A thing of beauty and sadness

My God *have you seen Harper’s*? I have, and it is a thing of beauty — every article since the year 1850, a wonderful navigation scheme and site layout, a fabulous building on the (somewhat unrealized) experiment that was their last site redesign. Paul Ford did the work, and his essay on the site launch and what it means to him is something that echoes inside me. I’ve never done a project of that sort of scale, but I know all the feelings he describes.

He says that you do a thing, you pour your life into it, and then you flip a switch, a site goes live, the criticism and knee-jerk reactions come pouring in. Later comes the praise, but never enough to really justify it, then the bug reports and problems, and you have to fix them.

His final words chill me, I don’t know how else to describe it, because I know he speaks truth, and its a bit painful, but then again, its the only possible way it can be:

If you work for a startup you can fool yourself into believing that the reward will be eternal wealth, but I work for a nonprofit, and the reward is: I did a thing, and I doubt I’ll ever do anything like it again. One, two, three: I will never get enough praise; of course I failed; and what I did was not particularly important. The best thing to hope for is that in time and with much more effort the work will become transparent to its users, that it will be taken for granted. That’s life with websites.