Embracing My Suckiness

Some know I used to cook for a living. I’d like to think I was pretty good at it too. I started before the Food Network and all the other cooking shows on TV (save for old Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin shows on PBS and the like), before the internet blew up. Cooking in Tampa was almost like being in a vacuum. You’d see what your peers were doing, maybe find a little time to travel to Miami or New Orleans, but otherwise, we were left to our own curiosity, a few books from some of the chefs on the cutting edge (Mark Miller and the staff at Coyote Cafe, Norma Van Aiken and his contemporaries like Allen Susser & Mark Militello) and the occasional Food & Wine article.

We explored other cuisines via ethnic dining, scoured Oceanic Market for Asian ingredients, the markets of West Tampa for authentic Latin/Caribbean staples, and the open air markets outside the commercial produce market. We were then left to our imagination, creativity, and abilities to marry flavors together.

That was kinda like how it was when I first started building websites. You’d look at someone’s source code. Someone might have written a blog post, or shared a tip in a forum somewhere. You bought Zeldman’s book on HTML standards, or Andy Budd’s CSS Mastery. It was a path of discovery and learning.

Now, in this “age of information”, we (I), am bombarded with all of the latest tricks and best practices, cutting edge designs and techniques. The external pressure to live up to these can be overwhelming. I’m no longer experimenting and discovering on my own, I’m drowning in information. It’s like having an elevator straight to the top of the mountain without experiencing the journey (I think that’s a paraphrase of something I read once about doing LSD, but I digress.)

So what I’m finding is that I’m a deer in the headlights, afraid that I’ll be judged for not using the latest markup techniques. That someone will see my code and think I suck. And rather than embrace my suckiness, learn from it, I freeze. I stare at blank pages in my text editor. Meanwhile, new and more information continues to bombard me from every angle, and the cycle perpetuates.

Today, when I cook at home, I’m not worried about having all the fancy ingredients or flashy sous vide machine. I’m confident in my skills and know the finished dish will look appetizing and taste better. Or, I might just miss the mark, but will recognize what I did wrong or forgot, storing it away in my memory bank or nowadays, jotted into a text file for the next time I make a similar dish. That’s not to say when time permits I don’t use those fancy ingredients or make my pasta from scratch but a good meal shouldn’t be passed up simply because I didn’t have artisanal cheese and didn’t make my pasta from scratch.

So while I struggle to reboot my personal site and convert it to Jekyll, I need to recognize that I don’t have to follow every new trend. So what if it wasn’t built in Sass. The work I put into making it responsive, and FAST is more important in the long run. There are plenty of sites/devs out there that have well structured Sass directories and all the right mixins, but load slow as hell. There is plenty of time in the future to revisit converting it. The end goal for this site isn’t about being a Sass master, but an outlet to share my thoughts and experiences on the web. Why create an artificial hurdle?

Which also means I need to document my failures, as well as successes. Whether that means publicly, or internally. Not only document them, but celebrate them. I need to reconnect with that ambitious kid who would spend every waking hour in the kitchen experimenting, enjoying the journey. Thus starts my journey of documenting this phase of my site.

Technology Fatigue

A piece at A List Apart today struck a nerve with a lot of developers today, myself included (if I can really call myself a developer these days.) Overwhelmed by Code touches on the constant bombardment to developers from new technologies popping up seemingly daily. The author discusses

It used to be that knowing CSS and HTML was enough, then jQuery came along, then responsive techniques, then Node.js and then Angular, Ember, etc., etc., etc. That list, right there, it tires me out.

To that I can completely relate. When I stumbled into making websites, they were still teaching how to use Photoshop and tables to build sites at my local community college, not pure CSS. The big revelation at A List Apart was Faux Columns. So fast forward 10 years, take a sabbatical for 2 of those, and you can imagine how overwhelming stepping back into grunt, gulp, coffee script, node and Luce1 is.

What do I want to focus on, what do I love about the web? What do I actually want to learn, versus what I think I should learn.

So if I am to do more than dip my toes back into the world of building websites, I too need to focus on what I I think will best benefit me professionally, not try and keep up with kids.