Happy Birthday World Wide Web!

It is hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee shared his vision on what became the web. I was a senior in high school and while I had heard of ARPANET and the Internet, since my dad was in the military, I had no idea that this new concept would shape my entire career.

My career wasn’t created yet

My generation (Gen Xers) were the earliest to be told we could be anything we set our mind too and were eagerly encouraged to go to college. I remember being asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” as early as 5th grade. By 8th grade I was being pushed to start thinking of a college major and career path. Like a lot of my peers I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Part of that came from my parents influence for me to participate in a wide range of activities to be “well rounded”. Ultimately I graduated high school being confused, indecisive, and a jack of all trades. What I didn’t realize that what I really wanted to be when I grew up had not been invented until I was in college and wasn’t publicly available until after I graduated with my degree in Criminology. CRIMINOLOGY? Whenever I think about this brain trust level decision I made at 19 years old I immediately picture the jail scene from the end of Clerks II.

How I got started on the web

From 1995 to 1997 I found a renewed interest in programming that I hadn’t felt since I first learned BASIC in 1977. (Only 6 year old in school writing code…oh yeah.) I was studying Visual BASIC 6 and SQL when a friend sent me an email with a link to his personal web page. We spent HOURS talking about HTML and the idea that we could put up a web page and share our demented thoughts with the entire world.

Later that year while at the furniture market in San Francisco having a Scotch (that I couldn’t afford) with my boss I asked him for his best piece of business advice. I’ll never forget what he said. “You need more than business management skills these days. You need a specialty, a focus that you are best at in addition so when opportunities present themselves you can be the ‘advertising guy’ or the ‘location selection guy’. You are sharp with computers and seem to enjoy that the most. Since this Internet thing seems to be gaining traction, its a good time for to you learn everything you can about it now. It will be something we’ll need for the company in the future and it will help you focus your career.”

Within 3 years I learned the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, PERL, PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL. I created a few websites for myself, family, and friends. Over the next 10 years or so I learned a few CMS platforms like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal and started my freelance business as a side hustle in 2003. From 2003 until 2013 I spent time diving into other skill sets like graphic design, motion graphics, and media production in addition to web design.

While I never focused 100% of my career on web design, it had a continuous presence in my life. The wide range of skills I developed over the past 25 years related to web design have helped further my career and opened the door to several incredible contacts with experts in fields from eCommerce, SEO, content marketing, and coding.

The good far outweighs the bad

As I was reading through a few articles this morning about the 30th anniversary of the web I was disappointed by the number of negative articles about this incredible technology. Everything from privacy concerns to the negative effects of social media. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole about how we live in absolutely the most amazing times in history, but the web deserves better than this. There are downsides to every advancement in human history, but the positive effects of web technology outweigh the bad by a much larger difference than some of these articles express. New career categories have been created, social movements have been given a powerful voice, small businesses have been able to flourish, and entire nations have been able to organize to stand for their rights. I think that beats out Alexa eavesdropping and a bit of vaction FOMO on Facebook.

Best advice ever from dad

I’m going to close this post out with something my dad told me when I was 8 years old and really set on becoming a computer programmer. He told me “You don’t want to be one of dozens in a crowded office typing out code son. By the time you are ready to enter the workplace computers will be everywhere. Technology will become part of everything we do and won’t be limited to just a computer on your desk. Learn a skill, go into a specific field, and learn where technology will fit in there and become the expert.”

It still amazes me how insightful this advice was 10 years before the birth of the web. My dad was always on the cutting edge of technology, both at work and at home. He did miss one trick though when I told him I wanted to learn how to program games and he told me to not waste my time because “creating video games with NEVER be a business.” Hmmm…thanks dad? Of course I did go to college on his dime to get a degree in Criminology, so I guess we’re even.

Happy birthday WWW and thank you Sir Tim for your incredible contribution to the world! (Now please accept my FB friend request so I can post a bunch of GIFs on your page.)