Okay, so maybe you've heared "the talk" I give about web work. A little meta information may help as to what actually I'm getting at, or where I found my sources may help you out a little.
I gave this lecture in two classes in the spring 2008 semester at Community College of Philadelphia. I was taking classes for both web design and coding, and I felt like a little "expectation setting" would be useful for the harder truths about the nature of creative work (especially on the web). Frankly, the drive for this came from my worrying about the "freshness" of the education I was getting, especially in web technologies.
Slides from the talk are available here. [PDF]
Now, as for the sources that I use in my talk, let us first touch on the genesis of this idea, brought to you by the fine internet's-best TV, Revision3.
The fourth story on diggnation # 141 spoke about "9 ways to know not to hire that web designer". This got me thinking; What if I'm one of those bad designers? I'm still in college, sure, but I'm not above learning the same bad habits that will get me into trouble if I don't stamp them out.
Oh, and if you're a fan of tech culture or just a decent "quasi" news show, Diggnation is something that should be on your weekly watch list. Actually, Revision 3 does an excellent job of giving me content I wasn't sure I wanted or needed. Podshows lke Tekzilla, however, definately make it easier to explain tech to non-technicals, and I'm thankful for it.
This article is a quick and dirty checkup to make sure that you're not acting like a professional noob. From this, I realized one thing that has been banging around my head since I first downloaded a Chrono Trigger FAQ from AOL and thought the man a genius:
The cream rises to the top, as they say, and no more is this truer than on aggergators like Digg. Regardless of your existing audience, your best work ever might just end up being a server-crushing orgy of momentary fame.
Now, this article was very insightful about how "legacy designers" are abundant on the web. Actually, I had a similar experience with using Wordpress, and struggling with a free template that was done 100% in CSS, a language that deserves to be called a widowmaker with its myriad ways of being rendered. Now, I'm sure that in many technical professions this adage is true: with every plateau of technology/progress, a bunch of so-called "engineers" are left behind.
This article is a quick and dirty checkup to make sure that you're not being treated like a professional noob. Another inspiration for the talk was Merlin Mann, the enigmatic professor of knowledge work productivity.
The jizst of the podcast, for those who simply don't have three whole minutes to listen to it, was that a lot like kung fu, meditation, and sexual intercourse, getting things done is meant to be practiced, not studied.
In what Mr. Mann probably thinks was a simple little exercise in airing his doubts amongst the career Gettting Things Done (GTD) learner, a simple fact aroused my interest.
Professional creative work on the web is a lot like GTD (especially MM's derivative). If you're not out there, making something, anything at all, you're can't expect to talk up to a "real job" with your homework-laden portfolio and know what to do if the damned SQL server breaks again.
If you're not living a life of creation, learning, and improvement, you're bound to be that web designer who is master of frontpage, without any work, and much like a lifelong student of sexual intercourse, not going to get any, either.