Some things will never change

This is my long overdue third and final post in the series of “describing my computing career.” Please refer to The origins of interest and The gamut of ever changing ability for the first two parts in this series. However I think we need to back track a little from where we left off, especially considering certain events that I was alerted of this past week, which are largely responsible for me writing this post today.

As I’ve discussed previously (again in The gamut of ever changing ability), I started school in the fall of ’98 with the intent of pursuing a certificate in Web Publishing. But by the summer of ’99 something changed. The web no longer had the same allure as it once did for me anymore. Honestly as I was starting to consider enrolling in college I had my eye on two prizes. Web Development specifically and Digital Publishing more broadly.

There was no denying it, Photoshop had it’s claws in me. It was that summer when I began my slow transition away from the web towards a focus on digital imaging. And just prior to my graduating college, which was actually December of ’01 (I missed commencement for that year so I had to wait until the next October), I attended my first of 4 PhotoshopWorld’s in September of 2001.

It’s a damn good thing I have more to talk about today than my Photoshop work. Aside from a bunch (is that 4?) very exciting trips to Florida and the amazing experience I was able to glean from being part of the most recognized gathering of Photoshop talent in the world (that may not be true, but it sounds great), keeping busy with Photoshop, at least, proved very tricky. I couldn’t find a market for what I spent a good 4, probably more like 7, years learning and doing. Fortunately I kept my other eye on the web. And my feet just barely wet enough to return to it should I ever wish (read: need) to.

And it’s a good thing I did. While re-entry was a lot steeper than I was expecting, but my foundation writing HTML by hand (a practice that I got away from, thanks to school and damn those WYSIWYG editors) was still rock solid. XHTML was now the “standard” (not really, this was around 2004/05, but it was new to me and I had to learn it). It wasn’t all that different from HTML 4. Aside from the introduction of pretty involved DOCTYPE‘s and some pretty strict formatting rules — quoting lowercase attributes and closing all tags — it was pretty much the same. Not terribly hard to adapt to.

Yet another bonus towards my re-entry was another time buyer. While I had to learn the layout aspects off CSS, I’d only been exposed to CSS’s text formatting abilities in school, there was plenty of debate surrounding the next standard of XHTML. XHTML 2. Between the time XHTML 2 was proposed and eventually abandoned (actually I’ve no idea if this is accurate, the timing I mean, not it being scrapped), I’d learned enough CSS to start developing with web standards foremost in mind.

In May of 2005 I initiated UnboundedExistence. A new domain and web space I would use to develop, while re-learning the craft, a brand for myself. Admittedly it was a fun exercise in a necessity for context. Context for myself, learning a new way to develop on the web, but I thought it’d be interesting to provide people some substance towards what I was about.

As my learning progressed and I became more comfortable I started to branch out. Some PHP here, a little (and I do mean a little) MySQL there, which led to a lot of WordPress. Which inevitably led to UnboundedExistence becoming a blog. I’d rather avoid re-hashing things that have already been documented, but between September of 2007 and September of last year (2011) I learned so much about the craft, myself and the world in which we live. It was an experience I’ll never forget! Not that it’s over, but I needed to step back from it for a while for various reasons. one of the most important I wanted to try and contribute to something closer to my reality.

As of January of 2011 I’ve began working with the IDRC and their efforts towards making the web a more inclusive medium.

And that’s where this story takes an all too familiar turn. In terms of exclusion. Part of me moving away from the web after me first full year of school was my interest in Photoshop. But the larger part of it was I just got bored with the web. Granted that isn’t a fair statement, entirely, but it’s apt. I stagnated. I got into a habit and got tired of it. For various reasons, a lot of which were the industries doing.

During the later half of the 90s the browser wars pushed this industry. It was exciting. Not all in a good way. With the two main browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape (I don’t recall there being a third), each deploying their own technologies, the need for standards was born. And by the time I graduated from school one browser had all but won. Internet Explorer. And like me it stagnated too. Microsoft stopped being pushed. It was a bad time for the web. Most of that last sentence is me projecting, as the web was settling, I was as well. That’s another story.

Anyway this past week (or, again, when I was alerted to it at least) we have an all too similar a situation happening again. Concerning the Open Web and the dangers it faces. It seems that this isn’t really a problem, right? I’m not so sure it isn’t. I’m still thinking though what are still some rather abstract concepts that I still can’t concretely grasp but I do think Roger Johansson put it clearly enough on Twitter on Thursday to frighten me into taking notice.

The reason I used a word such as frightening is simple. Now this wasn’t anything I realized at the time, it took a number of years to get a handle on it, but it isn’t any less true now. It was a similar “monoculture” that drove me from the web in first few years of the last decade, but it was the emergence of useable (as in supported) standards, openness and inclusivity that brought me back.

Some things will never change, but it’s never been more apparent they have to…

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