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In Defense of Web Developers, Again

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Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled Respect for Web Developers in which I said:

That last point it worth reinforcing. I think a lot of people who’ve been doing “web stuff” long enough think that web developers are the same as the “HTML monkeys” we use to refer to back in the day. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Sadly, the attitudes I was hoping to nudge into changing continue a year later.

In response to my call for resumes on the Yahoo! Search blog, David Utter at WebProNews said a few things I don’t agree with.

However, we are likely to hear from readers who will point out one thing immediately about all of these positions – they do not appear to be true engineering or programming jobs, which means the pay scale will be lower than those fields. They do not require, or even create the perception, an advanced degree in computer science is needed.

Referring to web development as “front-end engineering” is very generous. While web development involves coding, PHP and AJAX aren’t exactly the same as C++ or Java.

Sigh…

I agree that PHP and AJAX aren’t exactly the same as C++ or Java (duh), but that doesn’t mean they’re less demanding. Some of the smartest people I know are kick-ass Java or C++ developers. But another slice of them are amazing front-end engineers. They understand JavaScript, DOM manipulation, cross-browser scripting, PHP, XML, state management, and so on.

The undercurrent in what Dave wrote is that front-end engineers are lesser engineers than those working on the back-end. That says more about his ignorance of the challenges in developing (and releasing) world-class front-end code that works for millions of users.

I happen to think the Yahoo! User Interface Library and Yahoo! Design Pattern Library are good examples. Everybody who mentions them to me (including the previously mentioned Y Combinator startup guys) is gushing about how much time they save, how well they’re constructed, and how they’re great examples of front-end engineering.

In the Yahoo! world, these front-end engineers actually report up through our engineering organization. It’s not just a glorified label we slap on them to make ‘em feel good.

This stuff isn’t monkey work. It hasn’t been for a long time. Can we move on yet?

Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.

In Defense of Web Developers, Again
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