Front End Overload

I’ve been feeling the pressure recently. Not pressure to get the project finished, rather the pressure to be up to date.

I’m not alone, Googling yields several prominent posts on the topic, including that last one which takes an unexpected turn into a brutally revealing and clearly very knowledgeable porn analogy.

Front End definitely has a bit of a problem with reinventing the wheel in the Framework department, but you can’t really blame people for wanting to try. Give someone a programming language and they’ll optimise it for their most common scenarios - that’s the nature of abstraction and DRY. The inevitable result is umpteen frameworks that all do the same thing in a different way.

The trouble isn’t that wheel-reinvention occurs, it’s that so many of us feel compelled to keep up with it. I’m intrigued why. There’s certainly a degree of obsolsescence anxiety. A degree of Imposter Syndrome too no doubt. “What if I’m asked to do it?”, “What if someone finds out I can’t?”.

My suspicion is that what many of the authors of these anxiety posts don’t say, is that they follow their peers too avidly. In answering “How do you keep up?” I’ve seen suggestions of the best people/accounts/feeds to follow as a way of filtering the noise. Very rarely have I see this question answered with my answer: “Why do you have to keep up?”.

It’s partly related to job security I expect. One of the more reasonable worries as a developer concerns changing job. Many of the jobs posted these days mention specific frameworks. If you don’t know that framework and your employer doesn’t have time or inclination to let you learn it, how can you leave? You want to leave because you want to experience the new and shiney, but you can’t find time to learn the thing which qualifies you for that dream job - it’s like you’re held hostage by your employer!

My answer here is to focus on “soft skills”. Don’t learn frameworks, learn patterns. Frameworks come and go. The transferable skill here is learning how Frameworks are put together and this is largely an inevitable process of osmosis, you don’t particularly have to set out to do it.

And why do we think we need to change jobs? Imposter Syndrome is what I suffer from personally. “I can’t justify being here, I’m replaceable, just look at all these over-achievers around me! I know, I’ll learn EVERYTHING to make myself indispensible! Perhaps I’ll leave for a company that can give me the experience I want”.

Twitter is to mostly to blame for this. I keep an eye on Hacker News, A List Apart, Codrops et al, but the real problem is Twitter. I can’t control what sites choose to write about, but I’ve chosen to follow those Twitter accounts and all they do is make my own achievements feel reduced.

Here’s an idea: if you’re browsing Twitter and you notice anxiety creeping up, chest tightening, the dread of discovering Yet Another Framework you don’t know: unfollow it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. You’ve only got one life, don’t spend it feeling small.

Learn the fundamentals well and the frameworks just become a tool, not a whole new language.