Without fail, every project that I head up or am a lead contributor of in the open source community, a question is handed to me with great anxiety and trepidation. For some reason I instill great uneasiness within developers because of my own work ethic and drive. This is an open letter to all of you, and those of you who are to come, to try to head this question off at the pass by giving a public and broad wave of the hands sort of answer to the grand question – What do you expect out of us?
Early developers and web development clients are often lost in the beauty of building a website. The people I have worked with and along side of are always bogged down by the visuals and ignore the more fundamentally important aspect: how the website functions. When a client sees a pretty landing page they equate that to completion and similarly, when a budding young developer first gets into their first website it is often with gross disregard of everything else that they begin to pound away at the visual aspect, often called skinning.It should go without saying that we all start out, at one time or another, trying to build a pretty site. Visually appealing content is always going to be more interesting than if its just static text that doesn’t move. Just as in the game industry, if you go back 20 years, games were simple and building them was not about having the most artists or writers so much as having a game that was fun, Mario, Zelda & Contra for instance. Now building a game that people call successful is more about trying to make it pretty and ignore the fun aspect all together, HL2, CS and Halo 3. The internet has evolved at a comparably difficult pace to keep up with, and with the invention of tools such as Macromedia Flash, and now Microsoft’s Silverlight the internet is becoming a new playground. Building a new website is seen, by amateurs, as a paradise of simple methods that transpose data and toss it out to the user at a whim.
Have you ever been working on a project and lost your drive to continue? Do you find it to be difficult to get going again? You may have experienced what many developers do – Burnout appears to be as wide spread as the number of people who breathe that have also died. Developers often struggle their applications and eventually lead to complete failures. Paul Graham wrote an essay on the topic of keeping a program in ones mind. It doesn’t seem far fetched to think that an applications complexity is going to correlate to the amount of the application that you will be able to think about and how much of your steam and investment I involved in any project that you choose to undertake.
I started work on GneuManager long ago, nearly 2 years ago now, with a goal in mind of putting together a project management application that would allow me to keep track my progress and momentum that I had with any of my projects. I need it to work for game development differently than it does web development differently that it does console or any other applications that I work on. I also oversee things that have little to show like testing and meetings that I should still account for in my application. As you can already see, this is definitely not a simple project, and as such when I first began work it was quite specialized. It didn’t do much other than track my bugs and allow clients to log in and see progress.
Burnout occurs when developers take a bite out of something that is larger than they are able to actually consume. It runs a close parallel to what many of us understand to be bad already, the event of choking. Forgetting to chew or biting off too much of a hot dog can lead to the terrible gagging that we have all experienced. The reluctance to take another bite is something that we don’t all share.
My first bite for GneuManager was to build out the user system. I ran a close editorial summary of my progress with a series of essays that I will publish at a later time, highlighting my progress and sharing my thought process of the application as things grew. Unfortunately there were things that I didn’t understand well enough. I also lost my team and these two events lead to a loss of drive.