My New Year’s Resolution

I hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions. And yet, I think I have to make one.

I rarely (if ever) talk about work on this blog. And that’s by design. But I want to talk about what I do rather than just where I work. For years, I’ve hidden behind the adage that I’m a “generalist” as far as working the web goes. In fact, I’m pretty much a generalist at everything. I’m curious about everything and very easily distracted. I have a million hobbies and interests, and my spare time is very easily filled up.

But this year, I want to focus a bit more on my work as a web designer. I’m not a designer, or a programmer. I often just call myself a “web guy” and that’s true. But the truth is that most web guys know much more about the web than I do. I recently read Jeff Croft’s entry on being a professional web designer and it really struck home. I’m one of those guys who learned HTML in the 90s. I’ve kept up, barely, with most new developments as far as markup (ie. not programming) and the general “zeitgeist” of the web. I know the right buzzwords, and am genuinely interested in where the web is headed. But my technical skills and knowledge have lagged.

My current job started in 2003 when I had to build a site from the ground up for a wine-importing agency. It’s gone through a few cosmetic changes since then, but nothing serious, and it is crying out for a proper database back end and a CMS. These are at present beyond the scope of my abililities. I’ve bought the right books, and bookmarked the right sites. But my current responsibilities have gradually expanded to the point where I can’t immerse myself enough to learn how to do these things.

Each year I come back from SXSW inspired and motivated to make the necessary changes, and each year, I fail to make them. I’m frustrated. Part of the problem is the fact that I do much more than just maintain the web site now. And part of it is just inertia. No one complains about the site, but I know what’s wrong with it. As the only web guy in a small company, I’m also very isolated from the web design community. Though I know several people and get together pretty regularly for drinks with them, I’ve assumed they’re too busy to help with my questions. I’ve wanted to get more involved in the local web design community, but have lost the confidence that I’ll be able to contribute anything of worth to the discussion. Same goes for SXSW, where I hang out with bloggers and journalists and other “content” types instead of trying to learn from people whose work I admire online.

It may be true that in the long run, I’ll always be more comfortable as a content guy. My real passion is for writing and for using the web in innovative ways. But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of learning a few new tricks. In 2007, I’m going to try very hard to make space for that to happen.