Polytechnic

The personal brain-dump of Garrett Coakley

Entry points to the web

Rachel Andrew addresses a certain gatekeeping that is happening around web development, and what that means for people getting started:

When we talk about HTML and CSS these discussions impact the entry point into this profession. Whether front or backend, many of us without a computer science background are here because of the ease of starting to write HTML and CSS. The magic of seeing our code do stuff on a real live webpage! We have already lost many of the entry points that we had.

Like many of the “old guard”, I got started by viewing source (and can we just take a second to reflect on how amazing that feature of the Web is), hanging out in forums, and reading books like this.

The first site I ever built is still available via the Wayback Machine. It isn’t pretty, but it still works.

There is something remarkable about the fact that, with everything we have created in the past 20 years or so, I can still take a complete beginner and teach them to build a simple webpage with HTML and CSS, in a day. We don’t need to talk about tools or frameworks, learn how to make a pull request or drag vast amounts of code onto our computer via npm to make that start. We just need a text editor and a few hours. This is how we make things show up on a webpage.

That’s the real entry point here and yes, in 2019 they are going to have to move on quickly to the tools and techniques that will make them employable, if that is their aim. However those tools output HTML and CSS in the end. It is the bedrock of everything that we do, which makes the devaluing of those with real deep skills in those areas so much more baffling.

In her post Rachel highlights a recent Twitter thread from Betsy Haibel that points to a more pernicious reason behind this gatekeeping:

Betsy’s points were eye opening for me, and were something I hadn’t really considered. It made me realise how naive I was back in the day, and how much more I still have to learn.