Web monkeys need love too

Really interesting, funny and instructive post about the incredibly high level of programming that goes into sites with amazingly sophisticated functionality that we take utterly for granted. One reason we take them for granted is because they are largely “free” (if you don’t count giving up tons of personal and behavioral data as costing anything). Nothing minimizes the value of something like giving it away for free. But that’s what so much of the web economy (webonomy? Please, God, no!) is built on.

So also thoroughly covered here is the inordinate influence a site’s vocal and entitled power-user elite has over its evolution. These are people who don’t want to pay a dime for anything, but will start loudly questioning the personal integrity of the folks running the site over the slightest change from “how things used to be.” I’m not talking about valid concerns, like Facebook’s recent privacy fart, but beefs on the level of, “why can’t users upload and share avatar clothing of their own design anymore? when did i move to nazi germany?”

But the main reason we take the sites we use for granted is because they work so well and so seamlessly 99.999% of the time (they call that six nines availability, don’t you know). And that’s because a lot of smart people built them in the first place and are working crazy hours fixing stuff and putting out fires all the time, but we just never see it. The level of performance we expect for the sites we use is always increasing, but so is the level of sophistication we expect. The buttload of computing power and the innumerable person-hours behind it all is invisible to us, if we even think about it at all.

I believe programming is one of the most direct means of creative expression in our culture today, and only becoming more so. Learning to program is a recent secret aspiration, but I’m not at all sure my brain is cut out for it. You should give this a read, at least until it makes your eyes cross. It may give you an appreciation of what’s going on behind the scenes at some of the sites you use.