is classic. I do this all the time.

  4. I do the same as you, at point 14. And sometimes I check other sites that I’ve created. I don’t think it’s weird :-)

  5. GilbertN

    re #3: You should get out more.

    re #4 / #5: I’m sure your customers don’t mind that your code doesn’t validate as long as it looks OK, but only as long as they don’t realise that it means that their developer is lazy. Seriously: how much more effort does it take to make your code validate? What about the other positives – such as promoting accessibility – that adhering to standards encourages? You can call me “high and mighty” for saying this; that’s OK: I think you’re unprofessional.

    re #13: Your point makes no sense. IE6 *is* as bad as everyone says *and* IE7 is atrocious.

    re #8 vs #15: Are you advocating the use of JS or not? You seem to be reliant on it.

    I know I sound harsh but if we’re talking about annoyances, inconsistency and a lack of professional pride are my joint number one amongst developers.

  6. @GilbertN: Wow.

    re #3: I get out plenty, probably too much.

    re #4/#5: When I put the initial content page template together, everything validates. There are plenty of IE6 CSS hacks that can be used and aren’t necessarily valid. I also create CMS’ for customers, in which case the WYSIWYG doesn’t always generate code that validates. Does it look the way it should on screen in all A-grade browsers? Yes. Move on.

    re #13: Makes perfect sense — I think IE6 is better than IE7. Clear enough?

    re #8/#15: I don’t advocate anything in this article. Is saying that I feel my JS work can be rendered useless advocating anything? No. Is saying that you can use javascript to replace certain formatting in old browsers advocating anything? No. If the browser doesn’t render the advanced CSS, how else are you going to do it? Javascript is the lesser of the evils (using a javascript hack vs. something not working).

    You aren’t harsh but you do sound presumptuous. If I didn’t have professional pride or was lazy I wouldn’t have this blog; I’d simply go to other blogs and rip bloggers. As far as being inconsistent, I’ve addressed that above.

  7. re #17: I’m curious why you say this? Coming from a mostly object-oriented development background (Java) I’ve become a total Mootools fanboy because of how easy it is to create classes and interfaces (more mixins really but who’s counting) and I would be quite sad indeed to see this project consume itself.

  8. Another great post, David! You’re definitely not alone on a LOT of these thoughts… :)

    My 2 favorites:

    The RegEx = Arabic comparison. Yeah, same problem here. I don’t know why they’re called ‘regular’ expressions. I think they should have been called ‘cryptic’ expressions… half the time they look like someone just fell asleep on the keyboard.

    Owning domains I’ll never use… yes, guilty as charged here also. If nothing else, they’re all tiny tax write-offs… *grin*

  9. @Bryan: Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE MooTools. There are a few reasons I’m afraid Moo might be the first to go:

    1. The main Moo dev has been seen as difficult and borderline rude.

    2. Look at the other libs: Prototype has the support of script.aculo.us and Ruby on Rails. jQuery has become a designer’s favorite and John Resig is all over the place and works for Firefox. Dojo and Ext are UI beasts. Gears and YUI are made by two huge entities — enough said. MooTool is principally developed by one person, although supported by about 10 more core people.

    I’d hate to see Moo go and don’t see any signs of it happening, but I still think if one died off, Moo may be first.

  10. @David:
    RE: #9 – Guess we need to grab Chris and go have our own CSS-off. :)
    You learn a lot about a person from their confessions… very good insight.

    @GilbertN:
    You seem to be a purist, and there may be some sort of merit in that, but you lose the ability to be practical. No site that looks correct (note that I did NOT say the same) on every browser will validate. Period. Cases in point: pick a Fortune 500 company and validate their page. Yeah right. Even Google has 62 errors.

    I know enough of David’s code to say that his approach is fairly correct on this: know your audience. Hacks for IE do not usually validate and anyone that takes twice as long to make it mostly validate is wasting their time, more importantly wasting their client’s or company’s dollars.

    I certainly can’t agree with everything anyone here says but I will say that David has his priorities straight. Consider yours.

  11. In regards to item 10, I like “Minister of the Hyper Text Markup Language”.

  12. GilbertN

    About my earlier comments I’m *truly* sorry. Re-reading them, I see that I came over as a total asshat. Someone else called me a “purist” (which was far kinder treatment than I deserved) and observed that this sort of dogmatism can come at the expense of practicality. Agreed.

    I (now) see your point about validation after entries via a WYSIWYG editor has kludged things up… guess I just thought that you were advocating a generalised roughshod approach.

    Anyway… unreserved apologies.

  13. thanks for the laugh,
    k.

  14. I had a good chuckle, and a bit of a sigh of relief – being reminded I’m not the only one that does a few of the things you mentioned.

