Over the Web, But Not The Internet

I haven’t worked on a web site or web application for about nine months now, so there is a joke going around the office that I’m “over the web” and refuse to do any more web projects. While that’s not true, like all jokes it has a kernel of honesty in it, because the god’s honest truth is that I am a bit tired of the web. I’ve been doing web work for 12 years now, and it’s like an old marriage: I know its habits intimately. It takes a really interesting (pure) web project to pique my interest these days.

Why? Simply because the problems many sites have (How do we get more traffic? Is this web form usable? How do we make a community? How can I optimize for search engines? etc.) simply aren’t all that interesting to me any more. Not compared to the vast amount of hard problems that exist elsewhere, on other devices, on the desktop, and in environments. The problems of medical devices, consumer electronics, mobile, operating systems and platforms, kiosks and in-environment touchpoints seem much more engaging and a direct part of people’s lives than most web sites will ever be.

This is not to say, of course, that all web work is boring; that’s patently untrue. Any problem, even the most mundane, can be interesting if you haven’t tackled it before, or if you tackle it with fresh eyes and make it new for yourself. But for me to get excited about a web project now involves the app or site being the solution–or, more likely, part of a solution–of a really interesting, hard problem, the solution to which will be meaningful to users’ lives. That’s what engages me now. (And Allah be praised I work at a company that attracts such projects where I get to do just that.)

While my interest in the web wanes, the internet continues to fascinate. The genius of Vint Cerf and his crew in setting the ‘Net up as so open has paid off so many times, in so many ways, it is unreal. I suppose it makes sense the plumber’s son would be interested in technology’s plumbing, but how people continue to make use of the use of that plumbing in so many unexpected ways is inspiring. I’m almost always interested in a new internet project. And I expect and hope it will always be so.

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