Monday, June 14, 2004

How Websites Learn | Acts of Volition

How Websites Learn | Acts of Volition

Now, How Buildings Learn must be my all-time favourite TV show. It literally changed the way I think, and led on to me taking a masters in TV production to learn simple DV skills. It also influenced my choice of career - working for the web at the BBC lets me utilise my many fragmentary technical skills - such as solo DV shooting, editing etc, but put them into a bigger context. Or at least, a bigger hands on context than I would have got as a secretary...

I'm a great beleiver in the code in a website being as elegant as the visible surface. I think it's part of my training in fine art - especially print making - that's left me with a desire to make 'well made' things. I've never been as shocked as when I discovered that the most talented (and highest graded) sculptor in my year at college didn't know how to bend a right angle in a piece of wire.

I'm constantly shocked that whenever I'm looking at hiring people to work on the site, people question me when I stipulate that my editorial staff should be comfortable working in HTML. It's breathtaking - I simply can't understand why someone who has been working on websites for several years wouldn't have a rudimentary grasp of good practice in terms of folder structures, image compression etc. It's the equivalent of that wire bending when you find someone who is confused by tables after several years in the trade.

So, the rather long winded point I'm making is to do with professional pride. Making buildings that are adaptable - and websites that are rational - stems from the craftsman's pride, not the professional's ego. It's a case of ensuring that you are doing your current job to the best of your ability, and with a clear understanding of the limitations and advantages of your substrate. Too many people seem to carry on doing things as a stepping stone - this is nearly what I want to do, but not quite, so I'll do it halfheartedly. Why not throw yourself into it, and wring every last drop of learning out of what you're doing? Take pride in your work and you will do it well - and thus progress quicker.

I think the beauty of taking the photographs to document the hidden parts of the building is partly because it enables future users of your building to maintain it better. But it's also an absoulute testament to a job well done. The kind of builders that use empty coke cans to space the plasterboard walls in Barratt homes are not the kind of builders that I'd want working on my house; they're also not the kind of builders that would be documenting the underlying structure of their work.

They are pretty ingenious, though - it just happens that a coke can is _exactly_ the right size to space the walls; and there are lots of them to be reused on a site.

(Link via Dan at City of Sound)

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