Hey it's a post from that ridiculous/amazing/this is the worst idea/this is the best idea Make-Your-Own Meme "blog every day of November" thing! Original post/list of topics. Feel free to add more: LJ | DW — anon and openID welcome!

[livejournal.com profile] thebaconfat: I am interested in hearing about your job and what you like and don't like about it! (here)

My job! I work as a web designer/developer as a contractor for the U.S. government. This means I'm not an actual government employee, but but exclusively on government stuff (if you want me to get into the whole "contractor vs. fed" thing, haha, that is enough for a separate question and also it's both boring and wanky). The actual work I do is designing and then coding interfaces for web applications. It's about as exciting as it sounds!

Don't get me wrong — I do enjoy the work. But I gotta say I am pretty tired of the job.

The work itself is very neat. I consider myself pretty good at it (those of you who were in this year's round of [community profile] ff_exchange, I did the front end of the website — everything but the signup form was pretty plain, but I WAS rather proud of the form). My work has nothing whatsoever to do with my degree (linguistics) or with my education at all, really — the only programming class I ever took was C++ in 9th grade. I've been making websites since I was... 12 years old, I think? Maybe 10-12, somewhere in that range. That was pretty early in internet terms, so I've watched the technology grow up around me. I'm a big advocate of web standards and accessibility and I do have fun figuring out how to get exactly what I want with the available tools/languages.

However, two problems! For one, my attention span is abysmally short. I'm not talking about my day-to-day, per-task attention span (though that's pretty bad, too) — I mean my attention span for LIFE. It's about two years long: that is the longest period of time I can do any one thing (school, a particular job) without becoming pretty restless and miserable.

I've been at this job since 2003-2004.

The other thing is that the job is sucking more and more.

blah blah office politics )

SO I actually still work for G but have to waste loads of my time attending P Team meetings and dealing with P Team stuff even though NONE OF IT APPLIES TO ME. It. Is. So. Dumb. Your tax dollars at work, U.S. folks.

In addition to that stupidity, there is J, my cubicle neighbour. J has no indoor voice and is on the phone at least 70% of each day. About half of that is work-related, ALL of which is calling various help desks because he is clueless and/or has not heard of google. Many of his help-desk issues are not difficult to solve on one's own, which I know because I can HEAR them. The other half of the calls are personal. Often REALLY personal. I get to hear all about his problems, personal, medical, emotional, psychological— everything. All in his loud, loud voice. He also eats very loudly, which is a personal sound-squick of mine, AND he eats many times a day. There's nothing wrong with that (I prefer to eat several smaller meals and/or graze all day, myself), but it does mean I get to listen to his chewing all day instead of just at lunch.

Incidentally, he's on the P Team and I had to work with him extensively for a while. During this time, I learned that J is one of those people who thinks the world and/or people owe him things. For example, people OWE it to him to be his friend. If you are not his friend, he gets all passive-aggressive and catty.

I am not his friend.

On a more technical job-dislike note, we work in the ASP.NET framework, which is not my friend. I hate it.

But for all that, it's not a bad job. It's slowly transitioning into being mentally/emotionally unhealthy, but it's honestly pretty cushy. I make enough to support my somewhat extensive household, and I like my REAL team and boss. My real team is far from perfect (and I have some awesome conflicts there, including someone who can't respect my personal space AND someone who is terribly ageist!), but I largely respect them and their abilities. We work well together.

The work itself is, like I said, pretty interesting, though for me it gets REALLY stale working on the same projects for years and years. Honestly the biggest pain is the attention span thing. If I weren't tired of the job on an absolute scale, I could shrug off the annoyances.

So it's a mixed bag. I'm lucky to have it, and I know it; I'm grateful. But honestly? If a different job came along, paying significantly less but of a decent type of work? I would take it in a heartbeat.
So, every Friday, I have a meeting in the morning with the group I've been put on that's in charge of creating non-blindness-inducing layouts for my entire branch. At first I was really nervous about being on this team because hell, I'm young, I'm new, and well, it's not like I'm extraordinary at design.

However, after a couple months of coming to these meetings, it is clear: I am on this group because the medium amount of talent I have in this field is just leagues above the current design talent in the department. This is REALLY DEPRESSING because seriously, I'm no genius here. I like to design, but my strength is all-around web development, because I like to play with code.

