I am so stoked about the discussion over on the LingView topic. I almost posted this there, but it’s really off topic. Welp, I’m just going to think out loud. I hope I don’t sound too soapbox.
I really want to challenge the notion of “being technical”. Anyone who does documentation or even participates in documentation is in some sense technical. Every person who is in this thread, and every person who has read it, is technical in one way or another.
One of the best things about the web, and web technology, is that it’s public. The web itself may be filled with garbage, but the mechanisms are golden. There is deep knowledge embedded into the way the web works. It’s true that web technology is not trivial, but the actual design is like a layer cake: each layer is pretty simple. If you can learn to just see the layers, you become more empowered. Maybe you aren’t interested in learning to program, but perhaps you have something to say about graphic design. Maybe you have opinions about what a workflow could be like for creating, say, a vocabulary learning game from lexical information.
Most of the work of programming is figuring out what the data really is and what an application should enable “end-users” to do with that data. Learning speak about data and workflows in a way that is easy to program is a distinct skill from actually doing the programming. Now, anyone reading this could learn to program too. But even if that is your goal, practicing the art of clearly articulating what your data is and how you want to interact with it is a learnable skill.
Now, here’s where the definition of “technical” comes in. The LingView thread has already gotten pretty technical in parts, and there have been some observations about how it’s drifting into some specialized terrain. There has been programmer jargon.
I suspect that a significant proportion of readers don’t know what “React” is, or what a “web component” is, or whether one is better or more appropriate for certain uses than the other — or more importantly, why anyone should care! (The short answer is that the two technologies overlap in some ways, and differ in others, but they’re both used to build “modules” which can be composed into fancy-pants applications.)
I think this little group has potential. We can build stuff. We can collaborate. A group like this is something I have really been hoping to be a part of, and we have a little spark here. Can we get a fire going? Can we do some… well, some kick-ass stuff, together? I think so, I hope so.
But here’s a plea:
Let’s work together to not only create technology and software tools here, let’s explain and teach technology here.
I think we need to think about how to shape the content on this site. I have been flailing about with categories and tags and such and it’s mostly a mess. But that’s okay, because we’re just getting off the ground. I hope some of you will want to become moderators here down the line, to contribute to how the forum develops. I mention this because it’s related to that plea above — how should we structure content here so that a newcomer will be able to always find a welcoming path into discussions? We need to have the detailed discussions of technology, for sure, but can we figure out how to have those conversations without alienating 1) potential future collaborators who want to learn more about technology and 2) those who prefer to contribute (important!) observations from the “end-user” perspective?
Okay, it’s late and I’m getting a little maudlin, maybe, but everything about our world kind of sucks right now. We all face disappointment and suffering.
Still, our work still matters. We are still a community.
We have to use technology. As Princess Leia once sort-of said of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s our only hope. Right now, anyway.
Let’s build a bunch of cool stuff together. That means thinking out loud, not being afraid of thinking blue-sky. The field has been struggling with couples therapy between FLex (FLEX? FLeX? That thing) and ELAN get along for like, seriously, at least a decade?
Let’s reconsider. Let’s take responsibility. What do we want our software to do? We can learn from existing tools. But let’s do some Cambrian-style exploding. Lots of ideas. Lots of back-and-forth. Let’s share our napkin scribbles and throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Good grief, I wrote all this stuff. In public.