Don’t believe the hype

This week I came across a new JavaScript framework, called Meteor, which promises to simplify the process of developing web applications. It looks like an interesting project, run by some very smart and talented people, but something about the Meteor marketing pitch rubbed me the wrong way.

The Meteor website is full of claims about how amazingly easy the framework will make web developer’s lives. It will allow us to build “top-quality web apps in a fraction of the time.” Its demo applications require “no programming knowledge.” What “once took weeks, even with the best tools, now takes hours.” In fact, you can “build a complete application in a weekend.”

If building a world class web application was really something that could be done in a weekend, wouldn’t everyone and their dog be CEO of their own Internet startup? If the barrier to entry was as low as the Meteor team would have us believe, then business owners would have no need for developers at all – a few hours of training and they’d have all the skills required to build their own app or website.

Obviously that’s not the case. Success in any field is hard earned, and it bugs me that some of our industry’s leaders perpetuate the idea that there are short cuts to becoming an accomplished web developer. Sure, it’s possible to build a killer app in a weekend, but to do so requires years of experience and a deep knowledge of your tools, and many more days, weeks, or months are required to turn that prototype into a robust website or application.

It may sound as if my gripe is with Meteor specifically, but that isn’t the case. I see similarly hyperbolic claims wherever I look. Publishers hawk their technical reference books with promises to convert novice coders into “ninjas”. The sales pitch for a commercial iOS design tutorial implies that it can “make you tons of money, and elevate your status within the design community”. An advertisement for Treehouse suggests that after joining their service you’ll soon be rubbing shoulders with Mark Zuckerberg. If you take these claims at face value you could be forgiven for thinking that all that is required to excel as a developer is a few hours of your time, a couple of hundred bucks to spend on training, and the right JavaScript framework.

In reality, web design and development are highly specialised disciplines that take years of practice to master, and require ongoing training to stay abreast of the near-constant advances in the field. I don’t think it does our industry any favours to pretend that mastery can be achieved in a weekend. If we don’t take our own professional expertise seriously, why should anyone else?

One thought on “Don’t believe the hype

  1. Eric says:

    Nice heads-up you give here. It looks like the classic “carrot and horse” marketing angle.

    Mastery of a skill does take time.

    Keep up the good work.

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