    #8 got me thinking about JS in general and how people seem to either love or hate it. I find that I really don’t get people’s opposition – the argument that a user turning it off would break a site is like saying the same thing for disabling images. Certainly there’s some merit to a site remaining useful with the least-common-denominator of browser functionality, but I just don’t see worrying about someone turning JS off in their browser as a practical or realistic concern (no more so than someone disabling CSS styles or image loading). It could very well be that there is something else to it I haven’t thought of, but for the moment that’s my $.02

  15. I gotta tell you, I’m 24 myself, and I have the hardest time accepting that I’m diving head first into this thing, myself. I wish you the best of luck, ’84 (or ’83? LOL!)

  16. @Ericka: 83!

  17. Andrei

    I concur with Nick – worrying about people shutting off Javascript is a bit over the top. 95% of regular users do not, and the rest of us have some sort of switch (e.g. FF NoScript) that we can flick on at a click of the button.

    Most of the time, we just have it set to stop any heavy flash from loading, since JS is a fairly “safe” script anyway.

  18. Clement

    Dude. Totally agree with number 12. When I read it thought, that’s me. Same age as well :P

  19. 7. I’d put my CSS skils up against anyone.

    How about your spelling? :)

    On the validation/accessibility side, I try to make sure the entire template I initially create validates – although there are certain accessibility issues I’ll deliberately overlook; there are some silly ones such as making sure no two links on the same page have the same text, even if theyre to the same target – it can get a bit ridiculous. I generally find by ticking the “standard” boxes, without being fanatical about it, it helps my designs look consistent across browsers anyway.

    I’ve long thought accessibility fanatics like Jakob Nielsen take things too far – his site for example, may well be one of the most technically accessible websites on the net – but one of the most visually boring and irritating to use I find. It’s all about striking a balance.

  20. I have to agree with you on point #2. Safari, especially on the mac, is becoming a great browser. Only reason i use FF is because of the feed reader and the fact that i know all the keyboard shortcuts.

  21. @Richard: You got me. Let me add a number 18: I don’t proofread my articles well enough.

  22. @All: I don’t lay in fear of someone not having javascript on. It’s just that you can’t build javascript into the core of your website sometimes. Javascript should be to enhance, not for core functionality.

  23. RE: MooTools/JS:

    Sadly, it’s always the nature of the beast, isn’t it? I’m with you on your thoughts abotu mooTools toxicity, and totally with you on JS being ENHANCEMENT, not core functionality.

    I guess that’s the difference between a good developer and a great one – being that your site works with JS off (of course, it ALSO depends on your audience – do you care if the paranoid sysadmin can’t shop at your site because he doesn’t have JS on? :)

  24. “I visit my own blog all the time to look things up.”

    Gosh..that is funny. I do the same thing.

    And I completely agree with you about the sifr stuff. I briefly implemented that into my site. After a week, I just couldn’t stand it…it was removed!

  25. dunno if you have pingbacks going on here. I did a response to your post over here:
    http://www.ianring.com/blog/2008/05/confessions-of-a-web-developer/

    I like reading your blog, I’ve been subscribed for a while now.
    I don’t agree with some of the opinions in your confession, for instance, I life sifr, and I don’t agree with the futility of JavaScript; it’s so ubiquitous, no one really turns it off anymore except stodgy JavaScript developers. But what’s the point of disagreeing? it’s a confession, not a thesis.

  26. I meant to type “like”, not “life”, as in “I like sifr”.
    My typing skills are awful, I go too fast. That was one of my confessions…

  27. Braxo

    I agree with you on 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9.

    Re 2: I used Firefox all the time, didn’t even have Safari on my Dock. But with Apple’s new release of it (3.1) I have now switched to it 100%. I fell in love with the developer window.

  28. clum

    well I’m loving your confessions, but move on! some of us 30+ have been there done that.. and the the t-shirt has shrunk now

    what you say now about JS about only using it to enhance, agreed but ermm that sounds a lot familiar about what has been said about CSS/JS for the last goodness knows how long.. and so your #9 is whacked and I’ll join in that one as I’m sure will many others unless it’s css-off then I’m not in as it’s failing miserably

  29. bogdan.s

    re #13: The best browser in my opinion, is the first opened when you start developing. Even if you made a simple HTML + CSS page, or an advanced js application.
    Actually, IE is the last browser I’m using (just) for testing, but I’m not sure this is the best practice.

  30. Re: #17. Joomla still keeping the faith with mootools.
    Mootools 1.2.3 included in Joomla 1.6 alpha.

    It will push their user to learn mootools.
    http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=502&t=273960

    It is simpler for beginner not to switch from what is already included.
    The case is unique here, since coder usually try moo first before search for other.

    Dunno ’bout other CMS.
    But some web-framework still decide not to be JS agnostic.

    It will also push user to learn other for the same reason.

    What do we need to keep moo alive beside faith?

    Note: J1.6a has php class called JQuery to handle SQL. And it has nothing to do with JavaScript.

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