The Internet of People

July 12, 2017. Today is global Net Neutrality Day. Amidst our turmoiled political climate, America has united to uphold the principles of free speech we hold so dear. You can participate in this battle here.

The internet is not made of things.

We have inclinations to view the internet like any other object, like something we can just pick up, use, and put down. And certainly, there is an element of truth to this perspective. The internet has computers, cables, and screens. The words you’re reading are sitting on a box somewhere on Dreamhost’s servers, being transmitted at light speed through intercontinental cables. Cables, screens, and servers – those are all ‘things.’

But the internet is not ‘things.’ It should be obvious that the internet transcends the traditional boundaries of ‘thing’ that we ascribe to other everyday objects. It doesn’t transport material goods. We’ve created a system where we use imaginary digital currency to pay for imaginary digital goods. None of it exists. Netflix shows are not ‘things.’ My digital money is not a ‘thing.’

In reality, the internet is this abstract, amorphous structure that just, well, exists. It’s nowhere and everywhere. You can’t shut it down. It’s a bastion of free speech. It’s started uprisings, united distant friends, and told stories. It’s the most powerful platform of expression that humanity has ever created. The internet is an abstraction of humanity, a digital embodiment of ourselves.

Because the internet isn’t about things, it’s about people. It’s about expression. It’s an information superhighway. It’s humanity’s greatest invention. It’s a symbol of unity. It’s a pinnacle of technology. It’s the greatest expressive platform that we have ever created.

And the FCC is trying to turn it into a thing.

When I play with toys, I play with a ‘thing.’ But when I play a video game, I’m playing a product that never existed physically. Many games are created, published, and sold all in cyberspace. They’re just ideas. Some of the ideas on the internet are stronger than others. The internet has memes to passions to personas and everything in between, and these ideas collectively form the most visceral and direct manifestations of individuality we have ever seen.

With the rise of Youtube and Tumblr stars, we’ve seen this fundamental expression be turned into business. It’s the content creator agreement. I make cool stuff, you look at it. Both of us benefit. The people in the middle lay down the roads for us and don’t mess with the shit we’re trying to send through.

Essentially, ISPs (the monopolistic ones, like Comcast) have been constantly trying to mess with these roads. They own the roads, and they thus claim the right to be able to throttle and control bandwidth. This is a terrible thing, but they call it ‘innovation.’ ISPs have tried to do this again and again, only to be faced with legislation and pushback. But somehow, something always happens, and a loophole is always found. The latest loophole would allow ISPs to overturn the safeties that were been put in place for consumers in 2015.

We fought them back then, so we can fight them now. Participate in this battle here. Want to know more? Vi Hart has a fantastic video summing up the history of this whole thing.

If you’re a developer, you know that the internet has evolved to nourish thousands of cultural microcosms that span political borders. You’ve seen what the internet has brought to the world.

Fight to defend it. Fight for free speech.

On Coding Style

It’s hard to write good code. It’s easy to find yourself putting in temporary fix after temporary fix, duct taping all the holes in your website until the function nesting has more layers than a Hungarian sponge cake.

There’s an adage that goes:

Code is read more often than it is written.

This should be your one and only golden rule when writing code.

You’ll often see coding style guides in the wild. Don’t follow these. At least, not strictly. They’re a good guideline, but blindly adhering to them demonstrates a lack of critical thinking rather than an appreciation for the origin of and necessity for a style guide in the first place. Style is supposed to make your code more readable.

Most of those style guides come from companies with hundreds of employees writing thousands of lines of code. It makes much more sense for them to strictly standardize their code – it makes Git diffs cleaner, and makes it easier when reading code to switch from component to component. But if you’re writing code for yourself on your personal website, write code that YOU want to read.

For instance, take this example from the Airbnb Javascript style guide:

// bad
function foo() {
  // ...
}

// good
const foo = function bar() {
  // ...
};

This standard makes a lot of sense. The first example can cause readability issues by hoisting.

However, the second example is verbose and annoying. If i’m writing a 100-line demo on Codepen, there’s no point in bothering with that verbose syntax – and, in fact, it can make my code less readable if I need to start nesting functions. If I’m writing a small code block, I’ll just use the ‘bad’ traditional syntax and make sure to put the declaration of my function before the first time I use it.

Note that I’m not disparaging on style guides. In fact, I encourage every developer to read the style guide of every language they learn once they reach a mature enough level to understand it. Just don’t take the style guide as religion; understand it and synthesize it into your own.

Keep this in mind when you write code. Write code that is fast to read, not code that is fast to write. Unless you’re working with a large team, stick to your own standards. Just don’t be unreasonable about it.

Hello

Hello.

I’m currently midway through a summer internship, coding away at life and trying to figure things out.

It is a timehonored developer tradition to make a development blog. As an aspiring developer, I figured that it was about time I take on this rite of passage.

I hope to use this website as a repository of my thoughts on life, and on my growth and progress as a developer in whatever field I end up choosing to pursue.

As of writing, I have little professional experience. In fact, I am on the brink of the college application process, where I will take the reins of my future for the first time. It’s a little bit scary. I hope that anyone reading this – no matter their age – will be able to take some insight from my experiences, and use it to carve their own path and obtain success in whatever way they define it.

Hold on tight. It’s going to be a wild ride.