[thelist] OT - do programmers/designers know *everything*?

Peter-Paul Koch gassinaumasis at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 23 15:19:06 CDT 2002

>List folks...i've been wondering about this for a while, and have always
>been too embarassed/worried to ask. But it's getting to a point where I
>think I *need* to ask.

The only stupid question is the question that's never asked.

>I think I'm older then the majority of most folks on here who are still
>basically starting out. (closing in on my mid-thirties). Did that read
>correctly? I mean that most folks my age are probably past my current
>situation of not really making any money from their web practices yet.

Age is not the issue. The issues are:

1) Do you like making websites?
2) Do you like learning new things?

If the answer to both is 'Yes' then your mind is young enough to take up the

>Guess there's actually two parts to my question:
>1. Are most of the folks on this list (for example) actually making a
>decent living programming, coding, design etc? Whether it be free-lance, or
>working for other companies etc?

For myself, definitely Yes (working for companies). And I started out only
four years ago when I was 28.

I suppose it's harder to start up now than it was three years ago, but if
you really want to you can do it.

>2. For the folks that ARE doing well enough to not have to work a 'real'
>job (you know...as in retail, services...etc etc,...anything NOT to do with
>their web passions)...do you folks actually know in your head most of the
>skills you need to perform?


Do I know every single JavaScript command there is, including tricky syntax
and even trickier browser compatibility problems? Of course not.

Do I generally know whether a particular trick is possible in the various
browsers? Yes (though sometimes I make mistakes).

The point is not that you know your programming language of choice by heart,
but that you get a 'feeling' for it. Will this task be a lot of work? Can I
do it simpler? Should I maybe use another language/structure/whatever?

Those are the questions that you can answer by heart after a few years of
experience. Then you can look for the answers to the correct questions
immediately, without wasting time on incorrect, superfluous or unimportant

>For example, PERL/CGI programmers...can you actually, basically write
>working code that without having to rely on your
>notes, code snippets, manuals, etc? Or is that just silly? Do almost ALL
>hardcore designers/programmers use some sort of 'help' when working on

Depends. My own specialty is JavaScript and I can write simple scripts (say,
mouseovers with some DIVs becoming visible and hidden) by heart without
referring to anything. But as soon as it gets more complex I need some
books, sites and research time.

But basically no one can do without documentation. At present you'll need
lots of documentation for every single line you write. This'll change with
time, but you'll still need some aid for the really tricky bits, even when
you're a Certified Senior Guru.

Of course having to look up every single line does become a bore after a
while, but you'll find that you need it less and less.

>Does that question even make sense? Personally, I get a little nervous that
>maybe I don't really have the "stuff" to make it in this business, as I
>really can't even do a basic JavaScript roll-over script without referring
>to either my books, or at least previous work.

Nonsense. Everyone started that way. For the very first site I made I wrote
a mouseover script I liked very much. The next time I had to look it up
again. I still liked it when I saw it again, but I couldn't have coded it
again by heart.

Everyone is constantly referring to anything they've ever heard of. The real
trick is to remember where you found a particular bit of information. It's
not much different from sciences: as a professor of physics, history or
whatever you can't know everyhing, you're not supposed to. However, you
*are* supposed to know where you can find the answer to a particular
question so that you can look it up with a minimum of wasted time.

>And while I DO seem to be getting a handle on mysql-PERL stuff, I couldn't
>put a working web-based database together from the top of my head, if my
>life depended on it. Ya know?

How long have you been doing this? If the answer is three or four years of
CGI programming I'd agree it's slightly silly. But I get the feeling that
you've only been working for some months, so it's perfectly normal that
you're struggling every time you set yourself a new task.

>Sorry for taking up so much space for a probable WAY off-topic question,
>but this thing has been nagging at me for a while. Usually everytime I look
>at the job market and see all the skills required. If they pulled me in for
>an interview, and told me to make a working CGI form, I'm pretty sure I'd
>just totally embarass myself.

I find the average skill description of the average job totally unrealistic,
and that's because they're written by managers or Human Resource people.

If a company asks for someone with knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript,
ActionScript, Java, PHP, CGI, ASP, TCP/IP, databases and XML (and of course
a good eye for design and flawless communicative skills) I shrug. There
simply aren't any such people. Sure, you can know a bit of everything but
then you haven't got enough knowledge to actually code every aspect of a

In my opinion specialization is the key to success on the job market. Choose
what you want to do and become good, very, VERY good at it. Then people will
forgive you for not knowing the WBR or TH tags, as long as you can make ASP
rock-n-roll and databases fly.


MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print your photos:

More information about the thelist mailing list