It seems in most academic fields, one can be considered an expert with the caveat that research goes on and that expertise will continue to broaden or adapt. I don't see how the web is any different, despite being a rather capricious medium.
Perhaps the real target here is the semiotics in how we sell ourselves in a competitive market? I most certainly cringe when I read resumes with these charts where applicants have applied completely subjective skill levels to various tools & languages.
All that said, I don't envision awarding myself a black belt in all-thing-web in this life time.
Thank you, Steven, all great feedback. I mentioned this in the Hacker News comments and I think it's worth repeating here:
If we broke it down and asked can you be an expert in just HTML or CSS, the answer would likely be yes. However, if that's all you knew, you'd have a hard time being hired. The message I was trying to convey is to have a web career, you need to be constantly learn new things all the time.
I also love what you said about cringing at some of the resumes being passed around. I completely agree and that over-confidence that some web entrepreneurs try to sell can become dangerous if they truly believe they have nothing left to learn.
Thanks for expanding on your point.
I must add then, that I think the vast majority of those in this industry of ours do fully embrace the impermanence of the technology and have a great love of learning. Of all the problems we're facing as an industry, I kinda doubt this one ranks particularly high (if you really wanna see feet stuck in the ground, take a walk around a literature department.)
And besides, as you said, if you've got some Dunning-Kruger going on, you'll get weeded out sooner or later.
Thanks, Steven. Again, I have no disagreements with you here. Simply put, my article was a reminder aimed at web designers/developers who are either just beginning or have become too relaxed with not keeping up on the latest web news. In this field, you have to consider yourself a student whose learning is never finished.
I do understand, though, that my article does not apply to everyone and there are undoubtedly a lot of creators on the web who already understand the importance of continued learning.
...charts where applicants have applied completely subjective skill levels to various tools & languages.
1000 x yes. The sooner this trend dies out the better, very common on personal sites too. Just filling space.
The takeaway here is if you’re going to work on the web, your greatest asset is knowing how to learn. As soon as you consider yourself an expert, you’ve already fallen behind.
I agree with the first part wholeheartedly; I think the second part is a too broad a generalization. I know developers who have absolutely mastered the tools and languages they use — and continue to learn and explore new techniques. They have a willingness to adapt and acknowledge their ignorance. Basically I think you can have both worlds.
I also know developers that fit your description. They are so confident in their abilities (or perhaps insecure) that they've basically stopped — content with what they know and almost resistant to new ideas. It might be ego or it might be cognitive overload from all the new developments in our industry. Either way , I agree: they've already fallen behind (and it gets worse every day).
EDIT: Also, great post!
Jeremy, thanks for adding to the discussion, I appreciate it. I do understand there are developers who are exceptional at their craft (I'd like to think I fall into that category) but I still cringe every time I hear someone say they're an all-knowing "expert" at web design or development. The web industry changes so fast, I just don't see reaching a point where anyone could say, "Ok, I've learned it all."
That's not a bad thing either; it's what keeps a career on the web so interesting. What you said about acknowledging one's ignorance is spot-on as well. You have to know how much you don't know in this field to keep up, otherwise you become stagnant and fall behind.
Thanks again for the comment and glad you enjoyed the article.
Being an "Expert" doesn't necessarily mean you know everything about a subject. I don't think there is anything wrong with referring to yourself as a web expert.
Thank you, that's certainly a valid point. I suppose I should have defined "expert" in this case as someone who thinks they know everything about their web craft, which is a sure way to fall behind. From my experience, continual learning is key.
You have to know how much you don't know in this field to keep up, otherwise you become stagnant and fall behind.
I disagree, there are experts but they have chosen to focus on specific areas of design, IA, User research, Visual Design etc...
The term 'web design' is too broad for one person to be an expert in, but there are many subsets within it where they can.
Absolutely, and read my comment to Kurt above.
Nice article and I can't agree more.
To speak about myself, I see a blurred future of web. I believe web will eliminate many developers. I work as a web developer/designer, unmarried and still young. I have time and energy. I spend a significant amount of my time about web development and design but things are changing so fast that I feel like I can't catch many of them. GraphQL was released just a week ago, ES6 will be finalized in June, Angular 2 will be released in a couple of months... There are plenty of articles I want to read piled up, there are so many links on bookmarks bar being rusted , manytalksaround that I have watched small amount of them, so many libraries I want to fiddle...
In this kind of a environment, how can a person say that he is expert in the web industry?
Cihad, you nailed some of the exact feelings I (and other veterans I've talked to) have felt at one time or another. As soon as my wife and I had our baby, I realized many hours I had previously been working to run my web design company and how difficult that would be going forward. It's been a learning experience for sure and I'm forever adjusting the work/life balance.
On top of it all, there has been a definite blending of roles lately where designers, front-end devs, and back-end devs have sort of melded into one job (aka the full-stack employee who is expected to do just about everything).
I don't see how being an expert requires knowing and mastering literally everything related to the subject.
It's not humanly possible to meet that requirement, which means experts are the people who, ya'know, meet it to the near highest level that IS humanly possible.
No one who doesn't understand that they need to be constantly learning, and hasn't sharpened their ability to best seek new things and challenges out and learn from them would get anywhere near that level. Everyone who does approach it shares the attitude you have.
Basically, what you wrote is just part of what means you ARE an expert :P
Thank you, Isaac :) And please read my comment to Kurt above as well, I do agree that I should have further clarified what I meant by "expert" in the article.
Thank you, Johan!