Nonetheless, every Friday you can count on me being pissed off 10 billion different ways at the incompetence here. My peeves include everything from gross offenses against aesthetics to the inability of the other designer on the team to understand this whole web standards thing. I swear, the man has no idea how to work with CSS. My previous rant on this mess is here.

I don't feel like ranting forever and ever about this subject today, so I will just include a couple of examples and a gem of a quote from this guy.

We were assigned different types of layouts to make.

Explanations and our two layouts )

At one point, I brought up the issue of colour schemes, thinking I needed to create several different palettes for my design so each group could implement a unique colour scheme, and also because there was too much blue and I needed highlight colours. This guy's answer? Keeping in mind that he's a DESIGNER?

"I'm a guy, I don't care about colours."



Well, on a different note, I've been trying to finally come up with a layout for my personal site that I don't hate. I've been trying really hard to wean myself off muted/dark colours, and so I was trying to go for something bright and fun and clean. This is the current incarnation:

(click thumb for full size -- the actual screencap is super-wide so I can see how it looks on huge monitors)

It is FAR from finalized, but I think I like the direction it's going. Feedback is welcome =D

Okay, WARNING: public display of elitism, arrogance, and self-aggrandisement ahead.


Professional web development firms, by the way, is the reason behind one of the projects I've been working on for a while, which is provisionally entitled PAEAN -- Professional Artistic and Electronic Assistance for Nonprofits. It's a non-profit organization I've been developing for a couple years now that does web design (and other artistic or technology-related) work for other charitable organizations for free. GOOD work. Standards-based, accessibility-checked. With a solid sense of aesthetics. I think that if you're doing good charitable work, you should NOT have to pay out the ass for some incompetent, profiteering company to build you a site that will crash next year. If you're helping orphans in Rwanda, I don't think you should get scammed and scalped like that. If you're helping lost kittens get adopted, I think solid web sites should be handed to you on a goddamn silver platter. And that's what I'm trying to do.

To those of you who think this is trivial, that web design (though I do mroe than design, as I've outlined above) doesn't matter, let me tell you that you're wrong. On the Internet and elsewhere, design matters a lot. It's a HUGE part of whether something is AT ALL USABLE. And the sad thing about a lot of nonprofits' websites is that they're really bad, really ugly, and really hard to use, both for people trying to make use of the charities' resources and for the charities themselves. I think this is awful, and I'm trying to change it.

Likewise, I am now officially appalled at the really ridiculous state of web development in the branch of the government I work for. And now that I've been put on this committee, I'm going to try and change that. I've got the power to do something amazing and fantastic here, and by God I am going to try to use it.

Oh, and a disclaimer. I don't want to dictate the internets or design any more than I want to dictate the various fandoms I've taken an interest and started newsletters, communities, and other projects in. There are subjective parts, yes, like what's pretty or ugly design. Some things, however, are simply the way the web is heading, led by brilliant people and industry champions, and that's the direction sites should be heading. You know, the future. Not being left behind in the internet morass of the mid-late nineties.

And by the way, I don't think that what I do -- all that stuff about being familiar with all aspects of web development -- is something that's extraordinary about me, nor that it should be. I finally thought of that analogy. It's like building a house. If you're building a house, you should have at least a passing familiarity with the principles of construction, architecture, design, basic accessibility, and physics. You should probably also know about or know where to go for information/contract work on electronics, plumbing, landscaping, and other particulars. You need to also know the building codes and other such regulations in your area. Well, the SAME THING applies to web design. You're building a home for yourself/others on the internet. These are things I WOULD THINK that any decent, self-respecting web developer should be familiar with -- design, coding, how servers and back-side stuff works, usability, accesbiility, specifications for the languages they work in. This shouldn't be something special -- this should be standard knowledge! I think that what I do and know is somewhere near the bare minimum of what a web developer should do. Apparently, I am alone in this belief.


Okay, I rarely go off like this. But I was pretty damn pissed there.

For once, I also won't be checking over this before I post it (highly unusual for me -- usually I go through a draft or two), so I apologize profusely for any mistakes.




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