A Rant after a Day

Today was a day. It was exhausting and upsetting, and not the useful kind but rather instead the kind that strips you of all of your energy and enthusiasm. The kind that makes you climb back into bed with your tail between your legs.

Out of anger at today’s events I tried to be productive. I updated my Trello board, ticked a few boxes, wrote a few link posts for CSS-Tricks, updated the Adventures microsite, and nudged an interface one step closer towards being complete. It’s the part of a project where I look back at it now and I’m kinda sorta proud of what we’ve built and what I’ve learnt along the way.

This new feature for a large web app isn’t going to change the world; it’s not going to inspire anyone or make them swoon with visual ecstasy. It’s just going to be a thing that works. And I think that’s enough.

Our office is across the hall from Uber and the other day they installed these big posters after the redesign. These posters feel invasive, like a political slogan trying to slip you a soundbite. And yes, you know the drill. Stuff about changing the world. Connecting communities. Brand stuff.

But the longer I walk past those signs the more I think there’s something dangerous or foolish, petulant even, about trying to change the world like that. About having the gumption of being a software company that wants to do the work of a sovereign government. Uber and Google and Facebook – large portions of these companies shouldn’t be privately owned in my opinion as it’s dangerous to let a handful of Silicon Valley companies (that dodge taxes) dictate the future of our society. And it’s not for making the world a better place. Save that crap for the posters. They want the fame and the capital and the bragging rights.

I was talking to a designer the other day and a thought crept into my head; how many designers or engineers do you know that work at a government agency? I can tell you six that work at Twitter. Twenty, maybe more, that work at Google. How have we have let our public institutions be a source of embarrassment or shame? How have we forgotten what government is for? Why do I not want to go work on a large, publicly owned web app?

This Steve Jobs-esque fantasy to be at the very heart of things and to rule the world is the stuff of kings and backwater monarchies. And wanting to be an Uber or a Facebook or a whatever feels like anti-government sentiment to me. And I hate that recent events have led us all to point at those government institutions and sneer at them. Government might be broken, yes. But it’s fixable. We just need to reimagine what government is for. That’s the hard part.

Anyway, I’m rambling. But you don’t have to put a dent in the universe. You can just be kind. And put things back where you found them. And make a few people laugh along the way.

That’s all we need.